Following is the speech by the Acting Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang, at the Opening Ceremony of the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show 2003, today (March 4) (English only):
Mr (Michael) Sze, Mr Leung (Sik-wah), distinguished guests, Ladies & Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to officiate at the Opening Ceremony of the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show 2003. This is a very popular event. With nearly 1,200 exhibitors and over 16,000 buyers from around the globe, the Hong Kong Jewellery Show 2003 is a testament to Hong Kong's strength as one of Asia's leading jewellery manufacturing and trading centres.
Hong Kong is the world's second-largest exporter of precious jewellery. We are a world leader in the production of pure gold items, and we have long been recognised as a major centre for the production of jade jewellery. We are also an important trading centre for diamonds in Asia, as well as a leading trading and distribution centre for pearls.
Local sales of jewellery have not been immune to the slowdown in the world economy, or to sluggish local consumption. The recent deceleration of consumer spending in the US, which is Hong Kong's largest market for jewellery, has also affected us. Against this background, Hong Kong jewellers have been actively looking for new business opportunities. Besides their deep knowledge of the jewellery trade, our jewellery manufacturers can count among their blessings a huge and emerging domestic market in the mainland of China. With an increasingly affluent population of 1.3 billion, the Mainland presents huge market potential for luxury goods. As the Mainland market matures and consumers' tastes become more sophisticated, we can be confident that our jewellers will strive to maintain high quality design and finished products in order to command a growing share of the Mainland market.
In this regard, the Government stands ready to provide structural support for worthwhile industry-driven initiatives. We have established the Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) funding schemes since 2001 to help small and medium-size enterprises enhance productivity, improve human resources, and facilitate export marketing. During the past year, the schemes have allocated numerous grants in support of the jewellery industry.
Among the recipients were the two co-organisers of this week's event, the Hong Kong Jewellery & Jade Manufacturers Association and the Hong Kong Jewelry Manufacturers' Association. Thanks to a grant of 3.5 million dollars from the SME Development Fund, they are now developing a professional best-practice manual on gems material security, manufacturing processes and quality management through process standardisation and quality benchmarking. They are also producing a web-enabled 3D interactive marketing system to assist our jewellery manufacturers in overseas marketing. In addition, about 350 SMEs in the jewellery sector have benefited from the other three funding schemes, involving a total of 6.6 million dollars in guarantees and grants.
To strengthen our support for SMEs, we have just raised the ceiling of guarantees and grants under the funding schemes, broadened their scope, and extended the loan guarantee period. Not only that, the Government is also eager to encourage the development of creative industries, which of course include the jewellery industry. After all, jewellery is born of artistic creativity and craftsmanship, not to mention it being an indispensable element of the fashion industry.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to the Hong Kong Jewellers' & Goldsmiths' Association, the Hong Kong Jewellery & Jade Manufacturers Association, the Hong Kong Jewelry Manufacturers' Association and the Diamond Federation of Hong Kong, China for their outstanding contributions to the development of Hong Kong's jewellery industry.
I wish you all an enjoyable and fruitful trade show this week. Thank you very much.
End/Tuesday, March 4, 2003