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Speech by CE at Kingdom of Saudi Arabia-Hong Kong Investment Forum and Chinese New Year Gala Dinner (English only) (with photo/video)
     Following is the speech by the Chief Executive, Mr John Lee, at the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia-Hong Kong Investment Forum and Chinese New Year Gala Dinner on February 5 (Riyadh time):
Your Excellency Minister Al-Falih (Minister of Investment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Mr Khalid A. Al-Falih), Dr Peter Lam (Chairman of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council), ladies and gentlemen,
     Good evening. I'm delighted to welcome you to tonight's Investment Forum and Chinese New Year Gala Dinner. 
     It gives me great pleasure to be here with you this evening. To take part in this most welcome gathering of senior government, business and investment leaders of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, together with our high-level delegation from Hong Kong.
      Tonight is a celebration. On this gratifying evening, we celebrate the good and growing financial, business and people-to-people ties between our two economies. Tonight, as well, we are delighted to celebrate the Lantern Festival with you, our Saudi friends and partners. Today is the fifteenth day of the first month of the Chinese New Year – and we are privileged to be with you in the global city of Riyadh.
     This new year holds much promise for Hong Kong and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We are, after all, pre-eminent players in our respective regions.
     The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a strong economy of the Gulf region, and a growing source of foreign direct investment. Driven by Vision 2030, your dynamic blueprint for the future, Saudi Arabia is destined to take its place as an economic powerhouse built on diversity, sustainability, and innovation and technology.
      Hong Kong has long been the Asia-Pacific region's multi-level bridge for foreign and Mainland Chinese businesses and investors. As our integration with the Mainland continues to deepen, so, too, do the opportunities for Hong Kong – and the economies and companies that work with Hong Kong.
     Our bilateral merchandise trade reached 1.7 billion US Dollars in 2021, up eight per cent, year on year. Between 2017 and 2021, trade grew, on average, 3.8 per cent a year. I am confident we will build those encouraging results from strength to strength in the coming years.
      Confident, because I know we both value the long-term rewards of collaboration. This auspicious evening is testimony to that – to our determination to expand and deepen cooperation.
     In December, President Xi Jinping visited Riyadh, during which the People's Republic of China and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia agreed to scale up Belt and Road cooperation and expand bilateral trade and investment.
      Addressing the first China-Gulf Cooperation Council Summit, President Xi spoke of the importance of, and I quote, "making new progress in finance and investment cooperation".
     As a major international financial centre, Hong Kong is working to contribute to this mutually rewarding goal. This is evident in the fact that Saudi Arabia is the first destination of my overseas visits this year. I very much look forward to building even stronger ties with leading government and business officials from Saudi Arabia and throughout the region. 
     The Hong Kong Monetary Authority also looks forward to strengthening its ties with Saudi Arabia. The Authority will lead a high-level financial delegation to Saudi Arabia and other Middle East locations this year to explore opportunities for further co-operation.
     This time last year, the Public Investment Fund, a welcome investor in some of the world's most innovative industries and businesses, opened a subsidiary office in Hong Kong.
     The Hong Kong delegation among you this evening – more than 30 seasoned professionals – represents major business chambers, as well as our financial, trade, logistics, infrastructure, professional services and innovation and technology sectors.   

     They look forward to talking to you, to learning more about business opportunities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
     They are also eager to bring you up to date on the boundless prospects waiting for you in Hong Kong, thanks to our unique advantages under the "one country, two systems" principle. We enjoy the unparalleled edge of having our motherland's strong support while staying openly connected with the world. Our country's 14th Five-Year Plan supports Hong Kong's development – our leadership role – in eight sectors, led by our longstanding strengths as an international hub for finance, trade, logistics and transport.
     Like Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong offers far-reaching investment opportunities and access to new markets. The potential for expanding investment between our two economies is both wide-ranging and long term.
     In this spirit, I am pleased to announce that Hong Kong and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are entering a new level of cooperation: our two governments are now in discussion on a number of collaboration agreements. They cover investment promotion and protection, as well as legal and cultural exchange and cooperation.
      Ladies and gentlemen,as his Excellency Minister Khalid just said, I am pleased to inform you that the two governments have agreed that the formal negotiations on a bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement between Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia will commence. The agreement will further promote bilateral investment flows and strengthen confidence of investors from both sides. We are also working to begin negotiations on an MOU promoting direct investment cooperation. That can only fast-track our business and investment collaboration.
     I am pleased, as well, to note that Hong Kong's business chambers and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council will formalise cooperation agreements with their Saudi counterparts.
     Beyond trade and investment, our financial and professional services sectors have much to offer. 
     Hong Kong is the world's largest offshore Renminbi business hub, with about 1 trillion Renminbi in deposits. That deep and diversified pool helps support the offshore Renminbi transactions and financial activities of Belt and Road countries and their companies and projects.
     Our financial services sector, the world's fourth-largest, can help the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Belt and Road economies in many other ways, as well.
     Just over three months ago, our stock exchange, HKEX, launched Core Climate. An international carbon marketplace, Core Climate promotes green and sustainable finance through the transparent trading of voluntary carbon credits and instruments.
     Hong Kong's development as a centre for family offices is another priority of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government. And we are granting tax concessions to family offices that set up in Hong Kong. 
     Then there's financial technology, a rising star from our wide-ranging financial service offerings. We are now home to more than 800 fintech companies and start-ups, and they offer a multitude of innovative services. My Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Christopher Hui, will talk about our fintech promise, and progress, later in this investment forum.
      Still with finance, our Pilot Infrastructure Loan-Backed Securitisation scheme is expected to issue financial products worth up to 450 million US Dollars this year to support infrastructure projects, including those in Saudi Arabia.
     Speaking of infrastructure, Hong Kong has won plaudits all over the world, Saudi Arabia included, for its infrastructure project design, construction and management.
     Just last September, the Port of Jazan City for Primary and Downstream Industries began operation, a logistics triumph connecting Saudi Arabia to the world. Built by China Harbour Engineering, the Port is managed, I'm pleased to note, by Hong Kong's Hutchison Ports.
     In September 2021, Hutchison Ports and King Salman Energy Park created a joint venture to operate the dry port and logistics zone for the Park. The mega-manufacturing, services and logistics centre, located in Saudi's Eastern Province, is an integral aspect of Saudi Vision 2030.
     And, later this year, the Riyadh Metro rapid transit system opens to passengers. Three of the Metro's six lines were designed by the Hong Kong branch of the international consultancy, Atkins.
     Hong Kong's world-class infrastructural services range from feasibility studies and project management, to architectural and engineering design, site supervision and town planning. 
     We clearly look forward to expanding our collaboration, to offering what we are good at, in Saudi Arabia's plans of restructuring of the King Abdullah Financial District and other infrastructural developments.
     Vision 2030 is also being built on innovation and technology, as his Royal Highness Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has emphasised.
     Hong Kong shares that vision. Indeed, we've just released our "Innovation and Technology Development Blueprint", outlining Hong Kong's future development in the budding industry, and our commitment to Hong Kong's rise as an international I&T centre.
     Some 4 000 start-ups, including 10 unicorns, call Hong Kong home. Our InnoHK Research Clusters at Science Park target healthcare technologies and artificial intelligence and robotics. The two clusters have established 28 research laboratories involving more than 30 prominent international universities and research institutes. They're collaborating with Hong Kong universities and research organisations.
     We are also boosting technology collaboration between Hong Kong and our sister cities in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, the cluster-city development integrating Hong Kong, Macao and nine cities in southern China. The Greater Bay Area unites some 86 million consumers and a GDP of about 1.7 trillion US Dollars.
     Innovative technology is driven by smart companies and talented professionals. In my Policy Address last October, I announced a raft of initiatives to attract talent and strategic businesses to Hong Kong, to help power the flourishing future there for us all.
      In particular, we are targeting companies, and talents, from industries of strategic importance to Hong Kong. These include life and health technology, artificial intelligence and data science, financial technology, advanced manufacturing and new-energy technology. 
     Arts and culture are also policy priorities of the Hong Kong SAR Government, and for good reasons. They enrich our community and the lives of our people. They offer fresh economic prospects, too. And, no less important, they help build people-to-people bonds, inspiring communication and creativity across cultures.
     I look forward to the conclusion of the MOU on Cultural Co-operation between our two places, for there will certainly be boundless opportunities between our arts and cultural institutions, and the artists and professionals who bring them to bright life.
     With that in mind, I trust you will enjoy the musical performance accompanying this evening's gala dinner. Four supremely talented Hong Kong musicians will present an East-meets-West-meets-Middle East programme. That's very much in keeping with Hong Kong's unique position as a creative centre welcoming cultural exchange from all over the world.
      Hong Kong is also welcoming back mega events and sports competitions this year. I am particularly pleased to note that the "Aramco Team Series" – for the first time ever – will be coming to Hong Kong this year. It is also the first time for a Middle East-sponsored golf tournament to take place in Hong Kong. The series is expected to attract masters from all over the world to compete for the championship in Hong Kong this October.
     Last but not least, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Investment and the Riyadh Chamber for organising this memorable event with us. 
      Ladies and gentlemen, I've talked to you, this evening, about some of Hong Kong's advantages and abundant, long-term opportunities. But I thought you should also hear what international business leaders have to say about Hong Kong, our economy and our prospects for the future. The video you are about to see does just that. It features comments and observations from the heads of the chambers of commerce in Hong Kong from various parts of the world. I hope you enjoy it as much as I've enjoyed speaking to you this evening.
      On that note, I wish you all a rewarding forum and the best of health, business and prosperity in the Year of the Rabbit, a year that promises renewed, revitalised cooperation between the economies, and the peoples, of Hong Kong and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
     Thank you all!
Ends/Monday, February 6, 2023
Issued at HKT 2:42
Today's Press Releases  


The Chief Executive, Mr John Lee, attended the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia-Hong Kong Investment Forum and Chinese New Year Gala Dinner in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, today (February 5, Riyadh time). Photo shows Mr Lee speaking at the forum.

Audio / Video

CE attends Kingdom of Saudi Arabia-Hong Kong Investment Forum and Chinese New Year Gala Dinner in Riyadh