Following is the speech by Financial Secretary, Mr Henry Tang, at the inaugural ceremony of the 17th Asian Trade Promotion Forum at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre this morning (February 23) (English only):
Michael, Fred, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to join you all this morning to help open the 17th Asian Trade Promotion Forum (ATPF). I would like to extend a very warm welcome to all our overseas guests. I hope you have time to enjoy what Hong Kong has to offer beyond this Forum.
ATPF is a gathering of trade promotion organizations in the Asian region. Its objective is to enhance trade in the region through information exchange, implementation of cooperative projects and strengthening networks among ATPF members. Hong Kong is a staunch supporter of free trade and we treasure opportunities such as this to enhance strong rapport among trade promotion organizations in the region. I am confident that all members of ATPF will continue to play a key role in promoting trade in Asia and around the world.
Over the last few years, Hong Kong has faced many challenges on the economic front. Yet, I am cautiously optimistic that Hong Kong economy has turned the corner. Hong Kong's GDP bounced up to a solid growth of 4.0% in real terms in the third quarter last year. Our exports performed even better, by growing nearly 16% in December 2003 over a year earlier. We expect our trade to continue to post strong growth this year.
On the domestic front, we recently saw the implementation of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), the launch of the "individual visit" scheme for Mainland visitors and the trial-run of personal Renminbi banking businesses in Hong Kong. All these will add momentum to our budding growth and further consolidate our role as a superior two-way platform between the Mainland and the World.
We are determined to seize these opportunities to sustain our economic recovery and expedite the restructuring of our economy. Building on our excellent market infrastructure and unique institutional strengths, we will continue to enhance our business environment by improving regulations and simplifying procedures for doing businesses here. In a wider context, we are taking steps to engage the business sector, the political parties and the community at large, with the establishment of the Economic and Employment Council. We are determined to offer the most business friendly environment and the best growth opportunities for companies worldwide.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to take this opportunity to offer my heartfelt compliments to TDC for its superb work in promoting trade for Hong Kong. Thank you Michael for your able leadership and I am sure Fred will continue the good work in your wake. I wish all participants a fruitful Forum and a pleasant stay in Hong Kong. Thank you.
Ends/ Monday, February 23, 2004