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Speech by PSCIT at signing ceremony of HK-Hungary Memorandum of Understanding on Co-operation in Wine-related Businesses (English only)
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     Following is the speech by the Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development (Commerce, Industry and Tourism), Miss Yvonne Choi, at the signing ceremony of the Hong Kong-Hungary Memorandum of Understanding on Co-operation in Wine-related Businesses today (May 27):

Secretary, Consul General, ladies and gentlemen,

     Today is special day for us.  We are here to sign the first trade-related co-operation agreement between Hong Kong and Hungary V and it is on wine.

     It is an honour to have our Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mrs Rita Lau, here to witness this ceremony.

     Wine making has a great tradition in Hungary, dating back to the 5th century.   Today, Hungary is well known as a producer of quality wines. Among the best-known are probably Tokaji Aszu, as well as the blended red wine affectionately known as Bull's Blood.  Tokaji Aszu was famously christened by King Louis XIV of France the "wine of kings, king of wines".

     Hong Kong aspires to become the regional hub for wine trading and distribution.  And the reduction of wine duty to zero in February last year has given great impetus to the further development of our wine-related businesses.  Hong Kong also became the first economy with no duty or VAT on wine.  

     Since then we have gone further, introducing various measures to support the development of the wine trade and promote wine appreciation.  These include more simplified customs procedures, more vigorous trade promotions and tougher preventive action against counterfeiting.

     The market response has been swift and encouraging.  Our wine imports grew to HK$3 billion in the 12 months after duty reduction - that's a year-on-year increase of 83%.

     We have also had a record number of wine auctions V 12 have been held since the duty exemption, and more are in the pipeline.  Industry players believe that Hong Kong may overtake London this year to become the world's second largest wine auction centre, after New York.

     Other wine-related business activities have also been energised.

     From Hungary, wine exports to Hong Kong last year increased by as much as 78%.  We expect this trend to continue as Hungarian wines become more widely known and enjoyed here.  And more significantly, Hong Kong provides easy access to the Mainland market where the potential for growth is enormous.

     The Memorandum of Understanding we sign today will facilitate wine-related businesses between Hong Kong and Hungary.  We will collaborate to bring Hungarian wine producers and sellers to explore business opportunities here and in the rest of the region.

     Two major opportunities to galvanise this new trade lie immediately ahead of us this autumn.

     The first event is the Wine and Dine Festival organised by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.  It is the first of its kind in Hong Kong, the highlight being a three-day outdoor carnival on the West Kowloon harbourfront. It will be starting from October 30. The public, including tourists, will be able to enjoy wines and food items from all over the world.  This also dovetails nicely with this years tourism theme, as we have designated 2009 as "Hong Kong Food and Wine Year".

     The second event is the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC). It will be held from November 4 to 6. The TDC started this "home-grown" wine exhibition in 2008.  We expect TDC to build on last year's success.

     We welcome Hungarian companies to get involved in these two key events, to showcase their fine wines as well as their delicious food items.

     Hungary has a great history of wine making.  Hong Kong is developing itself into a wine hub in the region.  We see great prospects for closer ties between Hong Kong and Hungary in wine promotion as well as in other wine-related areas.  I am sure that our joint vineyard V if I may call it so V will bear plenty of fruit in the years to come.

     Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Issued at HKT 16:55

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