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Chief Secretary for Administration's speech at HK Chamber of Commerce in Beijing


Following is the speech given by the Chief Secretary, Mr Donald Tsang, at the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce in China Business Breakfast this morning (May 23) in Beijing:

I hope I'm not ruining the morning that assembly of such distinguished gathering here to share breakfast with me. Maybe you will ask why we are here. As you know, I am leading a trade delegation, a commercial exploratory delegation from Hong Kong of nearly 200 businessmen to see the Western part of China. We are here in Beijing because we cannot visit all the provinces, the 12 provinces and autonomous regions. We can only do three of them, and the remaining nine were kind enough to assemble their own teams to be here in Beijing so that our delegation can meet them and discuss the business opportunities.

The reason why we are here stems from our own belief that our trade with mature markets in the United States, in Europe and in Japan and the rest of the region, have reached a certain level beyond which it would be difficult to make remarkable progress, particularly having regard to the slow down of the US economy and the stagnation in the Japanese economy in the coming few months as we forecast. So it would be useful and helpful for us to explore new regions of activities.

And indeed, it is not a new venture. As Financial Secretary I led delegations to Latin America, to the Middle East, to South Africa and to Scandinavian countries. All of these trips were designed to expose Hong Kong businessmen to the new business areas where we might be able to establish wider contacts and discover a partnership, and strategic partnership, for promoting what is better for Hong Kong.

But we come here with a difference. The difference on this occasion is that we are not going as a small delegation but as a larger group, comprising over 70 of the largest firms in Hong Kong, covering the entire spectrum of business life from banking and insurance to manufacturing, to shipping, to electronics. All of them are represented here and we wish to see what are available for them in the Western part of China and are able to listen firsthand to the policies which the nation has outlined for the development of these territories.

Also, we have discovered that Hong Kong is quite unique in that our strengths are highly compatible and are not actually competing with the strengths of the Western Region, where in the territories we are visiting they have resources of land, they have lots of technicians, there are inventions, there are natural resources, but they do lack the business expertise to promote productivity, efficiency, marketing strategies and particularly on packaging and on financing. And these things which they lack happen to be the strengths of Hong Kong. So there is a strong complementarity between what Hong Kong can offer and what these Western Regions are capable of. And indeed the compatibility, the complementarity, is much stronger between ourselves and the Western Region.

Our immediate business hinterland remains, of course, in the Pearl River Delta, but beyond which we should discover new land, where there are even new opportunities, where there are even greater sources of labour and particularly where there are pools of expertise. In Xian alone where we visited there are over 50 universities. They are doing some advanced interesting things from the cloning of animals to research in electronics. All these things will be highly interesting for us and they bear a strong commercial potential.

The reason, also, why we come as a large group is we want to make an impression; an impression on the Provincial Government and on the Central Government that Hong Kong really wants to learn, really wants to tap this market and really wants to assist this market and bring this market to the rest of the world. So we come as a group and then naturally we got a very good reception in Xian and expect similar receptions will be there when we visit Chengdu and Urumqi later in the week. And in Beijing alone we are being received by the Ministry responsible for this project, the Western Project, and at the same time we hope to have the opportunity to see the leaders as well to give a firsthand briefing of our own briefing of what the national strategy is as regards the Western Region but at the same time listen to our own aspirations on how we are able to help in this process.

I have also a wider objective in mind, in that these objectives include Hong Kong people working as a group. We are very good at doing our own things in the past decade and we have been arguing quite a lot and trying to rediscover ourselves over the last four years after the Handover, in the sense that we want to know where exactly we are, what exactly we are, what are our strengths, what will be our future. I hope these sort of missions could put our businessmen together, together with our media representatives, with the government representatives. It gives us a chance to work together for 10 days. I think it will be very meaningful from that point of view. And at the same time it will promote the "one country, two systems" concept in that we are bringing our own value systems into this country, telling them what we are but at the same time sharing with them that we all belong to the same country, the same nation.

Hong Kong will remain as it is. We bear our own strengths; our strengths are not easily clonable in the rest of the world. The sort of things we have are quite unique in our part of the world. Those things are of course our rule of law - practising the common law system - which is familiar to our trading partners and which needs a long time to develop and enhance, and at the same time we also have a totally level playing field for businessmen, treating all our indigenous businessmen and the foreign businessmen on an identical level - same trading pattern, same law, same rules.

And we have no tariffs. The duty levels are low, taxation is low and our currency is totally convertible. In other words, there is no restriction on foreign exchange. You can trade, you can bring money into Hong Kong and bring it out of Hong Kong after making a profit. And the taxation level is highly competitive as well. All these things speak for Hong Kong. And on top of that we have a clean Government, which makes transactional cost pure, in that it will not have to take care of corruption money you have to pay.

And finally, which is very important for an international financial centre, we have total freedom of expression, and in that you will know not only the financial information of your business, you will know the political underpinning of Hong Kong as well. All these strengths remain and they are guaranteed by the Basic Law and they would be essential for Hong Kong to continue on as an international financial centre.

Finally, the final remark I want to make is, we know that we cannot stand alone and remain competitive in the years to come. We also realise that we cannot be good at everything. Things like manufacturing or even on the lower level of our service industry are not our forte, these require labour intensive operations and it requires a lot of land. But we know what we can do best. We can do best in terms of services, particularly in the financial services. We know we have to advance. We need to be able to produce products which cannot be produced by any other competitors, from Tokyo and Beijing right down to Singapore. We need to be unique in what we are able to do. In doing that we are able to contribute more to the nation, to the growth of the nation as a whole in the years to come.

So what we are finding now in Hong Kong is, after the financial crisis, we have done some radical reform to our financial markets, bringing us up now to a level which is also unmatched, unrivalled, by most of our competitors in the region. On top of all the things which I have said, the things we have introduced, for instance, in Hong Kong now we have the real time settlement of US dollars even in non-trading hours in the US, and this is the only market where you can do that without any exchange risk. You cannot do this in Tokyo, nor can you do it in Singapore or elsewhere. And we are going to do it for the Euro in the coming months as well.

All this means that Hong Kong will not stand still, it will continue to advance, getting more sophisticated, particularly in the service areas and financial services we will be unique. And as you have seen in the video, we are the true and only world city in the Asian region, serving our businessmen in this particular time zone. When the New York market is closed we can take on the books from there and then we do business for eight hours handing over to London or Frankfurt in Europe. That is where we are and that is where we will be in the coming years. Thank you very much.

Photo: The Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Donald Tsang attended the Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce breakfast gathering at Beijing and gave a speech.

End/Wednesday, May 23, 2001


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