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Speech by SCED at Vietnam-Hong Kong-Greater Bay Area Partnership Business Forum and Networking Luncheon (English only)
     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Algernon Yau, at the Vietnam-Hong Kong-Greater Bay Area Partnership Business Forum and Networking Luncheon in Hanoi, Vietnam, today (January 10):
Dr Choi (Chairman of the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong, and Chairman of Sunwah Group, Dr Jonathan Choi), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
     Thanks Dr Choi for inviting me to join this Hong Kong business delegation to Vietnam. Hong Kong and Vietnam have enjoyed cordial relations over many years. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge to our bilateral exchanges in the past few years, the visit to the two key cities in Vietnam by this delegation within these couple of weeks signifies the emphasis the Hong Kong business community places in this market and the resumption of our business exchanges on a much larger scale.
     Bilateral trade between Hong Kong and Vietnam has grown significantly at an average annual growth rate of 11.8 per cent from 2017 to 2021. Vietnam has become Hong Kong's seventh largest trading partner. Hong Kong's total merchandise trade with Vietnam in 2021 amounted to VND (Vietnamese Dong) 651 trillion (HK$220 billion), up 19 per cent from 2020, putting Vietnam as the second largest trading partner of Hong Kong among ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries. Bilateral trade in the first half of 2022 continued to perform strongly, amounting to VND371 trillion (HK$125 billion), up 21 per cent compared with the corresponding period in 2021.
     Vietnam's economy has been growing very fast in recent years in the midst of unfavourable global economic environment, in particular in the manufacturing sector, presenting opportunities for the business communities overseas. Hong Kong businesses have profound interest in Vietnam's business and investment opportunities and have a strong presence in the country. A notable example is Sunwah group. Hong Kong was the  fifth largest investor in Vietnam with a total registered investment capital of about US$28 billion as of December 2021. Over 60 Hong Kong business leaders joining this business delegation to come to Vietnam is a case in point.
     With the entry into force of the ASEAN-Hong Kong, China Free Trade Agreement in 2019, the tie between the two economies has gone from strength to strength. To further enhance our trade and economic tie with ASEAN member states including Vietnam and other key economies in the region, Hong Kong has made a request to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) of which Vietnam is a member. Hong Kong's prospective membership in the RCEP will further deepen the bilateral relation between Hong Kong and Vietnam, and bring more business and investment opportunities to the business communities of both places.
     With the "one country, two systems" principle, underpinned by an open and free market, a robust institutional framework, free movement of capital, a simple and low tax regime, a deep pool of multi-cultural talents, as well as a fine tradition of the rule of law and an independent judiciary, Hong Kong has made impressive achievements on multiple fronts. It has been recognised as the world's freest economy, the world's No.3 global financial centre and the fifth most competitive economy around the globe. Hong Kong is also the world's largest offshore Renminbi hub and the world's No.1 in terms of air cargo throughput.
     Hong Kong has gone through challenging times, but we are pleased that after the implementation of the National Security Law in June 2020, stability has been restored as you have witnessed. With the subsequent improvement in Hong Kong's electoral system, the Legislative Council election was successfully held in December 2021. The new term of Government started smoothly on July 1 last year. Our business environment is resilient as ever with the strong foundations we have established. Hong Kong's total merchandise trade in 2021 reached more than VND30,300 trillion (HK$10.3 trillion), exceeding the pre-COVID-19 high in 2018 by more than 15 per cent. Over 8 900 overseas and Mainland companies have established their presence in Hong Kong.
     With the strong support from the Central Government, Hong Kong has successfully implemented "one country, two systems" and will continue to develop as an international metropolis. Looking forward, under the National 14th Five-Year Plan and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA) development, Hong Kong will be provided with ample opportunities to continue to strengthen our core industries and develop emerging ones, including innovation and technology, and arts and culture.
     Hong Kong's financial and professional services adhere to the best global practices and standards. I encourage Vietnam businesses to make use of Hong Kong's excellent services and platform to expand in the region, in the GBA, Mainland China and beyond. As an international financial centre, you will also find Hong Kong a good place for seeking financing and listing. As of end-2021, there were over 2 500 companies in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange with a total market cap exceeding US$5,400 billion. The Hong Kong stock market continues to be among the world's top five platforms for initial public offerings (IPOs).
     Hong Kong is one of the most dynamic hubs in the world for start-ups. Hong Kong's start-up ecosystem is well developed and flourishing. The growth in the overall number of start-ups, co-working space, incubators and accelerators across the city is testament to Hong Kong's attractiveness to start-up founders. In 2021, Hong Kong was home to 3 755 start-ups, up 68 per cent compared with 2017. A lot of them are innovation and technology related. Twenty-eight per cent of the start-up founders were non-locals. Hong Kong has witnessed the birth of more than a dozen unicorns. Venture capital investment in Hong Kong also substantially increased to around VND123 trillion (HK$41.7 billion) in 2021. As a rapidly growing developing country, Vietnam has many promising start-ups. We welcome Vietnamese start-ups to explore the opportunities in Hong Kong.
     In his maiden Policy Address, the Chief Executive announced a number of bold measures for Hong Kong to attract enterprises and talents. We have set up an office, a dedicated office, in abbreviation we call it OASES (Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises), to attract enterprises that are of strategic importance and value to Hong Kong. OASES offers special facilitation measures, covering aspects such as land, tax and financing applicable exclusively to target enterprises. We have set up a fund of HK$30 billion to co‑invest in individual projects of the target enterprises. Dedicated teams have been set up in our Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices worldwide to help attract enterprises and talents, including the one in Singapore which covers Vietnam. Hong Kong will continue to push for the development of innovation and technology in Hong Kong, including providing the requisite land and infrastructure.
     On talents, much more aggressive talent admission schemes are being rolled out to get the right talents to power our economic engine. We have launched an online platform of the new Talents Service Unit to attract talents from all over the world more proactively and aggressively. The online platform enables them to obtain information on the various talent admission schemes and submit applications more easily. 
     Hong Kong has removed almost all our COVID-19 pandemic control measures and will avoid "backtracking". At present, there are no mandatory COVID-19 quarantine requirements. Upon arrival, inbound visitors from overseas fulfilling the vaccination requirement and holding a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test result can freely go to work, schools, shopping malls, theme parks, take public transport, visit trade fairs and exhibitions, patronise their favourite restaurants and entertainment venues. Hong Kong has successfully hosted the Global Financial Leaders' Investment Summit, the Hong Kong Fintech Week and the Rugby Sevens in late 2022, demonstrating Hong Kong's readiness to reconnect with the international community. Hong Kong is more or less back to the pre-COVID-19 era.
     I look forward to seeing closer and closer economic and social ties between Vietnam and Hong Kong. Enjoy the lunch! Thank you.
Ends/Tuesday, January 10, 2023
Issued at HKT 13:50
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