Speech by SCED at business seminar-cum-lunch organised by Hong Kong Trade Development Council (English only)
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to join so many prominent business leaders from Hong Kong and Thailand at this business seminar-cum-lunch. I would like to express my gratitude to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council for making this happen.
I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Thailand on successfully hosting a series of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) meetings this year, which is particularly important as it brings together in person economic leaders from 21 APEC member economies as well as business leaders in the Asia-Pacific region for the first time since 2018. Championing the theme "Open. Connect. Balance.", leaders have worked together and concluded the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting last Saturday with fruitful results. This is a strong testimony to Thailand's unwavering commitment to regional co-operation, which is of utmost importance in the midst of the global uncertainties and challenges.
Hong Kong has been working closely with APEC economies to strengthen regional economic co-operation. As part of our efforts to help improve the region's business environment, we have participated actively in the activities under the APEC Committee on Trade and Investment, the co-ordinating body for all APEC's work in trade and investment liberalisation and facilitation. To enhance ease of doing business in the region, Hong Kong has assumed the Chairmanship in the APEC Economic Committee since September 2019 to work with APEC member economies to strengthen their economic and legal infrastructure.
Bilateral relation with Thailand
Thailand is definitely our close partner which we highly treasure. Our bilateral trade in goods recorded a strong growth of more than 18 per cent year-on-year reaching US$20.6 billion last year, putting Thailand as the fourth largest trading partner of Hong Kong among the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member states.
With the full entry into force of the ASEAN-Hong Kong, China Free Trade Agreement and the related Investment Agreement, I am confident that bilateral relations of the two places will continue to prosper and scale new heights in the years to come. To further deepen our co-operation with the economies in the region, Hong Kong has been actively seeking to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and formally lodged our accession request this January.
The 15 member economies of RCEP are all Hong Kong's major trading partners, and their trade in goods accounted for over 70 per cent of Hong Kong's total in 2021; trade in services and investment with RCEP economies also accounted for about 50 per cent of Hong Kong's total in 2020. Hong Kong has also signed various bilateral free trade agreements with 13 of the 15 RCEP members. It is therefore very important for Hong Kong to join RCEP in order to further deepen the co-operation with our partners. In this connection, I wish to express our gratitude to Thailand for your positive support of our accession request all along. We look forward to working with Thailand closely to promote our trade and economic co-operation.
Hong Kong's unique strengths
In this regard, I firmly believe that Hong Kong is well positioned to contribute to the prosperity and sustainable development of the two sides given our unique advantages. Hong Kong's continued success is firmly rooted in the "one country, two systems" principle, the cornerstone of our economy. Indeed, on the occasion of celebrating the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, President Xi Jinping reaffirmed that the principle must be adhered to in the long run.
With the full backing of the Central Government, Hong Kong's status as an international financial, shipping and trading centre will only be strengthened. The reassuring affirmation also emphasises Hong Kong's role as a connector and premier services platform bridging the Mainland and the world. Our connections to the Mainland market and national development strategies, particularly the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) and the Belt and Road Initiative, give us unparalleled edges and immense opportunities. It is a card that no one else can play. We are able to act as one of the best facilitators for overseas enterprises to explore the Mainland market via Hong Kong and to make good use of different professional services to support their development in the Mainland.
Hong Kong is an important platform for economic and trade exchange between the Mainland and the international community. We strive to strengthen regional co-operation and actively expand our global economic and trade network on the one hand. On the other hand, we capitalise on the new development pattern featuring dual circulation, which enables domestic and foreign markets to interact positively with each other under the GBA development as an entry point, to assist Hong Kong enterprises in capturing the enormous business opportunities for better integration into the overall development of the nation.
In addition to the connectivity, we have a sound legal system and top-notch talents from all over the world. Hong Kong is also an open and diversified city where traditional and new styles meet, embracing both Chinese and Western cultures. The city also prides itself in its business-friendly environment, low and simple tax regime, free flow of information, capital, people and goods, and world-class infrastructure fully connected to global, regional and Mainland China markets. Our financial and professional services follow the best global practices and standards, also giving confidence to everyone looking to do business in Hong Kong.
All these advantages of Hong Kong are also well recognised by the international community. We are one of the most competitive and free economies in the world, being acclaimed as the world's freest economy in the Economic Freedom of the World 2022 Annual Report by the Fraser Institute. Hong Kong has been ranked at the top since the inception of the report in 1996.
Recent updates of Hong Kong
Looking back at the past three years, Hong Kong has indeed stood up to challenges of a rare kind. Nevertheless, we are standing strong with a favourable and vibrant business environment.
Hong Kong has lifted the compulsory quarantine requirement for inbound persons from overseas since the end of September 2022, allowing Hong Kong to connect with the world as far as possible and bring our economy onto a solid recovery path. The successive international events that were held in Hong Kong recently, such as Hong Kong FinTech Week, the Global Financial Leaders' Investment Summit and the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, with thousands of participants, have vividly exemplify our speedy recovery from the setback.
Having said that, we cannot sit on our laurels and take for granted the prosperity and stability which Hong Kong can now enjoy again. Building on these two most important elements which are crucial to economic development, one of the priorities on the Hong Kong Government's agenda is to create strong impetus for our economic growth. As a staunch supporter of multilateralism, we fully understand that this cannot be achieved alone.
To explore room for deepening our connection and co-operation with Thailand, a high-level business delegation from Hong Kong is here today to join our seminar. They are business leaders from renowned financial, manufacturing, commercial, professional services and transportation sectors in Hong Kong. I trust that they can showcase the latest developments and opportunities in Hong Kong, and exchanges business ideas with you for deepening the co-operation between Hong Kong and Thailand.
Initiatives in Policy Address 2022
On the part of the Government, the Chief Executive delivered his first Policy Address this October. A range of proactive and aggressive initiatives have been revealed to attract talents and strategic businesses to come to Hong Kong. We will not be complacent in our traditional advantages, as we need to be more responsive to market changes and closer to the needs of businesses, making Hong Kong the ideal place for trade and investment.
"Competing for enterprises and talents" is an important element of enhancing the momentum of economic development. In 2021, Hong Kong was the destination of the third largest foreign direct investment in the world, after the United States and the Mainland, demonstrating that Hong Kong's business environment remains appealing for enterprises to set up or expand their businesses.
An important new policy initiative is that we will establish the Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises, to be led by the Financial Secretary, for attracting high-potential and representative strategic enterprises from around the globe, particularly those from industries of strategic importance such as life and health technology, artificial intelligence and data science, financial technology, etc. The Office will formulate attractive special facilitation measures covering aspects such as land, tax and financing that are applicable exclusively to target enterprises, and provide them with tailor-made plans to facilitate the setting up of their operations in Hong Kong. The Office will also provide the employees of these target enterprises with one-stop facilitation services, for example in areas such as visa applications and education arrangements for their children.
The Government will also set aside HK$30 billion to establish the Co-Investment Fund within this year for attracting enterprises to set up operations in Hong Kong and for the SAR (Special Administrative Region) Government to invest in their businesses. The Government will consider co‑investing in individual projects of the target enterprises, taking into account their potential to drive economic and industrial development in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has many good stories to tell. Ladies and gentlemen, with the many new initiatives announced in the Policy Address, it is now the perfect time for you to explore more the business opportunities provided by Hong Kong, and to see for yourself the good stories we have been telling.
Last but not the least, my thanks, again, goes to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council for organising this luncheon which serves as a good start to reconnect with our friends in Thailand. Business aside, I am also sure that with resumption of tourism and business travelling between two places, our friendship will continue to deepen.
On this note, I wish you all a fruitful luncheon and the best of health. I look forward to seeing you all again in Hong Kong in the near future.
Ends/Monday, November 21, 2022
Issued at HKT 15:00
Issued at HKT 15:00