Speech by Acting CE at Inter-Pacific Bar Association 2015 Annual Meeting and Conference Host Committee Dinner (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Acting Chief Executive, Mr John C Tsang, at the Inter-Pacific Bar Association 2015 Annual Meeting and Conference Host Committee Dinner at Government House today (May 5):

Mr (William) Scott, Mr (Huen) Wong, Ladies and Gentlemen,

     Good evening.

     It is my great pleasure to be here. To welcome you to the Host Committee Dinner of this 2015 Annual Meeting and Conference of the Inter-Pacific Bar Association (IPBA). To welcome you, too, to Government House, the one-time home, and office, to 25 of Hong Kong's 28 colonial Governors.

     Many formal occasions have taken place right here where we are sitting now. I know this place well, having spent many long days and nights here working as the last Private Secretary to the last Governor of Hong Kong.

     Today, of course, it is home and office to the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China. So like you, I am also just visiting this beautiful century old edifice. The Chief Executive went on a visit to Boston last night, and he has asked me to extend to you all his hearty welcome and congratulations.

     I am also here to offer my congratulations to the IPBA on turning 25. That is a milestone in any relationship. Indeed, I spent some time going over memorable 25th anniversary comments for this memorable occasion. The vast majority, unfortunately, focuses on marriage.

     I am sure you know the kind: "May these 25 years of our married life be the prologue of a fairy tale with a lovely ending." Or "a celebration of love as bright and enduring as silver." Heartfelt, certainly, but not really hitting the heart of this particular august legal occasion.

     And, believe me, there is a lot more where that came from. I won't bore you any further with them. But then I found this, from Henry Ford, who knew a thing or two about automobiles, people and organisations: He said, "Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."

     I think Mr Ford could well be speaking of IPBA, which counts over 1 600 members from over 65 jurisdictions across the Asia-Pacific region.

     Given the disparate languages, laws and regulations, not to mention the competing interests and agendas at work, I would say yours is a true model marriage at 25. And with "Vision for the Future", your theme for this annual meeting and conference, clearly, your regional union is alive and well - and billing, so to speak.

     Speaking of future, China's "One Belt, One Road" vision, and the impending launch of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the AIIB, offer immense opportunities for development and investment. The "One Belt, One Road" or the OBOR strategy will connect vast regions of Asia, Africa and Europe - more than 60 countries and economies in total.

     I do not believe anyone can afford to ignore its impact, or its promise. The initiatives are expected to boost business and trade, as well as professional services, including legal services in particular, among the markets that take part.

     As Asia's global business capital, international financial centre, and premium logistics hub, Hong Kong has much to gain from the OBOR strategy - and also much to offer. In particular, Hong Kong, with the full support of the Central Government, is well-positioned to be a leading regional centre for legal arbitration and dispute resolution in support of this strategy.

     After all, Hong Kong is blessed with a strong common law system underpinned by an independent judiciary, a vibrant business environment creating abundant synergy among various professions, an advantageous location, unrivalled proximity to the Mainland and extensive connectivity with Southeast Asia.

     Under the "one country, two systems" arrangement, which was enshrined in the Basic Law, Hong Kong maintains its common law system. Our rule of law is underpinned by a judiciary well known for its independence. We even go the extra mile and invite highly respected judges of other common law jurisdictions to sit on our Court of Final Appeal in making judgements on cases. It gives the international community the essential confidence it demands of a legal hub.

     No less important, we have the professionals to work within that enviable legal framework. As of April, Hong Kong counted more than 1 200 practising barristers, over 8 200 practising solicitors and in excess of 1 400 registered foreign lawyers. Rich in international business law experience, they provide high-end legal and dispute-resolution services in civil and commercial law.

     Leading international arbitration institutions have set up offices in Hong Kong. And arbitral awards made here are enforceable in more than 150 contracting states of the New York Convention, as well as in the Mainland of China and Macau.

     And this government places priority on developing Hong Kong's international legal and dispute-resolution services. Our Department of Justice continues to improve our legal framework, enhancing the efficient and effective resolution of disputes.

     Hand-in-hand with its legal expertise, Hong Kong has been one of the world's leading financial centres and international business hubs for decades. Do forgive me. My Financial Secretary side seems determined to have a few words here.

     So, yes, we rank third, after New York and London, in Financial Time's Global Financial Centre Index. Our asset management sector takes good care of assets under management here in Hong Kong of over US$2 trillion. More than 70 of the world's top 100 banks operate here in Hong Kong. We are also the leading offshore centre for Renminbi business. Despite our small population of 7 million, we are among the top 10 trading economies of the world. Our total trade is four times our GDP.

     Add our wealth of professional activities in commerce, financing, maritime and logistics, infrastructural project management, risk assessment, etc. These activities demand for and benefit from high-end legal services, thereby creating abundant synergy among the professions.

     Our location is another significant advantage. Our close proximity, longstanding ties and increasing economic integration with the Mainland make us an ideal venue for doing business with different provinces and cities of this vast country and for resolving Mainland-related commercial disputes.

     More than that. In fact, all major economies in the Asia-Pacific region are no more than four hours' flight time from Hong Kong. Together with our world-class airport and its frequent air services to almost all business capitals in the region, Hong Kong is the natural choice for international firms. At last count, nearly 7 600 companies from the Mainland and overseas kept offices in Hong Kong.

     I welcome you to join them. Together, we can make Hong Kong the region's international legal and dispute-resolution services capital. Together, we can help build the Belt-Road for our region. That, ladies and gentlemen, is my "Vision for the Future".

     I know you will enjoy this special evening. I wish you all the best of business at the conference, and a memorable stay in Hong Kong. And if you should have an opportunity to stay outside of the conference halls, do shop a lot. Thank you.

Ends/Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Issued at HKT 22:04