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SCED's speech at opening ceremony of Vinexpo Asia-Pacific (English only)(with photos)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the opening ceremony of Vinexpo Asia-Pacific today (May 29):

Madame (Hériard) Dubreuil, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning, bonjour.

     I am very pleased to join you for the opening ceremony of Vinexpo Asia-Pacific 2012.  It is a great honour for Hong Kong to host this major wine exhibition again - and for the fifth time.

     A very warm welcome to our friends from France and around the globe.

     Similar to the many fine wines on display, Hong Kong has all the ingredients to ensure another memorable Vinexpo Asia-Pacific.

     Here, under one roof, we have wine experts from all corners of the globe.  The most exciting wine markets are all represented here at this expo.  We also have some of the finest new and old world vintages for tasting and trading.

     While we don't grow any grapes in Hong Kong, we have been working very hard to cultivate the right environment for the wine industry to flourish here.

     In 2008 we eliminated duties on wine.  Since then, Hong Kong has reaped a great harvest as a major wine trading and distribution centre in Asia.  As a duty free port, Hong Kong has become a much more cost-effective and competitive entry and exit point for wine trading in the region.

     We have also raised the game by fine-tuning our infrastructure and customs procedures to meet the needs and aspirations of the wine industry.

     In 2007, before we eliminated wine duties, Hong Kong imported about US$200 million worth of wine.  Since then the value of our wine imports has grown six times, reaching US$1.2 billion last year. That is a phenomenal growth.

     Overall last year, total wine imports jumped 40 per cent in value year-on-year.

     At the same time, Hong Kong retained its position as the leading wine auction centre, ahead of New York and London.  In 2011, total sales in Hong Kong fetched US$229 million.

     Inward investment in Hong Kong is also rising.  Since duty exemption, over 600 new wine-related companies have been established in Hong Kong.

     Another focus for us is to strengthen wine collaboration with major wine-producing countries and regions.

     Later today, we will be signing a Declaration of Intent with Germany to promote wine collaboration in a variety of different areas.  Germany will be the 13th wine-producing place with which we have concluded such agreements.  These bilateral accords help to focus minds and resources on mutual co-operation in wine trading, promotion, investment, education, tourism and other areas that will strengthen our city's role as a wine hub in Asia.

     Hong Kong is the gateway to the Mainland, which is considered by many in the wine industry to be the market with the greatest growth potential.  According to Vinexpo's own figures, China - including Hong Kong - is now the world's fifth largest wine consumer, ahead of the UK.  Vinexpo predicts that consumption in China will increase further by 54 per cent in the five-year period leading up to 2015.

     Commenting on these figures, Vinexpo Chief Executive Robert Beynat said, and I quote, "Every producer is now thinking, China, China, China." End quote.

     Ladies and gentlemen, I encourage you to use this expo to turn those thoughts into action.

     Hong Kong's prime location, zero import duties and established wine and dine culture makes it an ideal entry point to the Mainland and to other markets around Asia.

     I wish this year's Vinexpo Asia-Pacific a resounding success and all our visitors a very enjoyable stay here in Asia's world city.

     Thank you very much.

Ends/Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Issued at HKT 15:31


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