Speech by FS at Georgetown University (English only) (with photos)

     Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr John C Tsang, at the Dialogue with University Students at Georgetown University, in Washington DC, the United States today (September 24, Washington time):

Ladies and Gentlemen,

     Good morning.

     I am delighted to meet you all today.

     I would also like to thank Georgetown University for hosting this event.

     The Washington DC area boasts eight of the top 100 universities in the country, according to the US News & World Report. The report ranks Georgetown 22nd while Maryland and George Washington are the top two "up and coming" universities. This demonstrates the quality of education that you have here in DC. No doubt, your location in and around the capital also brings a fresh dimension to your learning.

     Naturally, competition among universities is fierce íV and not only in the rankings.

     I note that your football teams got off to a good start. I hope that you can keep up the momentum and have a good season this year.

     Often the lessons learned on the sports field or in music halls and debating venues are equally important to those learned in the lecture theatre.

     This was my experience when I attended university in Cambridge, but unfortunately my school did not have a football team at that time! I do, however, have a pretty good idea of the challenges of studying abroad and the benefits of a high-quality education overseas.

     I would like to say a few more words before opening up the floor for our dialogue.

     In particular, I want to reiterate the importance of strong bilateral ties between Hong Kong and the US in this era of globalisation.

     Around 8 000 Hong Kong students are studying in the US. Each of you will be looking forward to embarking on new and exciting careers shortly. As overseas students, you will also have gained important insight into the workings of the wider world and useful skills to make the most of the changing international environment íV skills such as language proficiency, cultural appreciation and interpersonal relations.  

     Hong Kong has an increasingly important role to play in our interconnected world íV and in particular, as the premier international gateway to Mainland China.  Given the current trend, whether you remain in the US, return to Hong Kong or move elsewhere, China is likely to feature in your future career paths in a significant way.

     Hong Kong's gateway role to the Mainland not only covers business and finance, but also the flow of ideas and innovations as well as arts, culture and high-quality talent.

     More than 800 US companies have their regional offices or headquarters in Hong Kong. They depend on our deep pool of local and overseas expertise.

     Whatever your plans are after you have finished your studies, and whatever career path that you choose, there will always be a warm welcome for you in Hong Kong. There are also plenty of opportunities to advance your chosen careers.

     So let me discuss some of the areas that hold great potential, not only to advance one's career but also to strengthen bilateral ties between the US and Hong Kong.

     Hong Kong's economy expanded 7 per cent last year.  It grew 6.3 per cent in the first half of this year.  This is well above the World Bank's global growth forecast of 3.2 per cent this year. So, this is a great time to think about ways that stronger economic collaboration can benefit both the US and Hong Kong.

     Our pillar industries, including financial services, trade and logistics and professional services, are each enjoying robust growth. This is partly linked to Asia's strong recovery from the recent global financial crisis. It is also tied in with the increasing economic prominence of our nation, China.

     You may be familiar with China's 12th Five-Year Plan.  This is our nation's economic blueprint for the period up to 2015. The Plan gives full support to the development of Hong Kong's pillar industries. In particular, it underscores Hong Kong's role as China's global financial centre as well as an international centre for trade and shipping.

     During his visit to Hong Kong last month, Vice Premier Mr Li Keqiang, announced a raft of measures to further break down barriers to trade and investment between Hong Kong and the Mainland. Some of these measures will be introduced as an expansion of our unique free trade pact with the Mainland, what we call CEPA, Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement.

     CEPA is an unprecedented example of a city having a free trade pact with its sovereign. This is made possible by the "One Country, Two Systems" principle, under which both Hong Kong and Mainland China are individual members of the World Trade Organization.

     Under "One Country, Two Systems", Hong Kong enjoys the best of both worlds. We are a city in China but we are also outside the Mainland. We have the rule of law, a free flow of capital and our own low and simple tax system.  In Hong Kong salaries tax is 15 per cent and profits tax capped at 16.5 per cent. There is no capital gains tax, no inheritance tax, no VAT, no GST. We don't even have any duty on wine. So, if you are earning a wage or running a business you get to keep most of what you earn.

     Another example of how Hong Kong works under the "One Country, Two Systems" concept is our legal system. Hong Kong follows its own common law system which is underpinned by an independent judiciary.

     And because Hong Kong enjoys free flows of information, ideas and talent, our city is a fertile breeding ground for creative industries as well as new innovations and technology.

     Beyond our traditional pillar industries of tourism, financial services, professional services and trade and logistics, we are also promoting six knowledge-based industries where Hong Kong has a distinct advantage in our region.

     These six industries are: educational services, medical services, environmental industries, testing and certification services, innovation and technology and creative and cultural industries.

     The Hong Kong SAR Government has made it a priority to support the growth of these industries so that they can achieve their full potential. We don't pick winners; that is not the role of our government. But we are taking a supply side approach, providing additional land resources and funding as well as helping to match the supply of skilled labour to growing demand.

     Ladies and Gentlemen, these are some of the areas where opportunities abound in Hong Kong.

     Next week, on October 1, we will celebrate China's National Day. Festivities marking the occasion will be in full swing in Hong Kong. We will be celebrating a remarkable period of growth and development for our nation. This includes more than three decades of economic reform and opening up to the rest of the world.

     We will also be celebrating our city's closer integration with the Mainland since the establishment of the Hong Kong SAR in 1997.

     Perhaps most important, we will be looking ahead to the bright prospects for Hong Kong's growing role as the gateway to the Mainland, and also the gateway to China for US trade, US investment, US ideas and US expertise.

     As the next generation of business, community and perhaps even political leaders, I encourage you to put your local knowledge and international experience to good use in building even stronger relations between Hong Kong and the US.

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Sunday, September 25, 2011
Issued at HKT 10:48