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Speech by FS at Asian Aerospace International Expo and Congress 2011 (English only)(with photos/video)

     Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr John C Tsang, at the Asian Aerospace International Expo and Congress 2011 at AsiaWorld-Expo this morning (March 8):

Mr Zhu (Hongren), Mr Wang (Changshun), Mr Gao (Yuchen), Mr (Mike) Rusbridge, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     Good Morning.

     It is my great pleasure to join you all for the opening ceremony of the Asian Aerospace International Expo and Congress 2011.

     This is the third edition of the Expo and Congress. At the time of the first event in 2007, the aviation industry was heading into stormy economic conditions. In 2009, when the second Expo and Congress came to Hong Kong, the industry was being buffeted from all directions by the global financial crisis.

     This year, as the economic storm clouds disappear - at least over our part of the world here in Asia - we can see clearer skies ahead for the industry.

     This is reflected by the huge turnout at this year's show. A warm welcome to you all.

     Hong Kong is at the heart of Asia, and we are the premier international gateway to Mainland China.

     I am delighted that so many distinguished guests and speakers from the Mainland are here this year. Your presence raises the profile of this event as the premier regional aviation show in Asia. Your expertise will help to promote understanding of the trends and opportunities for the industry in the Mainland.

     As well as being an aviation hub for the region, Hong Kong is also a global financial centre.

     We have a deep pool of financial expertise and talent. We also have free flows of capital, information and ideas. This is vital to successful deal-making, especially at this juncture for the aviation industry. Most indications are that the aviation industry is entering a boom cycle in terms of both passenger numbers and cargo.

     Hong Kong has the experience, the connections and the pedigree to play a key role in the growth cycle for the industry.   

     This year is a particularly special one for us. It marks the centenary of aviation development in Hong Kong.

     One hundred years ago this month, a Belgian pilot by the name of Charles Van den Born completed the first powered flight in Hong Kong. A model of his Farman biplane is on display in the airport.

     Only a small crowd of people witnessed the historic event at a beach in Sha Tin back in 1911. Many others, who had intended to be there for the magical moment, had earlier returned home when it seemed bad weather would scupper the attempt.

     When conditions improved, the few remaining spectators gazed in surprise and wonderment as Van den Born took to the skies. Ever since that day, the aviation industry has continued to surprise and inspire us.

     Take, for example, more recent history. The spectacular Hong Kong International Airport opened in mid-1998. That year, the airport served 28.6 million passengers and handled 1.6 million tonnes of cargo. Fast-forward to last year, and the number of passengers has increased to 50.9 million. Almost double the number in 1998. Over the same period, air cargo more than doubled to 4 million tonnes last year.

     That made Hong Kong the busiest airport in Asia for passenger traffic, and the busiest in the world for air cargo in 2010.

     While air cargo made up just over 1% of Hong Kong's total cargo throughput last year, it accounted for almost 36% of the total value of our external trade, or some HK$2.3 trillion.

     The remarkable achievements of Hong Kong's airfreight business and the Hong Kong International Airport have gone hand-in-hand with the growth of this city into a regional logistics hub. Some of the latest developments are showcased here today at the booth jointly set up by the Hong Kong Logistics Development Council and the Hong Kong International Airport.

     Please do take a look.

     Today, Hong Kong's aviation network covers more than 150 destinations worldwide, including more than 40 Mainland cities. Over 95 airlines operate flights here, offering their best services to travellers and shippers. Everyday our airport records close to 900 arrivals and departures.

     Globally, the outlook for the aviation industry is bright. Last month, the International Air Transport Association, or IATA, reported that passenger business grew by 8.2% last year compared to 2009. Over the same period, air cargo increased by more than 20%.  

     Growth in the Asia Pacific region was particularly remarkable last year. According to IATA, this region commanded about 45% of the global airfreight industry in 2010. It experienced 24% growth year-on-year. At the same time, Europe, which accounts for about 24% of the total market share, grew less than 11%.

     IATA also predicts that from 2009 to 2014, Mainland China and Hong Kong will be among the fastest growing international freight markets. The Mainland is also expected to experience strong growth in the passenger market. IATA estimates that 800 million new passengers will fly by 2014. Of these, 360 million would travel on Asia Pacific routes with some 214 million associated with Mainland China.

     All this represents huge opportunities for the aviation industry in Asia.

     No doubt, Tony Tyler, will shed more light on these opportunities during his keynote speech later this morning. As you may know, Tony will leave his post as Chief Executive of Cathay Pacific this month to become IATA's next Director General. I'm sure Tony's experience in Hong Kong over the years will bring a fresh Asian perspective to the industry globally.

     Finally, on a slightly different note, this Expo and Congress is also a boon for our tourism and MICE sectors.

     Last year, we received a record 1.4 million MICE visitors, a significant increase of 23% compared to 2009.

     Here at the AsiaWorld-Expo we have a highly convenient and world-class exhibition venue. Our exhibition infrastructure is backed up by professional support services and a business friendly environment.

     I am sure that this will enhance your experience at this year's Expo and Congress.

     The Hong Kong SAR Government fully supports this event, and we are especially grateful for the official support of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, as well as the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

     As a highlight of the series of events commemorating the 100th anniversary of aviation development in Hong Kong, it is my great pleasure to declare the Asian Aerospace 2011 open.

    Thank you.

Ends/Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:55


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