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SCED's speech at luncheon to celebrate the 65th Indian Republic Day (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at a luncheon to celebrate the 65th Indian Republic Day organised by the Overseas Indian Organisation Hong Kong today (January 27):

Mr Arunachalam (President of Overseas Indian Organisation Hong Kong), Consul-General (Mr Prashant Agrawal), distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman,

     It gives me great pleasure to be in your midst on the auspicious occasion of the 65th Indian Republic Day celebration. I thank you for your warm and hearty welcome.

     Hong Kong and India have a long history of friendship and strong trade and investment links, which can be traced back to the early 1840s when your far-sighted predecessors first settled in Hong Kong. Throughout the decades, Indian-owned businesses in Hong Kong have contributed significantly to the development of our economy as well as to our cultural diversity and harmony.

     The trade figures speak for themselves. In 2012, India was our seventh largest trading partner, and reciprocally, we were your sixth. Trade between Hong Kong and India has grown steadily in recent years, with an impressive average annual growth of over 10 per cent. Total merchandise trade between Hong Kong and India exceeded HK$156 billion in the first 11 months of 2013, and the growth momentum looks set to continue.

     Today, over 1 500 Indian companies are operating successfully in Hong Kong, engaging in various sectors of business from trading and transportation to banking and information technology. I can see many familiar faces in this gathering here today. Indian enterprises have, for generations, devoted themselves with vigour and enthusiasm to the growth of Hong Kong's economy. We treasure greatly our business ties with India and appreciate the Overseas Indian Organisation's contribution in promoting and maintaining such vital ties.

     In recent years, the centre of economic gravity has gradually shifted from traditional markets in the West towards Asia, including India and China. India and China are ancient civilisations with several thousand years of history, and they are now widely predicted to provide a twin-engine for global economic growth. Hong Kong is well positioned to bridge these two massive markets. We offer a dynamic market and an exceptional investment platform with low and simple tax regime, free flow of information and capital, independent judiciary and quality infrastructure.

     The free trade pact we signed with Mainland China in 2003, known as the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, or CEPA for short, has brought vast business opportunities. With the 10th round of new initiatives announced in August last year, CEPA now contains over 400 liberalisation measures and provides preferential access for Hong Kong companies in 48 services areas across the boundary. Under the nationality-neutral provisions, all foreign firms incorporated in Hong Kong, including Indian companies, can enjoy the full benefits of CEPA to reach the Mainland market. Apart from preferential access in the services sector, Hong Kong-made products meeting CEPA's rules of origin requirements enjoy tariff-free access to the Mainland market.

     Tourism is another important facet of our bilateral links. While Hong Kong people are very fond of the wide spectrum of tourism appeals offered by India, we are delighted to see Hong Kong also becoming a popular travel destination for Indians. In the first 11 months of 2013, we received about 398 000 Indian visitors, representing a 4.9 per cent increase over the same period in 2012.

     It was back in 1888 when an Indian gentleman, Mr Naorojee, founded the Star Ferry in Hong Kong. Today, the Star Ferry remains an important part of the commuter system between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. The National Geographic Traveler named the ferry crossing as one of the "50 places of a lifetime". With the success of the Star Ferry, we aim for higher goals. We are now committed to developing Hong Kong into a leading cruise hub in the Asia Pacific region. The new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, an iconic landmark with highly functional design and world-class facilities, is an important part of this strategy. Together with our well-established Ocean Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong is now able to welcome cruise ships of all sizes, as well as  cruise travellers, from around the world.

     As we are approaching our Chinese New Year, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a prosperous and healthy Year of the Horse. Thank you very much.

Ends/Monday, January 27, 2014
Issued at HKT 18:16


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