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Speech by CE at the opening ceremony of the 19th Consumers International World Congress 2011 (English only) (with photos/video)

     Following is the speech by the Chief Executive, Mr Donald Tsang, at the opening ceremony of the 19th Consumers International (CI) World Congress 2011 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre this morning (May 4):

President Ochieng, Professor Cheung, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     I am very happy and delighted to join you for this important gathering this morning.

     Hong Kong is indeed very pleased to be hosting the 19th CI World Congress in Hong Kong. First of all, a very warm welcome to all our visitors to Asia's world city.

     Also, congratulations to Consumers International and the Hong Kong Consumer Council on the excellent arrangements for co-hosting this important event.

     During the Congress prominent leaders and consumer advocates from around the world will explore how best to empower tomorrow's consumers.

     Whether it is a cup of coffee, a new computer, going on holiday or taking out a loan, tomorrow's consumers will be faced with more options and issues than ever to consider.

     These include environmental impact, financial risk, globalised markets and ever-changing technology, to name just a few. No doubt you can think of many more.

     The most important factor in making the right decision is getting the best information in my view. This is one of the reasons why Hong Kong is committed to maintaining a free flow of information and ideas including a free flow of unfettered media.

     Ensuring timely and trustworthy information requires a collaborative approach. NGOs, such as Consumers International, as well as governments, companies, advertisers and individuals each have a role to play.

     The Hong Kong Government works hard to strike the right balance by protecting consumers without stifling enterprise.

     In his speech, Professor Cheung mentioned our ongoing review of legislation to protect consumers against unfair trade practices.

     We also have effective enforcement mechanisms and we come down hard on delinquent businesses. This helps to ensure the right conditions for a strong consuming public to flourish.
     Although Hong Kong is a relatively small city, our shopping districts are packed with brand names from around the world. Last year, we welcomed a record 36 million visitors, which is more than five times our population of seven million. Last year also, expenditure associated with inbound tourism reached HK$210 billion. Tourism consumption is big business in Hong Kong.

     According to a recent survey, Hong Kong is home to the highest percentage of luxury fashion brands, ahead of London, Dubai, New York and even Paris. In fact, for the last two years Hong Kong has come out on top of the luxury brands survey by real estate services company CB Richard Ellis.

     This speaks volumes for our reputation as a shopper's paradise. That reputation must be underpinned by adequate consumer protection.

     Indeed, consumer protection and empowerment has always been an important issue for Hong Kong.

     In today's globalised environment, it is essential to have a harmonised and co-ordinated legal and enforcement supra-national framework. Hong Kong enjoys positive relations with its trading partners. We are also fully-fledged members of various international organisations including the WTO, APEC and the World Customs Organisation. Strong external relations help to ensure fair play in our marketplace.

     I also encourage the business sector to develop industry codes and other self-regulation measures. This will help to maintain a level playing field and align industry expectations with those of the consuming public.

     The advent of globalisation and rapid advances in technology have given rise to unprecedented challenges to consumer protection. E-commerce is flourishing. The traditional definition of the markets in terms of geographical location has become out-dated. Tomorrow's consumers are likely to do more of their shopping online. At the same time, businesses are able to expand more freely in a borderless world.

     With smart phones and IT tablets in hand, we all have access to a vast amount of information at our fingertips.

     Ladies and gentlemen, governments together with consumer advocates must move quickly together to keep pace with our rapidly changing times. I have no doubt that this Congress will help all stakeholders meet the challenges of empowering tomorrow's consumers.

     I wish the CI Congress a great success and our visitors a memorable stay in Hong Kong. And please do take advantage of our consumer-friendly environment while you are here.

     Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Issued at HKT 11:24


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