Following is the full text of the welcoming remarks by Mr Joshua Law, the Director-General of Trade and Industry at the 14th Meeting of the Working Group on Trade Promotion (WGTP) today (March 12): (English only)
Mr Yu, Mr Yau, distinguished delegates, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
Good morning and a very warm welcome to you all. March is probably the best time of the year to come to Hong Kong. I hope you will enjoy our lovely spring season, particularly for our Mexican and Latin American delegates who have flown thousands of miles to get here. I was in Mexico just two weeks ago attending the APEC Senior Officials Meeting. With my frequent journeys for APEC and WTO events, I know first hand the pains of jet lag after travelling some 24 hours across the Pacific Ocean, only to find that day and night are reversed in this part of the world.
As Hong Kong, China's APEC Senior Official, I am very pleased that we have the privilege of hosting the 14th Meeting of the Working Group on Trade Promotion. I must thank the Lead Shepherd [Mr Yu] and the Co-Chair [HKTDC] for organising this important meeting. I am sure you will be impressed with their hospitality and efficiency.
APEC is a regional forum for promoting open trade and economic co-operation, and the Working Group on Trade Promotion plays an instrumental role in advancing APEC's trade agenda. Trade is also the lifeblood of the Hong Kong economy. You would not find many places in the world like Hong Kong whose volume of trade is two and a half times its GDP. We do not have any natural resources. We depend on two-way trade to survive. We import virtually everything, even fresh water, for the subsistence and well being of our population. To pay for these imports, we need to export. As we prosper through trade, we welcome trade. And not only exports - we welcome imports from anywhere around the world with open arms, including all economies represented in this meeting today.
This is why Hong Kong has been consistently ranked as the freest economy in the world. I understand that later this week, many of you will visit our Container Terminal and the new Chek Lap Kok International Airport, both of which are top among their counterparts in terms of cargo throughput, and are key to our role as a major gateway in the global free flow of goods.
As a free trader Hong Kong is committed to advancing APEC's mission in trade liberalisation and facilitation. In Shanghai last year APEC endorsed the Trade Facilitation Principles. This year, the effective implementation of these principles will be a top priority for all of us in the APEC family. A vitally important objective of the Principles is to achieve 5% reduction in transaction costs over the next five years. This is a tall order from our Leaders and Ministers, but one that will enable APEC to move much closer to the Bogor goals. We have been working closely with other economies to see how this target can be met. APEC Senior Officials had very fruitful discussions on this in Mexico City last month. I also look to the Working Group on Trade Promotion for your wise counsel. I hope that useful ideas will emerge from this meeting today on possible areas for reduction in transaction costs, as well as other suggestions on trade facilitation.
Delegates and colleagues : I know you have a very substantive agenda to work on at this meeting. I don't think I should take up too much of your precious time. And much as I wish, I must apologise for not being able to stay with you for a longer while, as I shall have to leave for the Business Travel Expo Hong Kong, which is being held just downstairs and is also closely related to trade promotion. Well, this is Hong Kong. We make full use of every single second and every single opportunity to ensure our trade continues to flourish.
Before I leave you, let me wish you a most successful meeting and a most pleasant stay in Hong Kong. If you can afford the time, do go to the many crowded streets just a few blocks from here, explore the vibrant business activities there, and witness for yourselves real free trade in action.
Thank you very much.
End/Tuesday, March 12, 2002