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Speech by PSCT at opening ceremony of HK design and branding seminar series in PRD region

     The following is a speech by the Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development (Communications and Technology), Mr Duncan Pescod, at the opening ceremony of :Creativity in Business Seminar Series;in Shenzhen today (July 10):

Director Wang (Wang Xuewei, Director-General, Shenzhen Bureau of Trade and Industry), Benjamin (Benjamin Chau, Assistant Executive Director, Hong Kong Trade Development Council), Freeman (Freeman Lau, Vice Chairman, Board of Directors of Hong Kong Design Centre), ladies and gentlemen,

     It gives me great pleasure to speak to you all this afternoon and to see so many of you here.  I would like to first thank the Shenzhen authorities, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and the Hong Kong Design Centre for making today・s event possible.  This event marks another important step in Hong Kong・s collaboration with Shenzhen for our mutual benefit.

     Some of you may know that I worked in Brussels for a couple of years as the Hong Kong representative to the European Communities. This is before I came back to Hong Kong last year to take up my present post.  When I was working in Brussels, I used to explain to my European contacts that the Chinese character for "crisis" contains two elements: danger and opportunity.  Of course, I don・t need to explain this to you, but we need to remember it as we tackle the financial crisis. There is no doubt that the crisis has hit everybody hard, and the economic impact is as evident in the Pearl River Delta (PRD) area as it is in Hong Kong, with orders from overseas markets showing a substantial decline over the last few months and business dropping off badly.

     To understand the impact, we must look into the background of PRD manufacturers.  In the last three decades, the PRD area has seen enormous growth.  Over the years, it has become the manufacturing centre for the world.  Economists will say that this is due to a number of advantages: low cost labour, low cost land, competitive pricing, quality production, effective marketing and perhaps most important of all entrepreneurial leadership that has supported business development.  These advantages have won countless orders from all major markets in the world.

     But things have changed in recent years.  Products from other parts of the Mainland as well as from other areas such as Central and South East Asia have increasingly been able to compete with products in this area in terms of price and quality.  These areas can produce goods at equally competitive prices with comparable quality. They have learned from the regions and, as we say in English, :imitation is the sincerest form of flattery;.  Unfortunately, flattery might be nice, but the reality on the ground is that the competition from these other places has eroded the advantages previously enjoyed by enterprises from this region.  On the other hand, as we have seen, the cost of manufacturing has been on the rise.  Manufacturers have increasingly had difficulty attracting buyers on the basis of competitive pricing.  The outbreak of the financial crisis has of course made things even more difficult, as many of the buyers from the major markets have suspended or significantly cut back on their orders.

     So there is the danger in the current crisis. But I want to focus on the opportunities that also exist.  While the present situation has undoubtedly challenged manufacturers, it has also given us opportunities to consider new and better ways to grab market share from our competitors.

     I am not a marketing expert but I am an avid consumer.  What is it that makes a difference to the consumer in a marketplace saturated with products?  For me, and I believe for many people, the key difference is design.  Adding value to products by instilling elements of design and branding is, to my mind, the best and most obvious way to maintaining the competitiveness of manufacturers in this region.  And of course, the reason we are here is because there is no doubt that Hong Kong designers and branding experts and others are best placed to make a tremendous contribution in this field.  

     Our design and branding sector has developed strongly over the years and follows closely all the latest international trends.  With their expert knowledge and advice, they can help take the design of products to the next level and enable PRD manufacturers to develop their own brands.  

     And this is why we are organising this series of seminars in five major cities in the PRD, starting in Shenzhen today. We want to introduce to manufacturers the concept of good design and branding, to explain how design and branding can help enterprises create new orders and turnover and of course to offer the services of our own internationally recognised designers.  To this end, we have here today designers and branding gurus from Hong Kong to speak from their own experience, and share with you case studies from the real world where branding and design have really helped businesses to scale new heights.  I genuinely believe that this forum today where HK designers and PRD enterprises can meet, sit together and understand each other should be one of those rare occasions where there really can be a win/win outcome.  Through working together, I am confident that the synergy of the entrepreneurial spirit of the PRD and the creative excellence of Hong Kong can result in products that are attractive, well priced and suitable for the new marketplace that will emerge from the financial crisis. I urge you all to seize this opportunity now while we have time and the chance.

     Ladies and gentlemen, as I look round the room today which is filled to overflowing, I am confident that you already know what I am talking about. I know that we are preaching to the converted and you all are already fully convinced of the added value that design and branding can bring to your business.  But in case there is one or two of you out there not yet convinced, then I hope this afternoon・s seminar and exhibition persuades you that good design can really enhance your business and also reveals opportunities that you may not have expected.  

     So have a good afternoon and thank you.

Ends/Friday, July 10, 2009
Issued at HKT 16:12


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