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Speech by CE at Europe Day Reception (English only) (with photo/video)
     Following is the speech by the Chief Executive, Mr John Lee, at the Europe Day Reception today (May 9):

Honourable Ambassador Thomas Gnocchi, Head of the European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macao, Deputy Commissioner Pan Yundong of the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Deputy Commissioner of the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region), Consuls General, friends of the European Union and Hong Kong, ladies and gentlemen,

     Happy Europe Day! It is my pleasure to join you this evening in celebration of Europe Day. I am pleased, as well, to extend my congratulations to the European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macao as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of your establishment.

     Europe Day celebrates the success of the European Union (EU) and its 27 member countries. You have come together with a clear vision, that of promoting peace, stability and prosperity. It is a goal that Hong Kong shares with you.

     So, too, does our country. Just last month, President Xi Jinping met with Her Excellency President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Commission in Beijing. During their meeting, President Xi underlined the need to strengthen communication and mutual understanding in jointly overcoming challenges.

     Noting that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership, President Xi stated that China and the EU should step up communication and co-ordination in macroeconomic and financial policy as well as green partnership.

     Hong Kong and the EU have a long history of communication and exchanges. Hong Kong values doing business with the world and we are devoted in furthering trade and cultural relations with the EU.

     As a bloc, the EU is Hong Kong's third-largest trading partner in both merchandise trade and services trading. It is why some 1 600 EU companies are based here, a number that has remained remarkably stable throughout these years and challenges. A number that I'm confident will grow apace now that Hong Kong is back on the centre stage for business.

     Our streets are safe, and riots and violence are a thing of the past. Stability has returned. So has business confidence. The Pearl of the Orient is back on the track of forging ahead for long-lasting prosperity, for economic development, for the better well-being of everyone in the city.

     Under the "one country, two systems" principle, Hong Kong enjoys the unique advantage of being bestowed with strong support of national strategies, while maintaining unparalleled connectivity with the rest of the world.

     Alongside other strong indicators, this advantage is probably best represented by the fact that merchandise trade amounting to nearly 42 billion Euros, or 340 billion Hong Kong Dollars, between the EU and Mainland China was routed through Hong Kong last year.

     The long-term opportunities here for Hong Kong - and the EU companies that partner with Hong Kong - are aplenty. I am sure you know them as well as I do. Believe in them as well.

     I also believe that more and more EU companies will make their way to Hong Kong in the post-pandemic economy we are all eagerly embracing. As they do, I have no doubt that the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area will be among the prospects to capture their imagination. The business development opportunities are limitless in this dynamic cluster-city development integrating some 86 million consumers.

     Hong Kong and the EU also share a commitment to working towards a greener world. Both Hong Kong and the EU are determined to attain carbon neutrality by 2050.

     I am grateful to the EU for organising the "Green Way Forward" forum in March, for bringing together Hong Kong and EU stakeholders - governments, businesses and institutions - to discuss ways of advancing our green agenda.

     Climate change, and how to tackle it, was also on the agenda of President Xi and President von der Leyen in their meeting last month. I'm pleased to hear of their mutual commitment to co-operation in this pressing global challenge.

     Hand-in-hand with policy measures to promote the environment, Hong Kong is focused on green technology and the economy.

     Indeed, green finance was among the issues discussed last month in Brussels by our Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury, Christopher Hui, in his meetings with senior EU officials.

     The Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park and San Tin Technopole will fast-track our environmental progress, while accelerating our development as an international I&T (innovation and technology) hub.

     Construction of the Park's first three buildings are underway. And, just last month, I chaired the second meeting of the Steering Committee on the Northern Metropolis - the new I&T city that promotes green living and the co-existence of development and conservation. Planning for San Tin Technopole was among the meeting's central discussion points.

     So, yes, we're building an innovative and green future in Hong Kong, in the Northern Metropolis and in the entire Greater Bay Area.

     I welcome EU companies, and professionals, to join us, to help us create tomorrow's flourishing Hong Kong.

     Allow me now, for just a moment, to invite you to consider this venue - the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. To remind you, if you needed reminding, that our maritime industry has long been central to the economy of Hong Kong.

     It contributes more than four per cent to our GDP and accounts for over two per cent of our employment. The industry underpins our trading and logistics sector, the largest of Hong Kong's key economic pillars. More than 1100 port and maritime companies operate in Hong Kong, providing a wealth of high, value-added maritime services, ranging from shipbroking and finance to marine insurance and maritime legal and arbitration services.

     Indeed, BIMCO, the Baltic and International Maritime Council, has included Hong Kong among its four designated arbitration venues, alongside New York, London and Singapore. BIMCO, of course, is one of the largest international shipping associations in the world. Later this month, it will hold its annual general meeting here in Hong Kong. 

     The Hong Kong Port was the world's ninth-busiest container port last year. The Hong Kong SAR Government is working to ensure that our maritime sector continues to innovate and grow.

     Which is why, last month, we announced the establishment of a Task Force on Maritime and Port Development Strategy. It's charged with producing an action plan, by year's end, to ensure the long-term competitiveness of our maritime and port industry.

     And I have no doubt that the EU will play a role in ensuring its international competitiveness, long down the sea road.

     This year is the European Year of Skills. Similar to our European counterpart, Hong Kong is committed to enhancing training and addressing skills needs in economic development.

     The strong competitiveness and capability of Hong Kong's talents is acknowledged by the UN's (United Nations) Human Development Index. Hong Kong is ranked Number 4 in the world for human development based on such factors as access to knowledge, and our people's standard of living, health and longevity.

     Hong Kong has unveiled an array of initiatives to attract strategic enterprises and top talents worldwide to come to our city and explore the immense opportunities available in the Mainland China and Asia. Hong Kong welcomes European enterprises and entrepreneurs to set up in our city and benefit from our enriched pool of international talents.

     We look to the EU and its 27 member countries for so much: for trade, investment and innovation, for fashion and design, and arts and cultural inspiration and so much more.

     Which reminds me that the French May Arts Festival got going last weekend, a two-month-long celebration of arts and culture. I am sure this widely popular festival will be just as successful this year, because where else to celebrate the arts but in this cultural metropolis which converges both the China advantage and the global advantage?

     On that note, my congratulations again on the 30th anniversary of the EU Office to Hong Kong and Macao and may I wish you all a happy Europe Day.
Ends/Tuesday, May 9, 2023
Issued at HKT 20:21
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The Chief Executive, Mr John Lee, speaks at the Europe Day Reception today (May 9).

Audio / Video

CE attends Europe Day Reception