The following is the speech (English only) given by the Financial Secretary, Mr Antony Leung, at the Opening Ceremony of the Air Cargo Forum 2002 today (September 17):
Larry, Daniel, Victor, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Good evening everyone and welcome to Hong Kong, Asia's world city. It is a great pleasure to be with you tonight for the opening of the Air Cargo Forum 2002.
After a 12-year break, the Forum has come back to Asia. And what a return it promises to be. More than 3,000 delegates and over 200 exhibitors will make ACF 2002 the biggest forum yet. And if I know Victor at all, I'd bet that the Airport Authority has pulled out all stops to make sure that this year's event is also one of the most memorable on record.
You come to Hong Kong at a crossroad of our development, and at a turning point for global trade and investment. China's entry to the World Trade Organisation last year has changed the face of world markets and will present us here in Hong Kong with enormous opportunities. The transport and logistics sector is one area where we see great potential for growth and job creation. And it is a focus of our efforts to consolidate Hong Kong's position as the premier international gateway in Asia.
The air cargo sector will undoubtedly benefit from the further opening up and rapid economic development of China's huge trading and consumer markets. Both Boeing and Airbus predict that Asia will lead the world in the growth of air cargo over the next 15 to 20 years. Intra-Asian airfreight is forecast to grow, on average, by almost 9% per annum between now and 2019. Trade to and from China will surely factor heavily in that growth.
Hong Kong lies at the centre of that action. And we are ready, willing and able to make the most of the expected expansion of trade to and from and within Asia. Our strategic location puts us within five hours' flying time of half the world's population; and we are within a one or two-hour's drive from the most prosperous and rapidly developing economic region in China, the Pearl River Delta. Our airport passenger and cargo terminals have been designed to easily cater for future growth over the next two decades. An express cargo center and airport-related logistics facilities are on the drawing board.
In the first eight months this year, our air cargo traffic increased by 18.9% over the same period last year. The increase for the month of August alone over the same month last year was even more impressive, at 24%. Airlines are launching new freighter services to capture the upsurge in demand.
At the same time, our container port - the busiest in the world - is being expanded to cope with the expected increase in container traffic to and from the Mainland of China. And we are building new roads, railways, bridges and ferry terminals to ensure the smooth flow of people and goods to and from Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta. All these will help to ensure that our airport and container port are well positioned to capture the new business opportunities in the region.
As you can see, despite our considerable advantages, we are working very hard to ensure that we continue to meet the needs and demands of the transport and logistics sector. And I am sure that the air cargo industry in Hong Kong and elsewhere will strive to grow as we do by developing more value-added and innovative services and reaching out to new markets.
Ladies and gentlemen, over the next few days you have an excellent programme in store. This event is as much about meeting business contacts, as it is about hearing world-class speakers discussing the latest trends and developments that affect your important industry. It is a world-class get-together that we in Asia's world city are proud to be associated with. I must congratulate The International Air Cargo Association and the Airport Authority for their superb organisation, and thank all the sponsors who have supported the forum this year.
Finally, I wish you all the best for the ACF 2002. And although I haven't mentioned this to Victor yet, I'm sure he'll agree, we would be most honoured to welcome you all back to Hong Kong again any time you please.
Thank you very much.
End/Tuesday, September 17, 2002