Speech by SCED at Hong Kong International Toys Festival seminar (English only) (with photo)
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     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mrs Rita Lau, at a seminar on "Latest Product Safety Directives of the Toys Industry" of the Hong Kong International Toys Festival 2009 today (January 7):

Lawrence (Chan), David (Chu), Mr (Tit-shing) Wong, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen :

     I am most honoured to join this Toy Safety Seminar today.  Let me take this opportunity to thank the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, the Toys Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Toys Council for putting together this meaningful event.

     Toy industry is an important part of Hong Kong's economy.  The Pearl River Delta has been a major manufacturing base of toys for decades.  Between January and October last year, our total exports of toys amounted to HK$86 billion, ranking third after electronics and textiles.  

     Like many other sectors, 2009 will not be an easy time for the toy industry íV be it in Hong Kong or in other parts of the world.  In the US, KB Toys has hit the headline these days while Toys"R"Us has been working doubly hard to tide over the stormy season.  Its flagship store in New York was open for 134 hours non-stop from December 19-24, just to catch more customers.  

     Here at home, our toy manufacturers have a similarly tough job rising to the challenges of the financial tsunami.  But amid all our hard work to cope with the difficult times, we must not lose sight of the need to upgrade our product quality, which is a priority for the industry in response to new safety regulations on children's products.  And this is why we are here today.  

     I believe many of you are concerned about the US Consumer Safety Product Improvement Act of 2008.  The Act has imposed more stringent requirements on the lead content of children's products.  Toy manufacturers will also need to conduct adequate testing to demonstrate that their products meet these safety standards.  I am glad that Mr O'Brien from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission has joined us to tell us more about the new requirements.  Mr O'Brien and his colleagues have travelled to China a few times to speak on the topic, so he is the expert and understands your concerns very well.  

     We are also honoured to have Mr Liu from the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, and Mr Zhang from the Guangdong Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau with us today.  They will enlighten us on what their bureaus have done in response to the regulatory changes in the US market.  I am sure there is going to be a fruitful exchange this morning.

     On the part of the Government, you can rest assured that we will do our very best to support the industry.  Across the ocean, my colleagues at the Washington Office have been maintaining close liaison with Mr O'Brien's colleagues to reflect your concerns.  Here in Hong Kong, the Trade and Industry Department has also been channelling your views to the US Consulate-General.  We will continue our efforts on this front.

     In addition, we will continue our funding support through various SME Funding Schemes.  For instance, this Toys Festival, including today's conference, was also brought to you with sponsorship from our SME Development Fund.  We have also increased the sponsorship limit of the Export Marketing Fund.

     Separately, we have been working hard to help businesses obtain loans from the commercial lending market.  Through the Special Loan Guarantee Scheme that we launched a couple of weeks ago, each eligible company may obtain a loan of up to HK$6 million.  The banks will only take up 30% of the risk whilst the Government bears the remaining 70%.  The Export Credit Insurance Corporation is also providing higher cover for our exports, including those to certain emerging markets.     

     You will also need the right tools to develop new toys.  If you decide to go down the creative path, we have the DesignSmart Initiative to pair you up with creative people and resources.  If you are working on some high-tech toys for our kids, you have our support through the Small Enterprise Research Assistance Programme and other helping hands from the Hong Kong Productivity Council, the Cyberport and the Hong Kong Science Park.  I urge you to make good use of all these support measures to move our toys up the innovation and value ladder, and develop more new markets.

     So much on the support from our side for the industry.  I think I should stop here and leave as much time as possible for our guest speakers to enlighten us.  May I wish all of you a productive and happy new year.  Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Issued at HKT 14:50

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