Following is the full text of the speech (English only) by the Secretary for the Treasury, Miss Denise Yue, at the opening of the 13th Asian Horological Trade & Industry Promotion Conference today (July 4):
Mr Chan, Dr Sun, Mr Wu, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here today to address the opening of the 13th Asian Horological Trade and Industry Promotion Conference. And honoured that Hong Kong has once again been invited to host this most important event. May I, on behalf of the SAR Government, extend a warm welcome to all the overseas speakers and participants of this Conference.
Few people in the world today can function properly without a time-piece. We all rely on our watch to keep abreast of the time; and in some cases to keep up with the latest fashion! As British author, Jan Morris, once noted, "time itself is a commercial commodity in Hong Kong". That is as true today as it was in the 1850s when Hong Kong was known as a place where timely information meant big profits. Ms Morris was not referring to the watch industry, nor were the 19th century traders. But they could just as easily have been.
Last year, Hong Kong was the world's top exporter of watches in quantity terms, and 3rd largest in value after Switzerland and Japan. Our total exports, including re-exports, amounted to some HK$42 billion. Some 60 per cent of our products found their way to the wrists or homes of people in North America, Mainland China, Japan and Europe.
The ability of our watch and clock manufacturers, indeed our entrepreneurs in general, to respond quickly to overseas market needs and design trends is legendary. This flexibility enables them to adapt the latest trends or fashion fads into their designs and bring their products into show rooms at a speed which is the envy of many. Just as important, the products offer excellent value for money, not least because of the high quality support component parts such as watch bands, cases, dials and batteries.
But as competition sizzles in the global market, more and more manufacturers are realising the need to move up-market and add value to their design and quality; and that to achieve this, they have to increase their investment in modern production technology. In this context, I am especially pleased to see you have chosen, as your conference theme, innovation and technology for the watch industry. This is just the kind of initiative we, as a government, are promoting as Hong Kong moves into the "New Economy". Our vision is to make Hong Kong a centre of innovation and technology in the new Millennium.
The establishment of the Innovation and Technology Commission in Hong Kong and a special fund to help promote innovation and technology initiatives are but two recent examples of the direction Hong Kong is heading. Innovation and technology are important elements in enhancing the value-added chain, including the way a product or service is designed, produced, marketed and delivered.
We are hopeful that Hong Kong's efforts in research and development of new technology will pay dividends for the watch industry. The SAR Government, in cooperation with the Hong Kong Productivity Council, has provided assistance to a variety of projects designed to upgrade the quality of the local watch and clock industry. For example, the development of surface treatment technology for titanium alloy could help the industry develop new product ranges for the medium and high-end market. A study is nearing completion into the development of ceramic powder injection moulding technology, particularly in relation to watch case manufacturing. And just embarked upon is a project to develop a 3D-database of components for use in watch design as a means of enhancing and facilitating innovative product designs.
Perhaps one of the most significant developments for the local industry has been the establishment of the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Technology Centre. It has been designed to help strengthen the industry's competitiveness and leading position in the global market as well as to monitor and transfer relevant technologies to support Hong Kong's watch manufacturers. In addition to assisting with technology transfer to the local industry, the Centre also organises workshops on the development of new manufacturing techniques particularly for small-scale watch makers.
There is a lot more happening in the industry today, but do not want to outstay my welcome. Time is of the essence. May I take this opportunity to wish the 13th Asian Horological Trade & Industry Promotion Conference every success.
End/Tuesday, July 4, 2000