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FS's speech at Signing Ceremony of HK-France MOU on co-operation in wine-related businesses (with photos/video)
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     Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr John C Tsang, at the signing ceremony of the Hong Kong-France Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Co-operation in Wine-related Businesses (August 19):

Minister Barnier, ladies and gentlemen,

     Today marks the signing of the Hong Kong íV France Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Co-operation in Wine-related Businesses. I am delighted to join you all here to witness this very important signing occasion.

     I announced in my Budget earlier this year the reduction of duty on wine from 40% to zero, making Hong Kong the first free wine port among major economies. The spontaneous response of the market since then has been encouraging. We have seen solid growth in wine imports, wine auctions with record-breaking sales, and announcements by various renowned companies to expand their wine trading and distribution business in Hong Kong.

     A few days ago, the Trade Development Council successfully laid on its International Wine Fair. More than 240 exhibitors from over 25 countries showcased their merchandise to buyers. This is a vote of confidence in the prospects of Hong Kong's further development as a wine trading and distribution hub for Asia.

     The signing of the MOU today with France marks another important milestone for us. This is the first MOU that Hong Kong signs on wine. France is, of course, a leading and prestigious wine-producing country. It is also the largest supplier of wine imports into Hong Kong, accounting for about 30% of our imported wines in 2007. In terms of value, French wine represented about 57% of all our wine imports last year, with an impressive growth rate of 108% compared with 2006.

     The potential demand for wine imports into Asia, particularly the Mainland, is enormous. Both the Hong Kong and the French Governments consider a bilateral agreement on wine mutually beneficial in terms of supporting business partnerships and investment co-operation. We are also very excited about the synergy that the expansion in wine-related economic activities may generate for the promotion of tourism, the hospitality industry, as well as wine education and culture.

     The MOU that we are signing today demonstrates the commitment of both sides to join hands in encouraging wine-related businesses. We will facilitate and promote trade in wine. We will also strengthen co-operation, exchanges and the sharing of experience in areas beyond the stimulation of wine-related investment activities. These include strengthening of wine education and manpower training, promotion of wine-related tourism and wine culture, and customs co-operation against counterfeit wine.

     While this MOU is signed between the two governments, we have close partners to help us implement this important document. On the Hong Kong side, the Trade Development Council, the Hong Kong Tourism Board, and renowned training institutions providing wine-related courses, including the Vocational Training Council and the School of Professional and Continuing Education of the University of Hong Kong and so on, will work together to help bring the desired co-operation to fruition.

     Ladies and gentlemen, the signing of this MOU on wine is an important step forward which reinforces the well-established ties between Hong Kong and France. We look forward to this MOU benefiting wine related business activities, encouraging wine-related tourism and investment, promoting better wine appreciation and education. Above all, I am sure that this would result in economic benefits for both places, as the Minister has mentioned, "a win-win situation", including the creation of jobs here in Hong Kong, which has been the underlying objective for this initiative.

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Issued at HKT 12:49

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