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SCED's speech at luncheon in honour of US Secretary of Commerce (English only) (with photo/video)

     Following is a speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mrs Rita Lau, at a luncheon in honour of the Secretary of Commerce of the United States, Mr Gary Locke, today (May 17):

Secretary Locke, Fred, Mike, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     It is a great pleasure to welcome our special guest - the Secretary of Commerce of the United States of America, Secretary Gary Locke.

     We are delighted to host you and your delegation.

     This is the first cabinet-level trade mission to Asia by President Obama's Administration and Hong Kong is the first stop of this historic mission.

     Hong Kong is strategically important as an international business centre and the premier gateway for US enterprises to expand their business in the Mainland of China and the rest of Asia.

     Our bilateral business relations remain healthy and robust.  The US is our second largest one-on-one trading partner after the Mainland of China.

     The American business community is the largest overseas business community in town. Almost 1,300 companies have a base here, or about 20% of the total number of overseas companies in Hong Kong.

     At the same time, the US is a vitally important destination for Hong Kong firms.  We have three Economic and Trade Offices in the US, namely in Washington DC, New York and San Francisco, which is more than in any other country.  The offices and their dedicated staff play a key role in maintaining and promoting strong business and cultural ties between us.

     Ladies and gentlemen, the trade mission led by Secretary Locke has a "Clean Energy Mission".  This morning a Clean Energy Forum was held to promote environmental strategies that will benefit our city and our people as well as achieve our green goals for the development of the Pearl River Delta region.

     The SAR Government is firmly committed to supporting the development of environmental industries.  Environmental industries is one of six new priority areas for our city's sustainable economic growth.  Initiatives include expanding the facilities at the Hong Kong Science Park and forging closer cross-boundary ties with our neighbours in Guangdong on developing and implementing green technologies.

     A number of overseas companies, including US firms, are deeply involved in these initiatives and high tech projects.  I am pleased that Secretary Locke and his delegation will be visiting the Science Park this afternoon to see first hand the state-of-the-art facilities and meet some of the people spearheading our drive towards a cleaner and greener future.

     Secretary Locke, I know that your visit will be a great encouragement for both our communities to work towards even stronger bilateral relations and explore new areas for collaboration.

     On this front, I am delighted that Secretary Locke and I will soon be signing a Memorandum of Understanding or MOU between Hong Kong and the US on Co-operation in Wine-related Businesses.  

     Since our exemption of wine duties in 2008, wine merchants from around the world, including those from the US, have wasted no time in seizing the opportunity by increasing shipments and establishing a greater presence in Hong Kong.  

     Wine imports from the US amounted to US$49 million in 2009-10, representing a five-fold increase since our duty exemption.  The US is now Hong Kong's fourth largest wine importer.

     Last year, we overtook London to become the second largest wine auction market.  US auction houses are holding regular wine sales here, with several record-breaking sales.  This has established Hong Kong as a conduit for Asian buyers and collectors looking for fine and rare wines.

     Today, our relationship with the US on wine-related businesses takes another major step forward.  

     Riding on this MOU, we will strengthen our joint efforts on promoting wine-related trading, tourism, investment and education.  The MOU also covers a number of specialist areas.  These include promoting wine alongside regional and local cuisine, facilitating the organisation of wine auctions in Hong Kong, and encouraging the provision of quality wine storage facilities here.

     Ladies and gentlemen, the MOU we are about to sign marks an important milestone in our closer bilateral ties and business co-operation.

     We look forward to tasting the fruits that this MOU will bring, in terms of mutual benefits for our two economies, and, of course, great American wines.

     Thank you.

Ends/Monday, May 17, 2010
Issued at HKT 15:08


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