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Speech by SCED at reception of InvestHK Annual Meeting 2017 (English only)
     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Edward Yau, at the reception of the Invest Hong Kong (InvestHK) Annual Meeting 2017 today (December 5):

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good evening.

     This is the first time I have had the pleasure to be here at InvestHK's annual reception, which brings together overseas and Mainland business communities, our partners, consulates, chambers of commerce and business leaders, to thank you for your contributions to our vibrant economy.

     This year is all the more special as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It is also a year in which we are seeking to build new trade relations as well as renewing and strengthening old partnerships, sustaining Hong Kong as one of the great hubs for international trade and business.  

     InvestHK has done a good job despite the ups and downs of the global economy last year. The numbers speak for themselves. In 2016, the department assisted 391 companies which together created nearly 4,000 new jobs and over $16 billion of investment in their first year of operation or expansion. I am excited to learn that InvestHK is expected to complete a record number of 400 projects this year. My heartfelt thanks to Stephen (Director-General of Investment Promotion, Mr Stephen Phillips) and his team for their good work.

     To create an environment for all businesses to thrive, the Government has devoted much effort to business facilitation. InvestHK is committed to encouraging and assisting overseas and Mainland enterprises to set up or expand their business operations in Hong Kong, and providing aftercare services to them. It is therefore no surprise that Hong Kong continues to be an ideal investment destination. According to the latest survey result, there are over 8,200 business operations in Hong Kong with parent companies overseas and in the Mainland. Among them, 1,413 have their regional headquarters in Hong Kong, representing an increase of 2.5 per cent over the same period last year.

     We could not have achieved all this without you. Hong Kong attracts not only some of the largest multinationals and conglomerates, it is also an ideal place for start-ups and entrepreneurs looking to innovate and scale their business globally.

     According to InvestHK's survey of our start-up ecosystem in 2016, the number of start-ups in Hong Kong has been increasing rapidly, showing a growth of 24 per cent from a year ago. This is driven by the city's supportive co-working spaces, incubators, accelerators and innovation labs, the strong funding support for start-ups and a pool of angel investors and venture capitalists, plus, all the enduring business advantages that Hong Kong provides - our rule of law, low and simple tax regime, strategic location, ease of doing business, and the list goes on.

     The StartmeupHK Festival spearheaded by InvestHK will be held from January 29 to February 2, 2018. Please mark your diary in case you have not already done so. In addition to the StartmeupHK Venture Forum on January 29, the week will feature world-class events in four emerging sectors, namely financial technology, smart city and the Internet of Things, health technology and retail technology, where Hong Kong has distinct competitive advantages.

     Indeed, there are many new opportunities ahead of us. In her Policy Address in October, the Chief Executive announced a whole range of initiatives to boost our economic vibrancy through efforts in various areas.

     One of the highlights is the two-tier profits tax system. Specifically, the profits tax rate for the first $2 million of profits will be halved to 8.25 per cent. We believe this will benefit enterprises, particularly SMEs (small and medium enterprises), and add further appeal to Hong Kong as your choice of base if you are considering setting up or expanding your businesses in the region.

     We are also exploring new direction for growth, as well as seeking new trade co-operation with other countries. By taking a more proactive role, we could better facilitate business operations and support the development of various industries.

     I am sure many of you are familiar with the Belt and Road Initiative, which presents us with numerous opportunities for economic growth. Hong Kong enjoys unique advantages in each of the five areas of connectivity under the Belt and Road Initiative - from financial services and trade practices to infrastructure and people-to-people bonds. There are clear synergy and advantages for Hong Kong and other economies to work together to grasp the unprecedented opportunities that are emerging along the Belt and Road corridors.

     Closely connected to the Belt and Road Initiative is the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area, which puts Hong Kong right at the hub of a new economic region of China with a population of 66 million, not to mention the strong complementarity between Hong Kong and the nine adjacent cities on all economic and social fronts. We will actively organise business missions to the Bay Area cities, and you are most welcome to join to learn about the latest policies, establish new contacts and explore business opportunities.

     Hong Kong also plays an important role in the economic relations between Mainland China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

     ASEAN is Hong Kong's second largest trading partner in terms of merchandise trade. The value of trade between Hong Kong and ASEAN has grown by 72 per cent over the past 10 years, reaching US$107 billion in 2016. One shining achievement is the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed last month between Hong Kong and the 10 member nations of ASEAN. The FTA provides a solid platform to further enhance the flows of trade and investment between Hong Kong and ASEAN. In other words, it will make it easier for companies in ASEAN to use Hong Kong's services platform to tap opportunities along the Belt and Road.

     Our setting up of a new Economic and Trade Office (ETO) in Thailand will be the next important task that we want to achieve, and to achieve expeditiously. This new ETO, together with our Jakarta and Singapore ETOs, will put our ETO network in ASEAN on par with that in the European Union.

     We attach great importance to maintaining Hong Kong's competitive edge, in order to adapt to the world's ever-changing economic environment and ensure the sustainable development of Hong Kong's economy. Looking at the big crowd here this evening, I realise that nothing captures Hong Kong's role as a facilitator better than your presence here, brought together by InvestHK. We have always been a close partner of the business community and we wish you all a very successful journey ahead.

     Thank you very much.  
Ends/Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Issued at HKT 19:03
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