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

     Following is the speech entitled "Hong Kong: Blending Wine and Wisdom in Asia" by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the opening ceremony of Vinexpo Asia-Pacific today (May 27):

Xavier (Chairman of Vinexpo Asia-Pacific, Mr Xavier de Eizaguirre), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Hello and bonjour.

     I am delighted to be here. It is a great pleasure to welcome the Vinexpo Asia-Pacific back to Hong Kong. The Vinexpo not only brings an abundance of great wine to Hong Kong; it also brings together the best brains in the wine industry. A warm welcome to Hong Kong to wine experts from France and around the world.

     The famous American Benjamin Franklin once said, quote: "In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria". End quote.

     With this in mind, allow me to share with you some of our latest wisdom in strengthening Hong Kong's position as a wine trading and distribution centre in Asia.

     Last year the Hong Kong Quality Assurance Agency launched a Hong Kong Wine Registration Scheme to enhance transparency of the wine industry. By registering under the scheme, traders, storage providers, logistics companies and other stakeholders can boost the reputation of their brands. At the same time, consumers would have more confidence in wine products with easily identifiable source and storage records.

     The Wine Registration Scheme is similar in nature to the world's first Wine Storage Management Systems (Certification) Scheme, which we rolled out in 2010 to ensure top quality storage services in Hong Kong.

     As always, Hong Kong Customs remains vigilant against counterfeit wine, and takes steps to facilitate the flow of our wine re-exports to Mainland China, and its growing number of consumers.

     All this adds to Hong Kong's reputation as a reliable and efficient wine trading and distribution hub for this region.

     Hong Kong is a natural stepping stone for international companies, including wine merchants, to reach the Mainland China market. Last year alone, the value of our wine re-exports to Mainland China exceeded US$100 million. That represents a 246 per cent increase compared to 2008.

     The future looks bright too. According to the latest study commissioned by Vinexpo, wine consumption in China, including Hong Kong, is expected to rise by 33.8 per cent from 2013 to 2017.

     Hong Kong's wine trade network extends well beyond local and Mainland China markets, and includes major Asian economies such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan, as well as the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) economic bloc of 10 Southeast Asian nations.

     Vinexpo Asia-Pacific provides a meeting place for buyers and suppliers of fine wine from around the world to connect with Asian markets and do business in Hong Kong, the world's freest economy.

     Since the Hong Kong SAR Government eliminated wine duties in 2008, Hong Kong has imported more than US$5 billion worth of wine. We imported US$1 billion worth of wine last year, five times the value in 2007. Our city has also become the world's largest wine auction centre. Total wine auction sales in Hong Kong have fetched US$756 million since 2008.

     The extraordinary growth of the wine industry in our region is reflected at the Vinexpo Asia-Pacific 2014. At this year's event, the sixth to be held in Hong Kong, we expect a record of about 1 300 exhibitors and over 18 000 trade visitors. To accommodate this growth, the exhibition space has been expanded by 50 per cent compared to last year.

     Ladies and gentlemen, this year's Vinexpo Asia-Pacific will be the biggest and, I am confident, the best so far. We look forward to sharing Hong Kong's market knowledge with our friends from around the world. We also welcome your wise counsel on ways to further sharpen Hong Kong's competitive edge as a wine trading and distribution hub in Asia.

     I thank our friends from Bordeaux for your support of Hong Kong's wine initiatives, not just in terms of trading but also in promoting wine education, appreciation and branding as well as staging major events, among which is the prestigious Vinexpo Asia-Pacific.

     I wish all visitors and exhibitors a very successful Vinexpo Asia-Pacific 2014. I also hope that you will come back and join us again in late October and early November for our home-grown signature events, the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival and the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair.

     Finally, allow me to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin: At the Vinexpo Asia-Pacific there is wisdom, in Hong Kong there is connectivity and in the next three days I hope there will be plenty of business for everyone.

     Thank you very much and have a great day.

Ends/Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Issued at HKT 12:14


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