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STH's speech at opening of seminar on Hong Kong maritime services in Vietnam (English only) (with photos)

     Following is the speech delivered by the Secretary for Transport and Housing, Ms Eva Cheng, at the opening ceremony of the "Hong Kong: Your Gateway to Global Shipping" seminar in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam today (February 26):

Mr Vo (Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry representative), Tina (Hong Kong Trade Development Council representative), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning.  I am delighted to be here today, together with members of the Hong Kong Maritime Industry Council and leaders of the Hong Kong shipping industry, to officiate at the opening of the Hong Kong Maritime Services Seminar.

     To foster stronger ties with the maritime community in Vietnam, the Hong Kong Maritime Industry Council, together with the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, and the Hong Kong Marine Department, are jointly organising today's seminar.  The purpose of the seminar is to introduce to you the professional and world-class service offered by Hong Kong's maritime industry.

     My colleagues from the Hong Kong Maritime Industry Council and delegation members will speak on the topics of ship finance, maritime law and arbitration, taxation and ship management which should be of great interest to you.  We believe the seminar will provide a unique forum for industry players from both sides to exchange views and experience, as well as to develop and expand business opportunities and encourage co-operation.

     Vietnam, the second fastest growing Asian economy after China, is widely recognised as an emerging economic powerhouse.  Following your accession to the World Trade Organisation in 2007, Vietnam is indeed becoming an important driving force, and will play a significant role in the world economy.  The high and sustainable growth rate of Vietnam's economy is generating demand and trading activities, which in turn leads to greater need for quality port and maritime services.

     Hong Kong has been a close economic partner with Vietnam both in trade and in services.  In terms of foreign direct investment for Vietnam, Hong Kong is among the top 10 investors with cumulative registered capital investment of US$7.4 billion against a total of US$160 billion up to 2008.  Vietnam and Hong Kong signed a comprehensive avoidance of double taxation agreement in December last year.  This agreement will surely encourage more economic activities between both places, particularly for the shipping and maritime sector which are exposed to double taxation because of its global nature.

     With Hong Kong as the fifth shipping registry in the world, our shipowners own or operate 1,540 ships, amounting to more than 9% of the world's merchant fleet in terms of deadweight tonnage.  In 2008, Hong Kong once again proved itself to be one of the world's most efficient container ports, handling a record high of 24.3 million TEUs of containers.  At the core of all these remarkable achievements lies our vibrant maritime cluster, providing a line-up of comprehensive and high quality professional services, ranging from ship financing, law and arbitration to ship management, insurance and brokerage, surveying and repairing.

     Hong Kong is indeed fortunate to be located right at the doorstep to southern China, and occupies a central location for the major east-west and north-south trade routes.  Over half of the world's population is reachable from our world-class international airport within five hours' flight. Geographical advantages aside, Hong Kong also owes its success to a business-friendly environment characterised by the most open economy in the world, the rule of law, free flow of information and capital, open and fair competition, a simple and low tax regime, and a well-educated workforce.  Hong Kong is ready to partner with Vietnam as you reap your successes with your economic reform.  A partnership of Hong Kong's expertise in shipping and maritime service with the progressive development in Vietnam's port and maritime sector will no doubt bring new growth and opportunities.

     Ladies and gentlemen, the seminar today raises the curtain for our close co-operation.  By sharing with you our experience, and by offering you our quality services, we look forward to assisting the Vietnamese maritime and shipping sector to scale new heights in your economic development.

     In closing, I would like to thank all of you for your support for the Hong Kong Maritime Services Seminar, and wish you all great success in your business endeavours.

     Thank you.

Ends/Thursday, February 26, 2009
Issued at HKT 19:00


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