Speech by CE at United Arab Emirates-Hong Kong Business Forum and Chinese New Year Gala Dinner (English only) (with photos/videos)

     Following is the speech by the Chief Executive, Mr John Lee, at the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-Hong Kong Business Forum and Chinese New Year Gala Dinner, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on February 8 (Dubai time): 
Your Excellency Minister Al Zeyoudi (United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Trade, Dr Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi), Consul General Li Xuhang (Consul General of the People's Republic of China in Dubai, Mr Li Xuhang), Mr Al Ghurair (Chairman of the Dubai Chambers, Mr Abdul-Aziz Abdulla Al Ghurair), Dr Peter Lam (Chairman of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, Dr Peter Lam), ladies and gentlemen,
     Good evening. Hello Hong Kong! Welcome to tonight's Business Forum and Chinese New Year Gala Dinner.
     I'm delighted to be with you this evening, here in Dubai, the "city of superlatives". That's how your amazing city was described in the 2023 "World's Best Cities" report. Dubai, as I'm sure you know, is also one of the planet's top 100 cities to live, work and invest in.
     More than the 21st century's pacesetting tourism destination, Dubai, together with Abu Dhabi, has helped make the United Arab Emirates one of the world's leading financial and business centres.
     The UAE, alongside other countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, has long been China's important partner in the Middle East, and is a key link in our country's Belt and Road Initiative. From the China-UAE Industrial Capacity Cooperation Demonstration Zone and Abu Dhabi's Khalifa Port, to the UAE National Railway Network-Etihad Rail Project, the close partnership between China and the UAE has given rise to numerous high-profile projects.
     Last December, President Xi Jinping addressed the China-Gulf Cooperation Council Summit to reaffirm our close ties established throughout the years. President Xi, in his keynote speech, called for China and GCC countries to continue as partners for common development and cultural prosperity.
     Hong Kong is well aware of that. The UAE, after all, is Hong Kong's largest trading partner in the Middle East region. We treasure our longstanding relations, and I believe that we can take them to another high level entirely.
     That's why I'm here, together with a high-level Hong Kong delegation–some 30 strong–to tell you that our business and investment doors are wide open and welcoming for UAE companies and investors. For a world of opportunities.
     Hong Kong is bestowed with unparalleled advantages under the "one country, two systems" principle. We are the only city in the world that converges the China advantage and the global advantage.
     Hong Kong can, and is keen to, support your Belt and Road projects, thanks to our capital formation and diversified financial services offerings. Thanks, too, to our prowess in professional services, covering everything from risk management to legal services and more. There certainly is far-reaching promise in deepening our ties, in finance, business, investment, innovation and technology, culture and much more. 
     Let me begin with trade. In 2021, trade in goods between Hong Kong and the UAE totaled 12.8 billion US Dollars. That, ladies and gentlemen, was up more than 35 per cent over 2020 totals. 
     Hong Kong is also a key gateway for merchandise trade between Mainland China and the UAE. In 2021, nearly 10 per cent of the total trade in goods was routed through Hong Kong.
     I expect those numbers to continue to expand in the coming years, thanks to our good and growing ties.
     These include our Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, in place for nearly three years now, between Hong Kong and the UAE. That Agreement has enhanced investor confidence and investment flow between us, strengthening our economic and trade ties.
     They include, as well, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office we opened in October 2021, here in Dubai. The office is our very first in the Middle East region, which only underscores the importance we attach to Hong Kong-UAE relations.
     The Hong Kong Monetary Authority, let me add, is planning a high-level financial delegation to the UAE in the first half of this year.
     I am keen to build ever stronger economic, trade and investment ties with the UAE. And I look forward to exploring prospects and possibilities with you.
     To take one prime example, I believe our two economies, and the companies that drive them, have much to gain by a free trade agreement between us.
     To date, Hong Kong has signed eight free trade agreements with 20 economies. Our FTAs include the ASEAN-Hong Kong China, Free Trade Agreement and related Investment Agreement with the 10 Member States of ASEAN. Meanwhile, we are also pursuing Hong Kong's early accession to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, the world's largest free trade agreement.
     An FTA between Hong Kong and the UAE, therefore, is the logical next step in our relations. I'm confident it would substantially boost trade and investment ties between us.

     Hong Kong is among the world's leading financial centres. No less important, our country fully supports Hong Kong's continuing development as a global financial centre.
     Hong Kong is the world's largest offshore Renminbi business hub. Some 75 per cent of global offshore Renminbi payments are processed in Hong Kong, that's three-fourths.
     To facilitate infrastructure financing, we are taking forward a pilot scheme that is expected to issue up to 450 million US Dollars' worth of securitisation products this financial year. The funds will support infrastructure projects, including those in the UAE.
     Speaking of infrastructure, Dubai continues to reinvent itself, and dazzle the world, with its built environment. Hong Kong, too, has long been celebrated for infrastructure design, construction and management. 
     Our services range from project management, architectural and engineering design, to feasibility studies, town planning and site supervision. We build the world, as well as Hong Kong. You can see our handiwork right here in Dubai. Hong Kong companies took part in building the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Opera House and a number of other major UAE developments.
     Let me add that I chair a steering group on Hong Kong's integration into national development. Pursuing opportunities between Hong Kong and Belt and Road countries–in trade and commerce, in professional services and cultural exchanges–is one of our central priorities.
     So, too, is fintech. Indeed, Hong Kong fintech companies have more than tripled in the past five years. We are now home to more than 800 fintech companies and start-ups.
     It's encouraging to note that, just one year ago, our Hong Kong Monetary Authority signed an MOU with the Central Bank of the UAE on fintech development. That collaboration has expanded to include Project mBridge–the Multiple Central Bank Digital Currency Bridge trial.
     The Hong Kong SAR Government is also committed to Hong Kong's emergence as a family office hub. Among other measures, we are offering tax concessions for family offices setting up in Hong Kong, so do consider it.
     Hong Kong's rise as a green and sustainable finance centre got a boost, last October, when HKEX, our stock exchange, launched Core Climate, an international carbon marketplace.
     And there's more good green news. Our two governments have agreed to explore an MOU on cooperation in green and sustainable finance.
     Hong Kong's future will be built on innovation and technology. To that end, we recently released a blueprint to help us fast-track Hong Kong's development as an international I&T hub.
     To realise that goal, we are enhancing collaboration between Hong Kong and the rest of 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, which brings together 86 million people, that is 86 million consumers, and a GDP of some 1.7 trillion US Dollars, is destined to become a global I&T powerhouse. Hong Kong will play a pivotal role in it.
     I know that the UAE has similar ambitions, and I welcome your involvement. Your partnership. Together, we can build an innovative future, one that will surely reward us all.
     We can build a creative future together, too. From the Louvre Abu Dhabi to Dubai's Museum of the Future and Dubai Opera House, the UAE has become an international centre for arts and culture.
     So, too, has Hong Kong, thanks to our West Kowloon Cultural District, one of the world's largest cultural projects, and our development as an East-meets-West centre for international arts and cultural exchange.
     We held the first Hong Kong film festival in Dubai in December. Entitled "Making Waves–Navigators of Hong Kong Cinema", the festival is an excellent example of what we can accomplish together. 
     Which brings me to Jazzical, the Hong Kong ensemble, led by Joyce Cheung, that will perform for us tonight. The group will present Chinese and Western instruments and music in a concert created especially for this evening. For you. Their music brilliantly, and beautifully, reflects Hong Kong, and our singular East-meets-West culture and sensibilities.
     My thanks to the UAE's Ministry of Economy and the Dubai Chambers for organising this auspicious gala event, together with the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Dubai and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.
     Ladies and gentlemen, this evening, I've talked about some of Hong Kong's advantages–and our abundant, long-term opportunities. But I think you should also hear from international business leaders–what they 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 some of the leading international chambers of commerce in Hong Kong. I hope and I am sure you will enjoy it. And the rest of this splendid evening ahead of us.
     I wish you all a memorable evening, and the best of health and business in the Year of the Rabbit. Thank you! Thank you all!

Ends/Thursday, February 9, 2023
Issued at HKT 1:27