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Speech by SCED at international wine fair dinner (English only)

      Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mrs Rita Lau, at the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair Black-tie Wine Dinner and Award Presentation Ceremony of the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine and Spirit Competition, tonight (November 4):

(Mr) Les (Luck), the Honourable Mr (Michael) O'Brien, Fred (Lam), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good evening.

     It is my great pleasure to join you this evening.

     I have long suspected that it was an Australian who first said, and I quote: "Life is too short to drink bad wine." This suspicion has been reinforced by having Australia as our partner country for the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair this year. Australia has a reputation for producing a wide variety of high-quality wine and for the creative branding of its wine products.

     To foster closer co-operation between Hong Kong and Australia in wine-related businesses, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2009. I am pleased to note the rapid expansion of the Australian wine importers network in Hong Kong over the past two years. During this period, the network has doubled in size and now boasts some 100 member companies. This reflects the growing popularity of Australian wines in Hong Kong and other parts of Asia.

     This year's Fair is our largest so far, with a record number of exhibitors taking part from 30 countries and regions around the world. It is very encouraging for us, that so many of the wine-producing countries and regions are taking advantage of Hong Kong's status as a duty free wine port.

     In February 2008, we eliminated duties on wine. Since then we have also introduced various supportive measures to expand the wine market and open up new opportunities for wine merchants in Asia. And our efforts are rewarded. According to a recent survey done by the Government, there was a net increase of about 850 new wine-related companies during 2008 and 2009, bringing the total to 3,550. The sector as a whole obtained HK$5.5 billion wine-related business receipts in 2009, representing an increase of over 30% as compared with HK$4.1 billion in 2007. The survey also indicates that in 2008 and 2009, the number of employees engaged in wine-related business has increased by more than 5,000 to nearly 40,000. About 60% of the new openings are frontline jobs and the rest for managers and professionals. These encouraging figures gave us more incentive to assist foreign wine companies in tapping the business opportunities in the Mainland of China and throughout our region.

     The highlight this evening is the award ceremony for winners of the Second Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine and Spirit Competition. With some 1,300 entries, the Competition is the largest pan-Asian wine competition, echoing Hong Kong's wine and dine culture. The inaugural Competition last year was so successful it earned a reputation as "the voice of the Asian wine market".

     The Competition's emphasis on the pairing of fine wines with Asian food is fascinating, particularly with its diversification this year to include Japanese food as well as Chinese dishes. No doubt you are all eager to learn the winning combinations this year. So let me finish by thanking Cathay Pacific for its support of this year's Competition and congratulating all the winners.

     Please take this opportunity to discover wonderful new wine and dine experiences here in Asia's world city. Thank you and have a great evening.

Ends/Thursday, November 4, 2010
Issued at HKT 20:30