Speech by FS at French National Day 2017 reception (English only)(with photos)
Consul General (Consul General of France in Hong Kong and Macau, Mr Eric Berti), Commissioner Xie (Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), Mr Xie Feng), Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
Bonsoir. It is my great pleasure to be here tonight, to be celebrating Bastille Day, this grand French National Day, with you all.
I am particularly pleased to be here at a pivotal moment in the new chapter of our two economies. Our two peoples.
It was just two weeks ago that the fifth-term Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, headed by our first female Chief Executive, Mrs Carrie Lam, took office. I am proud to be part of it and be able to continue to serve Hong Kong as Financial Secretary.
And it was two months ago, to the day, that Emmanuel Macron was inaugurated as the 25th President of France, the youngest President in your country's history.
So we are, each in our own way, starting afresh. Full of promise and opportunity.
To be sure, bilateral ties have long rewarded our respective companies and economies. I am pleased to note that, after a few years of drift, our trade has regained momentum. Last year, trade between us exceeded US$9.8 billion, up 3.6 per cent over the previous year. That good growth has accelerated through the first quarter of 2017, up 21 per cent year on year.
Our economic future looks even more promising. And that has to do with our shared vision.
That vision begins with innovation and technology (I&T). You can see that reality in the official portrait of Mr Macron, where books and, notably, two smartphones are meticulously arranged on the desk behind him.
And last month, your President inaugurated Paris' Station F. A former train depot, Station F is now home to some 1 000 start-ups and venture capital firms - part of an ambitious plan to make France, in the words of Mr Macron, "the leading country for hyper-innovation".
French Tech Hong Kong, the online platform connecting the tech ecosystems between our two places, was set in motion last year by Mr Macron, then the French Minister of Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs.
And our tech alliance continues to expand, I am pleased to note. In March this year, the Consulate General of France in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology established the France-HKUST Innovation Hub. It will certainly boost ties between us in education, science and technology.
The third edition of the "So French, So Innovative" forum and exhibition was held here at the end of April, showcasing French I&T and putting a spotlight on Hong Kong's own concerted I&T agenda.
Promoting I&T development is high on our agenda. Since the establishment of the Innovation and Technology Bureau in November 2015, the Hong Kong SAR Government allocated HK$18 billion towards a variety of I&T initiatives. In my February Budget Speech, I have reserved another HK$10 billion to the innovation pot.
The effort is paying off. As of April, Hong Kong counted some 2 000 innovation and technology start-ups, up 24 per cent year-on-year. About 40 per cent were founded by overseas entrepreneurs or returnees to Hong Kong. Let me add that about 10 per cent of the foreign start-up founders here are French entrepreneurs.
Those numbers will surely soar with the addition of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park. The 87-hectare development, jointly launched by Hong Kong and Shenzhen, will surely add further impetus to the development of Hong Kong's I&T industry.
To be sure, our connection with France goes way beyond business, innovation and technology.
The proof of that was certainly visible in Hong Kong throughout May and June, with the 25th anniversary of Le French May. This year, as in past years, Le French May captured the imagination of Hong Kong - and the creative spirit of France - through more than 150 arts and cultural events attracting some 1 million people.
We love our French wine here, too. On that, the numbers are telling. Nearly 63 per cent of all wine imported into Hong Kong last year emanated from France. Its total value, coming in at almost US$1 trillion, was up nearly 13 per cent year-on-year.
We are, of course, Asia's wine hub, thanks to the removal, in 2008, of all wine duties. Thanks, too, to our many co-operation agreements on wine-related business. They include MOUs with Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne, the latter signed in April.
Well, that has certainly put me in a mood for a considered toast. Please raise your glasses and join me in a toast: "To the people of the Republic of France."
Ends/Friday, July 14, 2017
Issued at HKT 19:31
Issued at HKT 19:31