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FS speaks at opening ceremony of APEC Conference on Powering SMEs (English only) (with photos/video)

    Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr John Tsang, at the Opening Ceremony of APEC Conference on Powering SMEs this morning (July 12) (English only):

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     Good morning.

     First of all, let me extend a warm welcome to all of you, particularly those who have come from other APEC economies to join this conference in Hong Kong.

     It is my great pleasure to be here today addressing an audience that is highly supportive of SMEs in the region. I may be preaching to the converted, but good vibes are always welcomed.

     Nurturing SMEs is crucial to sustainable economic growth in our region. The fact that initiatives of this kind receive continuous support from APEC Finance Ministers proves the point exactly. In Hong Kong, we attach great importance to supporting SMEs because they are the backbone of our economy. As of March this year, there are some 276,000 SMEs in Hong Kong constituting more than 98% of business establishments and half of total employment in the private sector that represents some 1.2 million jobs.

     Hong Kong possesses certain fundamental strengths that are conducive to the development of business.  Our economic freedom and our firm commitment to free trade and free enterprise are widely recognised. Strategically located at the gateway to the Mainland market, our city also boasts a simple tax structure and low tax rates, a versatile and industrious workforce, excellent infrastructure, as well as free flow of capital and information.

     On top of these fundamental strengths, the Government provides targeted support to raise our SMEs' competitiveness. Without compromising our cherished free market economic philosophy, various departments and quasi-government bodies implement funding schemes, provide latest market information and business advisory services to help SMEs expand their reaches to new markets, and offer infrastructure, design and technical support. Let me explain briefly.

     The SME Funding Schemes administered by our Trade and Industry Department help SMEs secure finance, expand overseas markets and enhance overall competitiveness. The department also has a Support and Consultation Centre for SMEs that provides free, reliable and practical information and consultation services.

     SMEs can also make use of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) as a platform to meet potential buyers from around the world through TDC's international trade fairs and exhibitions staged right here in Hong Kong, as well as through its trade portal in the cyber world. Leveraging on its global office network, TDC is able to provide high quality business matching service for SMEs to network with international buyers and suppliers.

     There is also a need to better equip SMEs for the global shift towards knowledge-based and high value-added activities. In this regard, we have set up the Innovation and Technology Fund, the Design Smart Initiative and five research and development centres to collaborate efforts in order to help companies to upgrade their capacities in terms of design and branding, and to promote excellence in design in Hong Kong. These upgrading would in turn bring about new, sustainable industries that will take our economy to a new level.

     At the 14th APEC SME Ministerial Meeting in March this year, Member Economies praised our outreaching work in understanding and meeting the needs of SMEs. We will certainly continue our efforts in creating and maintaining a business-friendly environment for SMEs.

     While the Government would do everything we can to facilitate, the private sector's own initiatives remain to be most important, especially in a free market like Hong Kong. I am pleased to see that our banking sector has seen increased lending activities and wider product choice for SME customers. As the economy continues to grow, there will be even more business and co-operation opportunities for SMEs and our financial institutions. In this conference, our host and speakers from Hong Kong and other Member Economies will share with you their insights and experiences on a range of interesting issues, like SME financing and cross-sectoral collaboration in assisting SMEs.

     I must not hold you up any longer. May I wish this conference a great success. And for all my guests here from other APEC economies, I hope you will grasp the opportunity to tour around, enjoy the sights and sounds of Hong Kong, shop a lot and have a wonderful stay in this magnificent city.

     Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, July 12, 2007
Issued at HKT 10:55


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