Following is the full text of the speech (English only) by Secretary for Trade and Industry, Mr CHAU Tak Hay, at the Opening Ceremony of the Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair 1999 today (Monday):
Mr Young, Mr Sze, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to officiate at the Opening Ceremony of the Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair 1999.
This year's Fair has a special meaning in that we are also celebrating its Silver Jubilee. Over the past 25 years, the Fair has grown to become the largest and the most important of its kind in the Asia Pacific region.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay special tribute to our toy manufacturers. Hong Kong is famous for producing high quality toys. Our manufacturers are well known for their flexibility and ability to respond quickly to changing market demands and to meet different customers' specifications. Over the years, as in the case of many other of our manufacturing industries, toy manufacturers have shifted most of their labour-intensive assembly processes to the Mainland of China. This has helped to keep production costs down and to increase the price competitiveness of Hong Kong toy exports. Hong Kong's role is increasingly focussed on quality control, management, marketing, product design and production planning. As a result, Hong Kong maintains its leading position on toys.
There is, however, no plain sailing in the world marketplace. We face intense and growing competition from economies in the region, particularly as a result of the Asian financial turmoil. To sustain competitiveness, our toy industry needs to continue to improve product design capabilities, quality and productivity, as well as to look for new growth opportunities. As product life cycles become shorter and shorter, our toy manufacturers need to accelerate their response to the market. They also have to be particularly aware of customers' increasing concern for environmental protection and growing demand for "green products", as well as the increasingly stringent health and safety standards in overseas countries.
I am pleased to note that our toy manufacturers have already been tapping new markets, in order to diversify and to offset the slow growth in traditional markets. With rising affluence and a huge population, the Mainland of China is a fast growing market. According to some estimates, the sales value of toys in the Mainland is expected to rise from 3.4 billion RMB in 1997 to 10 billion RMB in 2000. Given Hong Kong's existing network of toy manufacturing facilities in and its proximity to the Mainland, Hong Kong toy manufacturers should have a competitive advantage in tapping this fast expanding market.
Despite the present economic downturn in the region, the overall prospects for the industry are still encouraging. More and more educators and parents recognise the educational value of toys. Also, toys and games are becoming more sophisticated and technologically more advanced. They will be sought after not only by children but also, and increasingly, by adults.
With the above remarks, I wish the Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair 1999 every success and all of you a productive and prosperous 1999.
End/Monday, January 11, 1999