Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, Mr John Tsang, at the presentation ceremony cum gala dinner of Asia Pacific Information and Communication Technology Awards today (December 10): (English only)
Mr Lai, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to join you all tonight at the APICTA Presentation Ceremony cum Gala Dinner.
Today is a special day. Not only are we celebrating one of the most prestigious events in the ICT field in the Asia Pacific region, it is also Nobel Day. The Nobel Prize is dedicated to the development of peace and the progress of the living conditions of mankind. APICTA, which gives recognition to innovation, creativity and the use of ICT, echoes the spirit of the Nobel Prize in improving the quality of life for all.
The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), together with the IT industry and professional bodies, is committed to championing the development and use of ICT and building a digitally inclusive global society. We will continue to participate actively in international and regional activities that serve to promote ICT development and enhance co-operation and exchanges in this field.
This very morning, Hong Kong renewed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the co-operation in ICT with the United Kingdom. Indeed, we have entered into similar collaborative arrangements with 11 other economies, joining hands with our MOU partners in promoting ICT development and collaboration among industry bodies, professionals and students. A wide range of exchange activities have been organised under the auspices of these ICT MOUs.
What then is Hong Kong's role in the ICT field in our region? First and foremost, given our geographical proximity and cultural ties with the Mainland, Hong Kong enterprises are best positioned to tap into the enormous China market. With China's accession to the WTO, there is no doubt that its economy will continue to grow rapidly. Hong Kong, on the other hand, has always been the gateway to Mainland China, and our role has been enhanced even further of late.
We have a vibrant, competitive and innovation-driven IT industry in Hong Kong. Our ICT professionals and entrepreneurs speak the same language and share the same cultural values as their counterparts in the Mainland. There is probably nowhere better than Hong Kong to obtain the expertise, information and facilities needed to tap into this enormous market.
In June 2003, the HKSAR Government and the Central People's Government reached an agreement, under the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, or CEPA, to introduce trade liberalisation measures for a wide range of goods and services with effect from January 1 this year. CEPA is a free-trade agreement that gives Hong Kong manufacturers and service suppliers "first-mover advantage" into the Mainland market, ahead of China's WTO commitments. In August this year, the two sides announced further liberalisation measures under the second phase of CEPA to take effect on January 1, 2005.
IT services is one of the eight new service sectors included in CEPA II. One of the liberalisation measures is to allow Hong Kong service providers to apply system integration qualification certification in the Mainland according to the rules and regulations promulgated by the Mainland authorities. This qualification will provide the certified companies with an admission ticket to enter into the Mainland IT market. We will be announcing further details on this qualification later this month.
CEPA is an evolutionary process. Further discussions will be held in early 2005 to broaden and deepen the liberalisation measures. I would encourage foreign companies, especially those which are based in the Asia Pacific Region and interested in expanding into the Mainland market, to partner with Hong Kong companies to grasp the enormous business opportunities afforded by CEPA.
China is a vast country. Inevitably, our relationship with the provinces and cities in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) Region has been much closer than with those in the north. Hong Kong companies were the first in the world to move their manufacturing operations across the boundary to the PRD when China opened its economy 25 years ago. Today, PRD is a manufacturing and export powerhouse, the fastest growing region of China. And Hong Kong companies are the largest investors there, with over 60,000 Hong Kong-invested factories in the PRD, employing over 10 million workers. That's why we have been actively working with the Guangdong Province to smooth and enhance the two-way flows of people, goods, services and capital across our boundary.
A few months ago, a new initiative called the Pan-PRD Regional Cooperation and Development Forum, or "9+2" signifying the involvement of nine provinces and the two special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, was launched. The "Pan-PRD" region encompasses over 450 million people, one-third of China's population, and accounts for 40% of China's total GDP. With "9+2", Hong Kong's economic catchment area expands more than five-fold, radiating from the PRD to Fujian in the east, Hunan in the north and Sichuan in the west.
The Pan-PRD provinces and cities will become increasingly important manufacturing and consumer bases as the PRD moves up the value chain. The arrangement will strengthen Hong Kong's position as the services hub for this fast growing region of China. The 11 governments concerned are working closely together in identifying collaboration opportunities. Separate "9+2" forums are being held to pursue such opportunities in the fields of ICT and innovation and technology. "9+2" will no doubt become another key platform for driving Hong Kong/Mainland cooperation.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the judges for their hard work in adjudicating and selecting the winning entries. I would also like to extend my warmest congratulations to all the APICTA winners and wish them every success. Lastly, I would like to thank you all, especially the overseas delegates who have travelled a long way to Hong Kong, for attending and supporting APICTA. Hong Kong is truly honoured to be able to host this prestigious event and I would like to see it come back to Hong Kong in the near future. I also very much hope to see you back here in December 2006 for the International Telecommunication Union TELECOM WORLD 2006, one of the mega events in the ICT industry.
My heartfelt thanks to the Hong Kong Computer Society, Daniel in particular, for their dedication and hard work in organising a highly successful APICTA. My best wishes to APICTA for its continuous success in the years to come.
Wishing you all an enjoyable and memorable evening! Thank you very much.
Ends/Friday, December 10, 2004