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Speech by SCED at visit to WeWork in Israel (English only)
     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the visit to WeWork in Tel Aviv, Israel yesterday (November 15, Israel time):
Charles (Associate Director-General of Investment Promotion, Mr Charles Ng), friends and members of the Israeli business community,
     Good afternoon. It is my great pleasure to be here with you and to present you with an update on Hong Kong’s exciting business environment and opportunities for Israeli companies.
     While Israel and Hong Kong are geographically quite far apart and have different culture and demographics, we do share a lot in common. We are both famous for our entrepreneurial spirit and our attitude of embracing change. We both have vibrant start-up ecosystems, and are recognised as two of the strongest start-up hubs in the world, attracting "disruptors" from all over the world. We both do not rely on natural resources, but are gifted with large pools of ingenious human talent. And we are keen to tap into the international market, and see each other as an important partner for collaboration and exchange.
     No doubt there is much scope for closer collaboration between the two economies. Last year, our bilateral trade reached US$5 billion. Hong Kong is Israel's largest trading partner in Asia, and Israel is Hong Kong's second largest export market in the Middle East.  
     From a business standpoint, the combined advantage of "one country" and "two systems" is compelling. It gives us and our business partners advantages no other economy in the world can offer: Hong Kong is part of China, when you do business with Hong Kong, you do business with China. But Hong Kong is distinct from other Chinese cities, as we have our own system. We have a level-playing field, and our capital, information, trade and people flow freely through Hong Kong.
     It is why nearly 8 000 overseas and Mainland Chinese companies keep offices in Hong Kong. We have a diverse talent pool made up of professionals from different cultures and of different nationalities. Among them, some 4 300 are from Israel. They bring with them rich international experience which help make our city one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.
     I believe our connections will only be further strengthened in the coming years. As you may know, Hong Kong's home carrier Cathay Pacific is set to launch four weekly direct flights between Hong Kong and Tel Aviv starting March 26, 2017. The new air link will certainly further strengthen tourism, trade and investment between Israel and Hong Kong, as well as between Israel and Greater China.
     Another reason for our closer collaboration is, as you might have heard, the Belt and Road Initiative that was spearheaded by President Xi of China in 2013. This grand and far-reaching Initiative aims to expand trans-continental connectivity, promote economic, political and cultural co-operation from Asia through Africa and on to Europe. I believe it will emerge as a driving force of the world economy in this 21st century.
     As China's global financial centre, the largest offshore Renminbi centre and one of the world's leading financial capitals, Hong Kong has the experience, expertise and connections to serve as the fundraising and financial management hub for the financing of infrastructure projects under the Belt and Road Initiative.
     Foreign investors and Israeli companies and start-ups in the area of cybersecurity, blockchain technology and payments in particular will definitely benefit from the Initiative by having a presence in Hong Kong.
     Ladies and gentlemen, the business opportunities before us are in abundance, and Hong Kong has what you need in a strategic partner as you venture into Mainland Chinese market as well as markets of the Belt and Road countries. 
     I look forward to seeing increasing co-operation and bilateral trade between Israel and Hong Kong, and between Israel and Greater China. 
     Thank you.
Ends/Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Issued at HKT 10:30
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