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Speech by CS at 2018 International Customs Day Reception (English only)
     Following is the speech by the Chief Secretary for Administration, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, at 2018 International Customs Day Reception today (January 28):
Hermes (The Commissioner of Customs and Excise, Mr Hermes Tang), Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
     Good evening.  I am honoured to join you all this evening to celebrate the 2018 International Customs Day, a signature event that brings together different parties and stakeholders who are responsible for societal protection and smooth conduct of legitimate economic activities.  On behalf of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government, I would like to extend our warmest welcome to all of you, especially those from the Mainland and Macao, and our friends from various consulates in Hong Kong.
        Situated at a strategic location and with world-class infrastructural facilities, Hong Kong boasts a free economic system that is highly flexible and efficient.  We have the unique advantage of "one country, two systems", a low and simple tax regime and a highly open market enabling free flows of people, capital and goods.  We embrace a pluralistic and inclusive society and uphold the rule of law. 
        The value of Hong Kong’s external merchandise trade amounted to about $8.2 trillion in 2017, a rise of 48.2 per cent over the past decade.  In terms of the total value of trade, Hong Kong was ranked the seventh largest trading entity in the world in 2016.  It is therefore of utmost importance for us to continue to consolidate and enhance the competitiveness and security of our business environment for the betterment of Hong Kong’s economic development.
Theme of International Customs Day
        The theme “security of the business environment” designated by the World Customs Organisation (WCO), complemented by the slogan “a secure business environment for economic development” underscores the importance of strengthening border security while addressing the need for facilitating the movement of cargo and passengers across the borders.
An Enabling Environment
Authorized Economic Operator Programme
        Hong Kong Customs is responsible for a wide range of duties that span across narcotics interdiction, protection and collection of government revenue, trade controls and facilitation, intellectual property rights protection as well as consumer protection.  I believe that the key to success in mastering the dual role of a regulator and a facilitator for the business environment in Hong Kong rests with an innovative customs regime and a close partnership with counterparts in the law enforcement domain as well as with those in the business sector and the community as a whole. 
        In line with the WCO SAFE Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate Global Trade, Hong Kong Customs launched the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) Programme in 2010 to enhance international supply chain security and facilitate movement of legitimate goods.
        This Customs-to-Business partnership programme is open to all stakeholders such as manufacturers, importers, exporters, freight forwarders, warehouse operators and carriers involved in the international supply chain. Companies accredited by the programme will be recognised as a trusted partner of Hong Kong Customs.  The full-fledged AEO programme enables Hong Kong Customs to develop mutual recognition arrangements with other customs administrations, thereby enhancing customs cooperation and movement of goods between and the global market.  I am proud to share with you the good news that Hong Kong ranks third worldwide in terms of the number of mutual recognition arrangements developed.
Trade Single Window
        To further facilitate trade in goods, Hong Kong Customs is gearing up for implementing Phase 1 of the Trade Single Window this year to provide a one-stop electronic platform for the lodging of trade documents, promote cross-border customs co-operation and expedite trade declaration and customs clearance.  To ensure the industry is well prepared for this trade facilitation measure, we have maintained close liaison with relevant sectors to enhance the pre-shipment and post-shipment declaration arrangements to ensure that only the most essential information will be required for customs clearance.
A Safe Environment
Customs-to-Customs Co-operation
        Hong Kong Customs recognises the challenges arising from the changing global trade environment and rapid technological developments.  Syndicates are taking advantages of increased passenger and cargo flows to engage in cross-border crimes such as drug trafficking, money laundering and customs fraud.  To curb these illegal activities, Hong Kong Customs has stepped up cooperation actions and actively pursued cooperation arrangements with other customs authorities. So far, we have signed 24 customs cooperation arrangements against cross-boundary offences.  The close partnership between Hong Kong Customs and the international customs community is certainly a confidence-booster for business to grow and thrive in Hong Kong.
Anti-Money Laundering
        At the local level, Hong Kong Customs spares no effort in preventing and combatting any money laundering and terrorist financing activities in Hong Kong.  To this end, the HKSAR Government enacted new legislation last June to establish a reporting system on the physical cross-boundary transportation of large quantities of currency and bearer negotiable instruments.  The new system, coupled with Hong Kong Customs’ rigorous enforcement actions, has strengthened our capability in detecting and stopping physical movement of illicit funds across the border.
Future Opportunities and Challenges
        Hong Kong Customs’ accords high priority to securing a favourable environment for doing business in Hong Kong and have kept a close view of opportunities and challenges arising from new regional and global developments including the Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area development.  To this end, they have already introduced measures to facilitate Hong Kong’s active participation in these mammoth national strategies to help expand our trade ties and support our Motherland in the deepening of reforms and development of the economy in the process of opening up.
“Single e-lock” Service
        One of the innovative measures introduced by Hong Kong Customs for this cause is the successful development and implementation of the “single e-lock” service.  It is developed jointly by Hong Kong Customs with a private technology company that aims to facilitate intermodal transshipment of goods between Hong Kong and the Mainland so that a cargo will only be inspected once by customs of either side.  The logistics industry applauded this initiative as it helps save up to two hours in the cargo clearance process in Hong Kong. Beyond trade facilitation, the manpower saved from expedited cross-boundary clearance process allows Hong Kong Customs to redeploy resources for higher risk cargoes. 
        The “single e-lock” scheme has been extended to 32 clearance points in Guangdong Province including Dongguan, and two clearance points in Hunan Province, as well as all new vehicular control points including the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Liantang Boundary Control Point, with a view to strengthening Hong Kong’s competitiveness in the pursuit of developing new economic and trade ties with economies along the Belt and Road corridors and capitalizing on the opportunities arising from the Bay Area development.
        Ladies and gentlemen, I have only given a pen-picture of our Customs’ determination to safeguard the security of the business environment which is also conducive to the long-term economic development of Hong Kong.  They are indeed a versatile and professional team that has proven to master a diverse portfolio as I mentioned at the start of my speech.  I would like to take this opportunity to pay warmest tribute to the outstanding work of all our customs officers who contributed their efforts towards this cause.
        In a moment, I will present the Certificates of Merit on behalf of the World Customs Organization to recognise the achievements made by officers in the theme of “security of the business environment”.  Please join me in applauding them for demonstrating excellent diligence and steadfast commitment.
        As Chinese New Year is shortly approaching, let me also wish you all a healthy, energetic and prosperous Year of the Dog.  Thank you.
Ends/Friday, January 26, 2018
Issued at HKT 19:09
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