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Speech by SCED at Prime Source Forum Hong Kong 2017 (English only)
     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, at the Prime Source Forum Hong Kong 2017 today (March 13):

Martin (Managing Director of Yeh Shen Limited, Mr Martin Keil), Josephine (Event Director of Yeh Shen Limited, Ms Josephine Ching), Willy (Chairman of Hong Kong Productivity Council, Mr Willy Lin), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
     Good morning. It is my great pleasure to join you all at the Prime Source Forum.  My warmest welcome to everyone, especially to those who have travelled a long way to be here with us today.

     As the saying goes, "Fashions change, but change is always the fashion."  Fashion is always evolving and it continuously gives us new stimulants. It is a sector from which new ideas emerge every season and set the new trend. This is where endless creativity develops, and translates into concrete form which affects our everyday life.
     Over the years, the fashion industry itself has also faced disruptive changes. Not too long ago, the fashion industry was mainly driven by producers, retailers and designers. Today the industry is mainly driven by consumers and the use of new digital technologies of all kinds. E-commerce in particular has transformed the entire fashion supply chain.
     To keep up with the fast pace of the fashion sector, one needs to think fast by anticipating, spotting and setting trends; act fast by repositioning for new markets, new strategies, and new mission; and stay fast by maintaining efficient supply chain management and keeping close to suppliers and customers.
     The fashion industry is a fast, efficient and forward-looking business - just as Hong Kong is a fast-reacting, efficient and dynamic economy. And that's what I want to talk about today - how Hong Kong fits into a rapidly changing world in which now, more than ever, speed, efficiency and value for money dominate. 
     I can assure you that Hong Kong is firmly on the fast lane when it comes to global finance, trade, logistics and tourism. This year we will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of our reunification with Mainland China. It is a good opportunity for us to reflect on how far we have come in the past couple of decades. It also helps focus our minds on the work ahead in fulfilling our role as a conduit for trade, or "super-connector" as our Chief Executive has coined, between Mainland China and the international business community.
     The audience doesn't need me to recite Hong Kong's long-standing institutional advantages, which stem from the rule of law under the "one country, two systems" principle. Hong Kong has been regarded as one of the best cities in the world to do business. We are proud to be ranked as the most competitive economy in the world by the International Institute for Management Development in Switzerland. And we have been named as the freest economy in the world by the US-based Heritage Foundation for the past 23 years in a row. Such success, year after year, decade after decade, speaks of our ability and determination to make speedy and necessary changes well before the competitors.
     Take textile and apparel industry for example, over the years, we have entrusted and empowered our business partners with speed, efficiency and reliability. People working along the supply chain have confidence in our services. Our trade professionals are conversant with the latest fashion trends and practices, they are able to cater for the preference of a diverse customer base and are acclaimed for speedy delivery. 
     More importantly, Hong Kong is located right at the heart of Asia with a proficient and efficient logistics network. Our strong intermodal connectivity, together with our round-the-clock customs clearance and free port status, make Hong Kong an ideal sourcing hub in Asia. This is particularly relevant to your industry where the ability to respond timely to market demand is paramount in coping with the rise of fast fashion.

     And let me assure you that the market demand from this part of the world will be growing substantially in the near future, thanks to the free trade agreement (FTA) that we are now negotiating with ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), Hong Kong's second largest trading partner. The FTA will provide ample business opportunities and stimulate further growth in our region. 
     Of course, there is also the humongous growth engine called the "Belt and Road" Initiative. Encompassing some 65 nations spanning Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the "Belt and Road" Initiative is perhaps the 21st century's most ambitious multilateral undertaking. This visionary, long-term plan will catalyse demand and boost the volume and intensity of international trade and investment flow along the "Belt and Road" routes.  Hong Kong is best positioned as the "super-connector" for pulling together various parties in pursuit of all these exciting developments.
     As far as the textiles and apparel industry is concerned, both the ASEAN and "Belt and Road" regions offer the dual advantages of being a relatively low cost production base as well as a lucrative and promising market. The huge consumer base, coupled with the rise of an affluent middle class, will propel tremendous demand for trendy fashion and accessories. 
     Ladies and gentlemen, as a highly open economy with an extensive network of business connections, and the most efficient hardware and software underpinning our openness and facilitating trading regime, Hong Kong is ideally placed to serve as a fashion trading hub in the region. Hong Kong promises speedy, reliable and value-for-money services, as well as tremendous business opportunities. We welcome all of you to Asia's world city to unlock the unlimited potential.
     I wish you all a very rewarding forum and an enjoyable stay in Hong Kong. Thank you very much.
Ends/Monday, March 13, 2017
Issued at HKT 10:25
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