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Speech by SCED at 60th anniversary of India's Republic Day luncheon (English only)
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     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mrs Rita Lau, at the luncheon to celebrate the 60th anniversary of India's Republic Day today (January 26):

Mr Ralte (Consul General of the Republic of India), Mr Arunachalam (President), Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     It gives me great pleasure and honour to join you today to celebrate the 60th anniversary of India's Republic Day.

     Hong Kong and India have a long and cherished tie for over a century and a half.  Our history dates back to early 1840s when your visionary predecessors settled in Hong Kong and became key players to our successful transformation into a world-class trade, business and financial hub. Today, Hong Kong is home to a 45,000 strong Indian community. As one big family, we shared the joy of cultural diversity and economic prosperity, and at the same time joined hands to weather numerous crises experienced by Hong Kong.

     The strong India - Hong Kong bond manifests itself in many ways. In terms of trade, India was Hong Kong's ninth largest trading partner; and reciprocally, we were India's 10th. Bilateral trade between us grew at an impressive annual average rate of about 25% in the past five years. The year of 2008 alone saw a registered growth of some 33%, amounting to HK$110 billion worth of trade. In terms of investment, India was Hong Kong's 11th major destination of outward direct investment with an investment stock of some HK$25 billion as at end of 2008. Hong Kong is host to some 40 Indian companies representing their parent companies located in India in addition to over 1,400 companies set up by local Indians. Of the 40 Indian companies, more than 20 serve as regional headquarters or regional offices. These figures are clear proof of the sustainable trading and investment link between Hong Kong and India.

     We are also delighted to see Hong Kong becoming a popular travel destination for Indians. With enhanced travel convenience brought about by 60 weekly flights between Hong Kong and India, the number of Indian visitors to Hong Kong has more than trebled in the past decade, showing a consistent upward trend. In 2009, there were more than 366,000 Indian arrivals. It represented a year-on-year increase of 4.6% over 2008, which was remarkable vis-j-vis the increase of less than one per cent for the total arrivals in 2009 as a result of the global economic downturn.

     Despite the turbulence in the financial and the external merchandise markets worldwide in the past few quarters, both the Indian and Mainland economies continue to grow at an incredible pace. Hong Kong surely is the best platform for bridging these two massive markets. On this bridging role, the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (or CEPA) that Hong Kong signed with the Mainland provides a most convenient springboard for Indian enterprises which are interested in tapping into the vast Mainland market. CEPA offers preferential access for goods and services into the Mainland through Hong Kong. Our renowned expertise in finance, capital-raising and professional services can also help Indian businesses to go beyond the continent and expand globally.  

     To further promote Hong Kong to the businessmen of India and to explore mutual co-operation opportunities, we are actively planning a high-level delegation to visit your country later this year. I look to the support and guidance of our friends at the Overseas Indian Organisation to help us expand our trade and scale new heights for our overall bilateral relation.

     I shall perhaps end here to allow you sufficient time to enjoy your lunch. I congratulate you again on the 60th anniversary of India's Republic Day, and as we are approaching our Chinese New Year, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a prosperous and healthy Year of the Tiger.

Ends/Tuesday, January 26, 2010
Issued at HKT 15:22

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