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SCED's speech at Forum on Investment in China and Africa on Role of Hong Kong (English only)

    Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Frederick Ma, at the Forum on Investment in China and Africa on the Role of Hong Kong today (July 17):

Mr Malik, Professor Ng, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     I am very pleased to be with you here this morning at this forum on Investment in China and Africa. Trade between China and Africa has grown significantly in recent years, and this is a good time to review the role that Hong Kong can play in further enhancing the investment climate.

China-Africa Trade - Recent History

     Over the past few years, there has been a significant increase in China's trade with Africa. In the year 2000, the total volume of trade between China and Africa passed US$10 billion, with imports from African countries to China accounting for some US$5.6 billion. By 2006, trade had increased to more than US$55 billion. With annual growth of between 30 and 40% in recent years, it is expected that by 2010 China-Africa trade will top the $100 billion mark.

     Bilateral trade and co-operation have been boosted by China's pro-active policy in relation to trade and investment in Africa. At the beginning of this month, China increased the number of items that can be imported tariff-free into China from least developed African nations to more than 450. Just last month, China established the US$1 billion China-Africa Development Fund to encourage further economic development in the continent by helping to provide capital for companies wishing to invest in areas such as infrastructure, agriculture and machinery. The size of the fund is targeted to increase to US$5 billion, demonstrating China's confidence in Africa's potential for further economic growth.

Co-operation and Partnership

     While welcoming China's increasing investment in their economies, African commentators also have recognised that the continent can learn from China's own experience in steering the country's economic transformation over the past 30 years. For example, the Nigerian historian Femi has written that: "China's rapid economic transformation holds special lessons for those of us in Africa", adding that: "China's economic performance is nothing short of a miracle."

     To help promote greater partnership and co-operation with African countries, China organises regular seminars, forums and training courses aimed at building capacity and mutual understanding. The high-level Forum on China-Africa Co-operation, which was established in the year 2000, has been a major initiative in promoting friendship and co-operation, and last November's summit in Beijing underlined the progress that has been made in strengthening ties between China and Africa in recent years.

     A further example of the close co-operation between China and Africa is the African Human Resources Development Fund. Since the fund was set up, also in the year 2000, China has provided training for nearly 20,000 professionals under the programmes financed by the fund.

China-Africa Business Council

     Another of the key initiatives in promoting partnership with Africa has been the establishment of the China-Africa Business Council, in conjunction with the UN Development Programme. I understand that the council helps organise business delegations to African countries, as well as receiving delegations from Africa. It also serves as an important research and training resource for companies seeking to play a part in the growing bilateral trade between China and the African continent.

     I am sure that Mr Malik will speak in more detail about the work of the council in his keynote speech. I would simply say that I am sure that the council will continue to make a major contribution to boosting further trade and investment between China and Africa in the coming years.

The Role of Hong Kong

     The focus of today's forum is to help local business leaders and professionals to learn more about investment opportunities arising from the rapid growth in trade and investment between China and Africa. It is appropriate therefore that this afternoon's plenary sessions will concentrate on the issues of China's investment in Africa, African investment in China, and Hong Kong's role as a platform for facilitating China-Africa business partnerships.

     In this context, Hong Kong has long been regarded as a natural gateway to China, with unrivalled access to markets on the Mainland, especially in the vast Pearl River Delta region. Investors from many countries wishing to establish a presence in China have found it advantageous to set up offices in Hong Kong for sales, marketing, distribution, finance and management, and at the same time to enter into strategic partnerships with Hong Kong entrepreneurs.

     In recent years, the implementation of the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement, or "CEPA", between Hong Kong and Mainland China has helped to make Hong Kong an even more attractive destination for overseas investors wishing to leverage on CEPA to gain greater access to markets in China.

     As well as providing a gateway to China for overseas investors, Hong Kong is increasingly seen as a springboard for investors from Mainland China enterprises wishing to expand globally, as shown by the growing number of Mainland enterprises establishing offices in Hong Kong.

     I would therefore encourage investors from Mainland China and from African countries to consider seriously how a presence in Hong Kong can help promote further trade between Africa and the Mainland. We offer the benefits of extensive external transport links through one of the world's leading airports, as well as state-of-the-art port operations and comprehensive global telecommunications options that can help ensure that trade between China and Africa is conducted with maximum efficiency.

     In addition to our strategic geographical location and first-class trading and communications infrastructure, our simple, low-tax regime, adaptable workforce and international outlook also contribute to making Hong Kong a clear choice as the platform for promoting trade and investment in China and Africa.

Closing Remarks

     The growing partnership between China and the countries of Africa will create exciting opportunities for further trade and investment and for increased economic development. In Hong Kong, we currently have a relatively small African community. However, just as we have welcomed a greater presence from Mainland China enterprises using Hong Kong as a base for global trade and investment, we look forward to welcoming more African investors and business people to come to Hong Kong and to enjoy the advantages that we can offer when seeking to trade with and invest in China.

     In closing, I would like to congratulate the China-Africa Business Council on successfully organising today's forum. I am sure that this event will help to contribute to stronger ties between our respective countries, and to the further expansion of trade and investment opportunities.

     Finally, I wish you a fruitful day's discussion, and for our visitors from the Mainland and overseas, I wish you an enjoyable and memorable stay in Hong Kong.

     Thank you.

Ends/Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Issued at HKT 11:48


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