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SCED's speech at 1st Sino-Austrian Investor and Business Conference (English only) (with photo)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the 1st Sino-Austrian Investor and Business Conference today (October 22):

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning. It is my great pleasure to join you all today at the 1st Sino-Austrian Investor and Business Conference. First of all, on behalf of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government, I would like to extend my warmest welcome to all our guests attending the Conference here.

     Following the successful launch of the 21st Austria: Investor and Business Conference in London and New York earlier this year, I am delighted that the Austrian Trade Commission together with 21st Austria have chosen Hong Kong as the city for hosting this prestigious event in Asia. This is a strong testament reaffirming Hong Kong's unique and important role as Asia's world city.

     Austria and Hong Kong have long been close partners in trade and investment. The year 2014 is particularly meaningful to us as it marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Austrian Consulate General in Hong Kong. Despite the recent economic climate, it is encouraging to see that total merchandise trade between Hong Kong and Austria still recorded a steady growth of over 3 per cent per annum in the past five years. Some 10 per cent of the trade between Austria and Mainland China was routed through Hong Kong. More Austrian companies are now using Hong Kong as a base to manage their regional operations.

     We always attach great importance to fostering closer bilateral ties with Austria. To this end, our Chief Secretary visited Vienna in May this year to introduce to the Austrian community the growing business opportunities in the region and to explore collaboration. We see good potential to further develop our linkage.

     While the Austrian population in Hong Kong may not be very large, they form an active and important part of our community. The Austrian business community is a vibrant and diverse group, and has been playing a significant role in Hong Kong's economic development. They come from a wide spectrum of sectors, ranging from glassware and jewellery, to design, arts and culture. We cherish the long-standing fraternity and valuable contribution of the Austrian community to our economy.

     Hong Kong offers a business-friendly environment with a low and simple tax regime, a clean and efficient government, effective rule of law and free market policies as well as world-class infrastructure and unrivalled connectivity to global, regional and the Mainland China markets. It is no surprise that renowned international think tanks give us high ratings globally. The US-based Heritage Foundation and the Fraser Institute in Canada have ranked Hong Kong as the world's freest economy for the past 20 years in a row. The World Bank has ranked us as the second-easiest place on earth to do business in its Doing Business Report 2014. The list goes on and on, and all these are good testament to our superior status as a global business centre.

     Strategically located at the heart of Asia, Hong Kong provides the fastest and most efficient route to connect Austrian companies to the vast business opportunities in Mainland China and across Asia. In the past years, Austrian companies in sectors such as information and communications technology, financial services, tourism and hospitality have been set up in Hong Kong, making use of our ideal geographical location and excellent infrastructure. We are pleased that there are now over 200 Austrian companies in Hong Kong.

     With our tariff- and VAT-free regime, Hong Kong is an ideal location for Austrian firms to open a flagship store to showcase high-end consumer products bearing the "Made in Austria" quality mark to customers from Mainland China and across the region. Hong Kong has become a major hub for wine trade since the removal of duty for wine in 2008. We have signed MOUs (memoranda of understanding) on co-operation in wine-related businesses with major wine-producing countries and regions and would be pleased to have one with Austria. There are certainly advantages for Austrian wine companies to make use of the platform offered by Hong Kong to expand into the fast-growing Asian markets. Besides products, our city is also a premium showcase to promote your branded services.

     Austrian firms can also benefit from our unique free trade pact with the Mainland China, i.e. the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, or what we commonly call CEPA.

     CEPA provides tariff-free access to Mainland markets for goods carrying the "Made in Hong Kong" label, and preferential treatment in accessing a wide array of services sectors across the country. Given that CEPA is nationality-neutral, foreign enterprises incorporated in Hong Kong can enjoy the same benefits as local companies. I encourage Austrian enterprises to leverage on our CEPA advantage to explore the Mainland market.

     Our world is undergoing profound changes with the locomotive of the world's economic growth gradually shifting to the East. There are many new opportunities flowing from the rapid economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region. Today's Conference provides a perfect platform for collaboration between our local businessmen and their Austrian counterparts in different industries. I would like to encourage Austrian companies to leverage on our city's advantages as a stepping stone to explore the thriving opportunities that are emerging in this part of the world.

     Finally, I wish the Conference a great success and all our visitors a very enjoyable stay in Hong Kong. Thank you.

Ends/Wednesday, October 22, 2014
Issued at HKT 11:53


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