HK and Australia bolster wine business co-operation (with photos/video)

     The Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mrs Rita Lau, representing the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government, today (April 16) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Co-operation in Wine-Related Businesses (MOU) with the Australian Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Mr Tony Burke.

     Addressing the signing ceremony, Mrs Lau said this was the first MOU that Hong Kong had signed with a wine-producing country of the New World.  It represented another key step in Hong Kong's development into a regional wine trading and distribution hub.

     "The MOU is an extensive one, covering some common areas of co-operation that also feature in our MOUs with other countries, including promotion of wine trading, investment, wine-related tourism, wine education and appreciation, and the fight against counterfeit goods.

     "It also embraces new areas such as promoting commercial co-operation on wine auctions and storage, certification as well as sharing of experience for the possible setting up of a wine centre in Hong Kong,¡¨ Mrs Lau said.

     The wine centre in Adelaide, Australia, is an example.  The wine centre there serves multiple wine-related purposes, including exhibitions, cafˆm and dining, wine appreciation and education, conferences and functions.

     "The Australian side has kindly agreed to share its experience and information with parties interested in setting up a similar facility in Hong Kong," Mrs Lau said.

     On certification, Mrs Lau said that Hong Kong had a very simple and basic requirement on wine certification, which is normally only required when there are health and safety concerns.  The two sides agreed to keep these requirements to the minimum to reduce trade barriers.  This facilitated wine trading between the two places.

     "This year will be an exciting one for the wine industry in Hong Kong.  In late October to early November, we will stage our first Wine and Dine Festival which will feature wines from around the world, most probably including Australian wines," Mrs Lau said.

     "In November, the Trade Development Council will hold its second 'home-grown' international wine exhibition.  We look forward to a strong showing of Australian wine products.

     "I believe that the MOU signed today will give a strong impetus to Hong Kong's aspiration to be a regional wine hub and be conducive to its economic development, including creating jobs," she said.

     Mrs Lau also pointed out that Australian companies had a long history of doing business in Hong Kong. Low taxes, the rule of law, high-quality services and global connectivity were among Hong Kong's business-friendly credentials.

     The Financial Secretary exempted wine duties in his Budget last year. Wine imports in 2008 grew to $2.9 billion - an increase of 80% compared to 2007.

Ends/Thursday, April 16, 2009
Issued at HKT 13:42