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Speech by SCED at Prime Source Forum 2010 (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mrs Rita Lau, at the Prime Source Forum 2010 this morning (March 30):

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning. I am delighted to join you again at the Prime Source Forum 2010, which has become a key event for leaders in the textiles and clothing industry from around the world to exchange ideas and business intelligence every year. I am pleased to see so many familiar faces whom I probably met at the same occasion last year. Action speaks louder than words. The Forum has been held in Hong Kong since 2006, and your repeated attendance is the best proof of its success.

     I would like to congratulate the organiser for choosing the right place for staging this Forum. The textiles and clothing industry has been one of Hong Kong's pillar industries. In 2009, our total exports of textiles and clothing products reached nearly US$32 billion, accounting for almost 12% and 10% of our domestic exports and re-exports respectively. What is more, Hong Kong provides vivid examples of the evolution of the industry in action. Back in the 1970s, our textiles and clothing industry was a low-value-added, assembly-type manufacturing business. Today, Hong Kong has become a most essential supply chain management hub and innovation centre for textiles and clothing products in the world.

     The Forum has also come to Hong Kong at the right time. While Hong Kong has been a principal gateway to the Mainland market, the global financial meltdown has highlighted some unprecedented opportunities for Hong Kong, when China's role as a prominent economic powerhouse has become even more important. I would like to take the opportunity today to share with you our views on the growth strategy for our textiles and clothing industry.

     In the past two decades, with our greatly expanded manufacturing capacity made possible by the opening up of the Mainland market, Hong Kong has quickly developed a worldwide reputation for showcasing the newest collections, looks and products in the industry. Our trade fairs have been the distinctive platforms where both exhibitors and buyers alike explore business opportunities. Major department stores, specialty chains and international premium designer labels in the United States and European markets have been sourcing through Hong Kong.

     On the other hand, we have been readying ourselves to become a trend-setter.  Some of our well-established manufacturers have entered into the retailing business, either locally or in overseas markets. Many of them have retail networks with their own labels in major cities around the world. Hong Kong's fashion designers are also gaining international recognition for their professionalism, creativity and ability to blend commercialism and innovation.

     All these have made Hong Kong a key supply chain management hub and an innovation centre for the textile and clothing industry in the region.  But what makes all these developments possible? The simple answer is - we create a friendly environment for our business community and let our businessmen make their business decisions. Indeed, Hong Kong has been ranked first in the Index of Economic Freedom (the Heritage Foundation, 2010), the best city in Asia Pacific to locate a business (Cushman & Wakefield, 2008), and the most competitive city in China (the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, 2009).

     Nevertheless, with an economy that is increasingly globalised, to grow our industry further, we need to compete head-on with other big players in the world.  And the Government will need to do more to facilitate the transformation of our industry into a value-added production base through the promotion of creativity and innovativeness.

     In this connection, the Government has introduced a number of support measures to help our companies, especially the small and medium enterprises, to engage in high value-added activities like R&D and innovation. The latest one is the R&D Cash Rebate Scheme, which aims to inculcate a research culture among enterprises, and encourage them to establish long-term partnerships with research institutions. With the Scheme, I am looking forward to seeing more projects by Hong Kong companies leading to the conversion of textile and other technologies, for example, ICT, CAD/CAM (computer-aided design/ computer-aided manufacturing) and nano as well as the development of novelty fabrics, innovative fibres and eco-friendly textiles.

     In addition, the Government has organised various marketing campaigns to promote Hong Kong's branded products to the world.  At the same time, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) will continue to help Hong Kong companies access Mainland domestic markets.  In the coming year or so, the TDC will expand its consumer shows targeting the Mainland market. "Style Hong Kong" promotions will be organised in Fuzhou, Shenyang, Shanghai, Jinan and Guangzhou to enhance brand awareness of Hong Kong products.  

     I am optimistic about the future of our textiles and clothing industry. We will also continue to do our utmost to make Hong Kong the best place for business.  Our strengths in combining creativity with technical excellence, coupled with our business-friendly environment and proximity to the Mainland market are all contributing factors for our future growth. However, we are not without challenges.  In addition to the anti-dumping and countervailing measures initiated by the United States against Chinese textiles last year, the possible Section 421 product-specific safeguard petition may also cause further disruption to our trade.

     We will continue to keep a close watch on the developments in the international trade scene and inform our trade of new policies, regulations and administrative measures introduced by overseas markets that may affect Hong Kong's business interests. As for now, please continue to do your part and close as many business deals as possible in the next few days.

     Ladies and gentlemen, before finishing here, I wish all of you a fruitful Forum and a pleasant stay in Hong Kong.

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Issued at HKT 11:31


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