SCED's speech at official lunch at Chateau du Clos de Vougeot in Dijon (English only)
Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at an official lunch at Château du Clos de Vougeot in Dijon, Burgundy, on June 5 (Dijon time):
President Patriat, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Bonjour. C'est un plaisir de vous rencontrer. ("Hello. I am pleased to meet you" in French.)
First of all, I would like to thank the Regional Council, and President Patriat in particular, for your warm hospitality in hosting this luncheon. I am very delighted to be here in Burgundy.
This is my first time here, and I just arrived this morning, but from what I have seen so far, Burgundy is an even more beautiful and vibrant place than I have imagined. The picturesque landscape and architecture and, of course, the culture of wine appreciation all speak of your very rich heritage. I am sure this is just the first of my many more visits to come!
Burgundy is the origin of some of the world's most prestigious and outstanding wine. For me personally, my friendship with Burgundy also began with wine, when a Burgundy delegation came to Hong Kong in 2011 to launch a Burgundy Week to promote wine and tourism. That was following Hong Kong's signing of an MoU on wine co-operation with France in 2008, and one with Burgundy in 2010.
When it comes to the wine trade, Hong Kong and Burgundy have long been close partners. With a population of just 7 million, by value, Hong Kong ranked eighth worldwide and second in Asia in Burgundy's wine export markets in 2013-14, ahead of Mainland China, which ranked 12th worldwide. That is in part thanks to the presence of a sizeable group of wine connoisseurs in Hong Kong who appreciate truly good wine and exquisite fine dining. Our success in the wine trade can also be attributed to the removal of all our wine duties in 2008. Since then, Hong Kong's wine imports have thrived with a twofold increase to around 819 million Euros in 2014. Our booming wine business is also complemented by the insatiable demand from the Mainland, to which we re-exported 143 million Euros of wine last year. I am proud to let you know that Hong Kong has been the world's number one wine auction centre for the last five years, and the outlook of our wine business remains very positive.
Having said all that, the economic ties between Burgundy and Hong Kong do not just stop at wine. Hong Kong is a global financial centre and trading hub, and we have a very strong presence of some 750 French companies engaged in different businesses. For Burgundy-based companies, no matter what your business is, if you are interested in the Asian markets, and Mainland China in particular, Hong Kong is your ideal base for managing your operations and investments.
Hong Kong has always been a good place for doing business. We have been ranked the world's freest economy for 21 consecutive years by the Heritage Foundation. We are also ranked third in ease of doing business by the World Bank. These recognitions reaffirm our incessant efforts in business facilitation, all with the aim to make it faster, cheaper and easier to do business.
When I say "doing business in Hong Kong", I do not mean the Hong Kong market alone. Hong Kong is a natural springboard to the Asia-Pacific region. Our very versatile businessmen and professionals are accustomed to both international standards and how things work in our region, and they are most eager to team up with you and serve your business needs.
Hong Kong is strategically located at the heart of Asia - at the doorstep of Mainland China and the ASEAN region. We have an open and business-friendly environment with low and simple taxes. We practise the rule of law, underpinned by judicial independence. We embrace the internationally recognised codes of practice in business and commerce. We guarantee a level playing field for all companies, and free flows of capital, information and talent. In short, we bring to the world both global standards and unlimited Asian opportunities.
Ladies and gentlemen, Hong Kong has always been the "super-connector" connecting Mainland China with the rest of the world. If there is one message that I can drive home today, I hope it would be that Hong Kong, as your friend and partner in Asia, is ready to facilitate your ventures and help grow your business.
Merci beaucoup. Thank you once again for inviting me to this luncheon today.
Friday, June 5, 2015