Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr Henry Tang, this (October 15) evening at the Australian Business Awards 2004 Gala Dinner at Grand Hyatt Hotel:
Ambassador Thomas, Mr Johnson, Mr Peter Osborne, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to be here on this very special occasion for Australian businesses in Hong Kong and, indeed, in Greater China. As a former industrialist, I am a great advocate for events that stimulate and reward excellence in the business arena.
The Australian Business Awards are now in their 12th year. During the past decade, the entrepreneurial spirit and the degree of excellence of the finalists have gone from strength to strength. This is a testimony to the advances that Australian companies have made in the quality of your products and the services you provide.
The awards not only honour excellence in business, they also cover entrepreneurship, innovation and promotion. There is also a special environmental commendation award. The above are indeed the core attributes of successful businesses. The Australian Chamber of Commerce - one of Hong Kong's trend-setting international chambers - has done an excellent job in organising this event and in ensuring recognition of the Australian business spirit by the whole community here.
The people of Hong Kong have always taken pride in the fact that we have such a strong and committed international business presence here. The Australian Chamber of Commerce, together with other international chambers and business organisations, have made a huge contribution to our economic well-being and have helped strengthen our position as Asia's world city. There are around 400 registered Australian companies based in Hong Kong and a further 1 000 Australian companies have representative offices here. Some 50 000 Australians have in fact made Hong Kong their home. That is a very significant presence and a clear indication that Australians are an integral part of our community - not just in business, but in every facet of our daily lives, from food to financial services and from trade to education.
Our bilateral trade with Australia is showing strong growth and was worth more than HK$17 billion in the first half of this year. While we in Hong Kong are benefiting from this, Australians are also reaping rewards of the Hong Kong advantage - the unique role we play in fostering economic ties between the Mainland of China and the rest of the world. Our role is gaining in strength and stature as a result of the free trade agreement we have with the Mainland.
As you are aware, the Mainland/Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) has recently been expanded. Starting from January next year, more than 900 Hong Kong products will be able to enter the Mainland market tariff-free. At the same time, services will also be further liberalised Ал Hong Kong service suppliers will be eligible for preferential treatment in the Mainland in a total of 26 service areas. These include legal service, construction, distribution, accounting, banking and securities, just to name a few.
I do not think I need to emphasise to you the enormous benefits this will bring, not just to Hong Kong, but to international firms that have established a base here. I strongly urge you, if you have not already done so, to look at the multitude of opportunities unfolding through using Hong Kong as your platform to the Mainland of China. I can assure you that you will not be disappointed.
Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we are here to celebrate a success story - the success of Australian firms doing business in the Greater China region. It is a special occasion and one that I am sure you will all enjoy as much as I do. Thank you once again for the invitation to join you, and my congratulations in advance to all the award winners tonight.
Ends/Friday, October 15, 2004