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Speech by FS at Signing Ceremony of HK-Chile Memorandum of Understanding on Co-operation in Wine-related Businesses (English only) (with photo)

     Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr John C Tsang, at the Signing Ceremony of the Hong Kong-Chile Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Co-operation in Wine-related Businesses in Santiago, Chile today (December 2, Santiago time):

Minister Galilea, Mr Vargas, Mr Merino, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     "Buenas dˆqas" (Good morning in Spanish).

     Today we are signing an MOU, a Memorandum of Understanding, between Hong Kong and Chile on Co-operation in Wine-related Businesses.  I am delighted to be here today to witness this important signing ceremony.

     Chile has a long and colourful wine-making history dating back to the 16th century.  I am certainly looking forward to visiting some of your vineyards on Saturday.  I have been told to look out for Chile's signature grape variety of Carmˆmnˆore.  I'm told it is very good.

     Hong Kong does not produce any wine.  However, we greatly appreciate its qualities ¡V including the industry's economic potential.

     In keeping with Hong Kong's low tax traditions, I reduced wine duties to zero in my Budget in 2008.  That established Hong Kong as the first totally tax free wine port among major economies.

     But low taxes alone are not enough for Hong Kong to become the premier wine trading and distribution centre in Asia.  We also have world-class infrastructure, close links with Mainland China, high-quality services, a free flow of capital, and great appreciation for the product.

     Since 2008, we have also introduced a number of supportive measures for the wine industry.  These include customs facilitation, wine promotion activities and a wine storage certification scheme.

     This, together with our prime location in East Asia, has caught the attention of wine producers around the world, including those operating here in Chile.

     Since eliminating wine duties, the total value of our wine imports has increased 160 per cent to nearly US$600 million in the 2009/10 financial year.  The value of our wine imports from Chile has increased 44 per cent.  In just the first six months of this financial year, we imported some US$8 million worth of wine from Chile, a 19 per cent increase year-on-year.

     In 2008 and 2009, some 850 new wine-related companies were established in Hong Kong.  Related sectors such as logistics and catering have shown notable growth.

     Hong Kong has also become the second largest wine auction centre in the world, behind New York.

     Wine trading, investment, logistics, education and tourism are some of the areas where we can collaborate more closely with Chile.

     These areas are covered under the MOU that we are about to sign.

     This MOU is the twelfth between Hong Kong and wine-producing regions around the world.  It is also our first such co-operation agreement on wine with a South American country.  It will provide an excellent framework for us to join hands to promote wine-related business for our mutual benefit.

     Chilean wines are already popular with people in Hong Kong and throughout our nation, China.  They are known for their quality, good value and distinctive taste.

     Your wines are also well represented at major events in our city.  These include the Vinexpo Asia-Pacific as well as annual home-grown events, such as the Hong Kong Trade Development Council's International Wine and Spirits Fair.

     We also have an annual Wine and Dine Festival, which is very popular. Beyond wine, Chile could take advantage of these events to promote its aspirations as world-class food producer and global food power.

     I encourage more Chilean companies to join these events to promote your country's wine and dine qualities and to make valuable contacts with buyers in Mainland China and throughout Asia.

     Perhaps Wines of Chile will consider joining other international trade promotion bodies in setting up an office in Hong Kong to help spearhead such promotional work.  We would be pleased to assist.

     Ladies and Gentlemen, the signing of this MOU on wine marks an important milestone in closer ties between Hong Kong and Chile.  I look forward to even stronger co-operation and friendship between our communities.

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Friday, December 3, 2010
Issued at HKT 10:19


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