Speech by FS at opening ceremony of Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair (English only) (with photos/video)

     Following is the speech by the Financial Secretary, Mr John C Tsang, at the opening ceremony of the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre this morning (November 5):

Margaret (Fong), Your Excellency, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning.

     I am pleased to join you all here today for the opening ceremony of the eighth Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair. Of course, I'm always pleased to join any delegation, large or small, where corks and "Cheers" rain, and fine wine and spirits flow.

     So a warm welcome to you all, especially our good friends from Portugal, this year's wine fair Partner Country. As a nation, Portugal uncorks well above its population. Indeed, it's Europe's fifth largest vinho producer and, at last bottle count, the world's 11th largest.

     The Portuguese, and most everyone here, I'm sure, subscribe to the "God and wine" theory propounded by no less a propounder than Benjamin Franklin: "Wine," said Mr Electricity, "is constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy."

     I know we all drink to that, and much else, in due course.

     First, a wine word or two about Hong Kong and our vinous progress. I'm pleased to note that Hong Kong runs the world's first accreditation scheme for wine storage facilities. And our Customs stands guard against counterfeit wines. Together, that adds up to confidence in the wine that we sell here in Hong Kong.

     Trust, in turn, boosts trade. In 2014, we imported HK$8.4 billion worth of wine, up 5 per cent over the previous year. We also re-exported HK$2.4 billion worth of wine over the same period. And that was up a whopping 52 per cent over 2013 re-exports.

     Those numbers mean business. They underline Hong Kong's standing as the region's wine hub, a position that we've held since I completely did away with the wine duty seven years ago.

     More good news. We remain the world's largest wine auction centre, hammering home more than HK$800 million worth of wine last year.

     Allow me here to revisit our re-exports, which, I believe, make some compelling points. Of the HK$2.4 billion in wine re-exports last year, HK$1.5 billion went to the Mainland of China, an increase of 87 per cent, year on year.

     From that startling upsurge, I draw three conclusions:

     First, I see a growing demand on the Mainland, a healthy development of the hugely promising wine market at our doorstep.

     Second, I see a growing Mainland preference for consuming wine from trendsetting Hong Kong. But more than following our vogue for wine, Mainlanders trust our taste, they trust our integrity.

     And third, I see prodigious wine prospects under the visionary and far-reaching "Belt and Road" initiative spearheaded by President Xi of China.

     For those of you not yet familiar with the "Belt and Road", it promotes connectivity and the free flow of goods among more than 60 countries spanning Asia, Europe and Africa.

     The ancient Silk Road carried wine to China centuries ago. Today, it is Hong Kong that channels the flow of wine. Our world-class infrastructure connects the Mainland and other "Belt and Road" economies, and well beyond. We open doors, we open bottles.

     Let me share with you one last piece of news that I think is worth saluting.

     We have expanded our customs facilitation scheme for wine entering the Mainland through Hong Kong. Wine now enjoys instant clearance when it goes from Hong Kong to Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou or Shenzhen.

     Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to hit the booths and discover the world, a world of wine, a world of spirits, and the cultures, companies and people who bring them to happy life.

     My thanks to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council for once again organising one of the world's great business, and pleasure, fairs.


Ends/Thursday, November 5, 2015
Issued at HKT 10:27