Following is the speech (English only) by the Financial Secretary, Mr Henry Tang, at the Welcome Luncheon hosted by BASELWORLD Organizer on April 15 in Basel:
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good afternoon. I am very delighted to come to this beautiful city, Basel, and join you all on this significant occasion. This year's BASELWORLD has a very special meaning to me and to the Hong Kong exhibitors - we are all very glad that Hong Kong has finally come back!
As the largest watch and jewellery fair, BASELWORLD has long established itself as one of the best industry platform for reaching new markets and for growing businesses. It is also widely recognised as a very effective sourcing hub and a premier networking venue for industry players. We are very proud that this year Hong Kong is able to send the largest ever delegation to this important fair.
Hong Kong's watch and jewellery industries and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) have been enthusiastic supporters of BASELWORLD since 1986. And the Hong Kong Pavilion organised by TDC has always been the largest group pavilion at the show. This year is no exception. Over 300 companies have joined the Hong Kong Pavilion, occupying half of the new Hall of Universe.
Hong Kong and Switzerland share many similarities - we are both relatively small economies but significant players in the international trade and services community. The unique affinity between us is not only borne out by the fact that we are both leading watches and jewellery exporters in the world, but also by the close economic ties between us - there are over 300 companies with Swiss interests in Hong Kong, representing a wide range of sectors ranging from watches & clocks, jewellery, pharmaceuticals to banks, insurance and consultants.
Hong Kong also serves as a very important conduit for Swiss companies to enter into the fastest growing market in the world. In 2003, trade between Switzerland and the Mainland of China, that was routed through Hong Kong, amounted to 1.1 billion US dollars [HK$8.7b], representing about one-third [31.6%] of the total trade between Switzerland and China. This role is further reinforced with the implementation of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) between the Mainland and Hong Kong on 1 January, 2004.
Under CEPA, a wide range of Hong Kong goods, certainly including products of the watch & clock and jewellery industries, can enjoy zero tariff to the Mainland. On the services side, 18 sectors have been granted preferential access to the huge Mainland market. CEPA will have a profound impact on Hong Kong's economic integration with the Mainland and open a new chapter for Hong Kong-based companies trying to expand across the boundary. I believe CEPA will enhance Hong Kong's attractiveness as an investment destination for Swiss companies and further strengthen our economic relationship with Switzerland.
Finally, I would like to congratulate the BASELWORLD for staging a very impressive and successful fair. I would also like to wish everyone an enjoyable and a fruitful fair in Basel. This is a great opportunity to renew acquaintances and make new friends; and to renew contracts and sign new ones!
Thank you very much.
Ends/Thursday, April 15, 2004