Following is the speech (English only) delivered by the Financial Secretary, Mr Antony Leung, at the Opening Ceremony of the Hong Kong Jewellery and Watch Fair and the Asia's Fashion Jewellery and Accessories Fair this morning (June 19):
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,
It's my pleasure to attend the Hong Kong Jewellery and Watch Fair and the Asia's Fashion Jewellery and Accessories Fair. I want to commend CMP Asia for organising this important event. It's the first major international trade show to be held in Hong Kong after we have successfully contained the SARS disease. Staging these fairs at this time speaks loud and clear that Hong Kong is a safe city to visit and to do business with.
On this note, I would like to welcome in particular all of the exhibitors, buyers and journalists who come from overseas. I am sure your visit to Hong Kong will prove most useful in your business endeavours, and we stand ready to help in every way possible.
Hong Kong has indeed come a long way before we can now claim champion over the SARS disease. At the forefront of our battle are our professional medical personnel whose selflessness, dedication and courage are exemplary. I am truly thankful to them. To bring the virus under control, the Government has imposed a series of containment and preventive measures, including a surveillance system for early detection, isolation and treatment of SARS patients; computer-managed contact tracing; border-control measures; stringent infection-control measures at hospitals; and blanket public health education. With the support of the whole community, we have successfully brought down the number of new infected cases. Hong Kong's experience and competence in combating SARS has won worldwide acclaim. The World Health Organisation, the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. State Department and many others have promptly lifted travel advisories against Hong Kong.
But I assure you that we are not letting down our guard. You would have noticed the temperature monitors when you arrived at the airport, and again when you came in here today. Even though the crisis is behind us, we are staying vigilant against the SARS virus, and we will remain so in the future.
Notwithstanding our success in combating SARS, the outbreak has dealt a serious, albeit short-term, blow to our economy. The jewellery and watch industries are no exception. I recall the rather unpleasant experience of the Basel/Zurich Jewellery and Watch Fair, where some of our exhibitors here today were barred from participation due to the so-called "preventive" measures. Since the incidence, the Government has taken proactive steps and made use of all available channels, particularly our Economic and Trade Offices and the overseas office of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, to brief the relevant governments and trade fair organisers on the latest information regarding SARS. By working closely with the trade, we have been quite successful in securing our participation in subsequent trade fairs. The JCK Jewellery Show in Las Vegas was a case in point, where the cooperation between the Government and the jewellery trade played out our respective influence in full.
The Government is now putting forward an economic relaunch campaign that involves rebuilding confidence, stimulating consumption, promoting tourism and attracting investment. It is critical to re-assert Hong Kong's position as Asia's premier international business hub, as well as city destination. Invest Hong Kong, together with Hong Kong's Economic and Trade Offices and Trade Development Council, will soon launch a series of investment promotion programmes worldwide. The Hong Kong Tourism Board has separately initiated a global marketing campaign in both long- and short-haul destinations. The Tourism Board is also working closely with the hotel, airlines and the travel trade to organise a series of destination events and promotions that build on Hong Kong's existing strengths as a shopping and dining paradise. A number of high-profile events in the sports, entertainment and cultural fields are in the pipeline for later this year, which I hope, would rebuild the confidence of the community in Hong Kong, and at the same time, uplift the community spirit and stimulate local consumption.
In a bid to further strengthen our base note of economic revival, the Chief Executive has just announced that the discussion on the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement between the Mainland and Hong Kong, commonly known as CEPA, have come very close to reaching consensus. Both sides have agreed to a signing ceremony on 30 June in Hong Kong. As further work needs to be done before then, I cannot give you the details of the Arrangement, except to say that the package is comprehensive and commercially substantive. On the goods side, which most of you are most interested in, a whole range of Hong Kong products, including jewellery and watches, will be granted 0% tariff treatment according to a time schedule. Taking this Arrangement as a whole, it will certainly bring substantial business opportunities for various sectors in our community and help the economy recover as soon as possible. Hong Kong entrepreneurs have long been famous for quick adaptation to changes in the market. I trust that they would be among the first to seize the opportunities brought about by this Arrangement.
Ladies and gentlemen, your presence here today is indeed a significant step for our economic revival. I thank you all for casting a vote of confidence in Hong Kong. I wish you will have a most productive and enjoyable stay in Asia's world city.
Thank you very much.
End/Thursday, June 19, 2003