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Speech by FS at Asian Financial Forum cocktail reception (English only)(with photo)/(with video)

     Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr John C Tsang, at the cocktail reception of the Asian Financial Forum at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre this evening (January 20):

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     Good evening.

     It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to Hong Kong and in many cases, welcome you all back to Hong Kong for this year's Asian Financial Forum.

     At this Cocktail Reception last year, I spoke about Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, and how the most versatile economies would likely best survive the global financial crisis.

     At the risk of delivering another history lesson, I want to take you back to the 19th Century again today. In fact, I want to go back exactly 169 years to an important event in our city's evolution.

     It was on this day, January 20 in 1841 that a treaty was signed ceding Hong Kong to the United Kingdom.

     To cut a long story short, Captain Charles Elliot of the British Royal Navy had negotiated the terms of the agreement and reported them to Lord Palmerston who was then the Foreign Secretary in London.

     Lord Palmerston was outraged that Britain had got such a raw end of the deal. He promptly dismissed Captain Elliot from his post and famously declared that Hong Kong was, and I quote: "A barren rock with nary a house upon it. It will never be a mart for trade." End quote.

     The rest, as they say, is history. But the point is that sometimes things don't work out as we expect. Fast forward to the 21st Century.

     In 2007, when we held the first Asian Financial Forum, companies around the world, and Governments too were gearing up for what would become the worst global financial crisis since the great depression.

     Today, at this year's Forum - even before the turmoil is completely behind us - we are considering the impact of the crisis and the shift in economic power away from Europe and the US, and towards Asia. Although Asia has been growing in prominence in recent decades, few could have predicted the speed of the transition of economic power from the West to the East. So, how will our region rise to the challenge of its more prominent role in the "New Economic Order"?

     Perhaps Hong Kong's recent history may hold some clues.

     Since our reunification with the Mainland in 1997, Hong Kong has thrived as a Special Administrative Region of China.

     The "One Country, Two Systems" principle for our reunification is working well. We have maintained all the attributes that helped to transform the city from Lord Palmerston's "barren rock" into a dynamic metropolis, with successful attributes, such as open markets, free trade, the rule of law and low taxes.

     From a wider perspective, here in Asia we have "one region, many systems". Each of our economic systems has its pros and cons. Through closer integration within Asia, we can build on the collective strength including our diversity, our dynamism, our deep pool of talent and our competitive spirit to spearhead the New Economic Order.

     We can also look to the global financial crisis itself for clues as to what the future may hold.

     The global economic turmoil has brought into sharp focus how our economies are more inter-connected as well as more inter-dependent.

     These days, we need to be accountable not only for our own economic well being but also for that of our region. We need to put social interests ahead of self-interests, prudent risk taking ahead of excessive profit taking, and transparency and openness ahead of protectionism and isolationism.

     Ladies and Gentlemen, these are some of the things that have helped our city grow and thrive, and that have driven Asia's economic evolution.

     We don't have a crystal ball to predict the future but our history has taught us to hope for the best, plan for the worst and expect the unexpected.

     With this in mind, I have no doubt that Asia has the experience and the expertise to grasp the opportunities in the New Economic Order.

     Have a great evening and a very enjoyable stay in Hong Kong.

     Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Issued at HKT 18:32


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