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Speech by SCIT at China Day Programme at ITU TELECOM WORLD 2006 (English only)

    Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, Mr Joseph WP Wong, at the ICT@China of the China Day Programme at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) TELECOM WORLD 2006 this afternoon (December 5): (English only)

Vice Minister Lou, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     I wish to extend a very warm welcome to you for joining our activities on our China Day - entitled "ICT@China".

     As a businessman or businesswoman, you all know that China, with its strong economic growth, huge markets waiting to be tapped upon entry into the World Trade Organization, is a force to be reckoned with. China is the largest information and communications technology in the world, with tremendous potential for growth. And there is no better way to explore opportunities in China than using Hong Kong as the springboard.

     All the ingredients that made Hong Kong so successful, such as the rule of law, the free flow of information and our capitalist system, remain an integral part of Hong Kong after our reunification with China in 1997 as enshrined in the Basic law, our new mini-constitution.

     Hong Kong's economy benefits substantially from China's strong economic growth.  Such benefits are crystalised under a "Closer Economic Partnership Agreement", or CEPA for short, between Hong Kong and the Mainland of China. This is a free trade agreement offering preferential treatment to Hong Kong goods and services, in some cases ahead of and in some cases beyond the commitments China made when it joined the World Trade Organization.  For example, under CEPA, all Hong Kong products started to enjoy zero tariff in the Mainland's market since the beginning of this year. Hong Kong service suppliers can also enjoy preferential access opportunities in 27 service areas, including information technology and telecommunications, in the Mainland's market.

     Take information technology as an example. CEPA not only facilitates Hong Kong's information technology industry to access the Mainland market, but also provides third-party accreditation of the systems integration capability of Hong Kong service suppliers. On telecommunications, five value-added services based on the Mainland's Telecommunications Services Classification Catalogue have been opened up for access without any geographic limitations. According to our research, the amount of investment in the Mainland induced by CEPA in the information technology and telecommunications service areas amounts to some US$29 million in the first two years since CEPA came into effect, and that more than 70% of the companies in the information technology and telecommunications sector who responded to our research considered that CEPA had been beneficial to their companies.

     And, it is important to note that the criteria for enjoying CEPA preferences are "nationality" neutral i.e. - foreign-owned companies operating in Hong Kong meeting the same standards or requirements enjoy the same preferential treatment as that of Hong Kong-owned companies.

     I want to make two additional points.  First, CEPA's a live arrangement. Since it was first signed in 2003, we have had three rounds of liberalisation measures. It is possible and likely that future liberalisation measures under CEPA would include telecommunication services.

     Some of you have heard what the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China Wu Bangguo said at the Opening Ceremony about Hong Kong's unique advantages in developing ICT. Firstly, Hong Kong has excellent local telecom companies that are experienced in business development and management and enjoy high international reputation. Apart from all the ingredients of a free and open economy which I mentioned earlier, we have in Hong Kong a strong team of business professionals with a good grasp of international rules.  With our proximity to the Mainland, the firm commitment of the Central Government to maintain the stability and prosperity of Hong Kong, and the huge and growing ICT market on the Mainland, Hong Kong will continue to play a complementary role and create a win-win co-operation with the Mainland.  

     So in Hong Kong, you really can get the best of both "worlds" - the confidence and comfort of a world city, and the gateway and preferential access to the world's huge and expanding market. I hope you will take advantage of our programme today to learn about the opportunities available, renew acquaintances, make new friends and form new business partnerships.

     Thank you.

Ends/Tuesday, December 5, 2006
Issued at HKT 15:30