(Original script, may differ from delivered version)
Chief Secretary for Administration of the Hong Kong SAR Government, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Queen’s Birthday Party in Hong Kong. I would like to extend a special thank you to our many kind sponsors whose names you will see in your programmes and around the Consulate.
Many thanks indeed to the wonderful June Rippon - for her excellent performance of the national anthems of the United Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China. And also to our piper this evening from the Hong Kong Police Band.
Ladies and gentlemen may I now invite you to raise your glasses in the first toast of the evening to Her Majesty [“The Queen”].
The past twelve months have been eye-catching and important ones for both the UK and Hong Kong. The UK welcomed Hong Kong, China and the world to the hugely successful Olympic and Paralympic Games in London last summer.
We offer our congratulations to the Hong Kong, China team for their impressive haul of 12 Paralympic medals and of course to Lee Wai-sze for her bronze medal in the women’s track cycling.
Friends from around the world also joined in celebrating Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee following 60 years on the throne.
Hong Kong last year saw elections for both the Chief Executive and Legislative Council – the latter for the first time with a majority of seats directly elected. It was shortly after the new administration took office, and after the Legco elections, that I arrived in Hong Kong. From my observations, it is clear that freedom of speech, action and argument are alive and doing very well in Hong Kong!
I would like to thank everyone for the warm welcome you have extended me, indeed the warmth shown towards the United Kingdom, since my arrival 7 months ago.
We are forging close links with the Hong Kong SAR government. We have seen visits to Hong Kong by the Secretaries of State for Environment, and Wales, the Foreign Office Minister of State for Hong Kong, the Governor of the Bank of England, the Minister for Transport, the Commercial Secretary to the Treasury and the All Party Parliamentary Group on China. Ties between the UK and Hong Kong remain strong in the legal, judicial, professional and law enforcement fields. We particularly value recent cooperation with Hong Kong customs and police.
It was also excellent to see the Chief Secretary and the Education Secretary visiting the UK. We look forward to further exchanges, including we hope, a visit by the Chief Executive before too long.
The UK-Hong Kong relationship continues to evolve. In 2012 Hong Kong was the UK’s third largest market for goods in Asia Pacific. UK exports to Hong Kong were over £5 billion in 2012 for the second year running, and trade through Hong Kong to mainland China and vice versa continue to grow.
We value our partnerships in Hong Kong with Invest Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and of course the British Chamber of Commerce – which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary. We are all working to increase trade and investment between the UK and Hong Kong. The Hong Kong Trade Dinner will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in London in November. To commemorate the occasion, the HKTDC will be organising large-scale Hong Kong Business Seminars in the UK.
The 2012 Olympics highlighted UK capability in Delivering World Class Infrastructure. We want to share our experience in delivering the world’s most sustainable Games. UK firms have a major contribution to make on landmark infrastructure developments in Hong Kong such as the West Kowloon Cultural District, the redevelopment of Kai Tak and the continued expansion of the rail network.
Other important sectors in the trade relationship include education, financial services and retail and luxury goods. In November last year we welcomed our biggest ever trade mission of 50 companies to Hong Kong from the design, creative and fashion sectors. An even bigger mission food and drink mission is here next week.
UK business is also contributing to Hong Kong’s environmental and low carbon objectives, not least with the recent sale of 500 UK-manufactured low emission buses - which we hope will bring a breath of fresh air to the streets of Hong Kong. We welcome the HKSARG commitment to tackle environmental issues, in particular joint working with Guangdong. The UK has placed climate change at the centre of economic and energy policy. We look forward to sharing our world leading expertise in low carbon technology and green finance.
The UK remains Hong Kong’s preferred choice for inward investment in Europe, and we are determined to keep it that way.
In the last 12 months we have seen market-maker Cheung Kong and Hutchison continue to grow investments in the UK via a number of strategically important deals. The UK is open to investment from overseas: from Hong Kong, and also from mainland China – there are no barriers.
British PM David Cameron wants at least to double the investment from China each year and aims two-way trade to grow to USD150 billion by 2015. The UK Government is serious about retaining our standing as number one investment destination in Europe and a preferred destination for Chinese investors.
In the most recent Budget we have reduced Corporation Tax to 23% and the Chancellor will reduce the rate to 20% by April 2015, lowest in the G20. We seek investment into UK infrastructure, particularly in low carbon and broader energy generation, transmission networks, transport, digital communications, and waste and water treatment. These business opportunities are worth £330 billion to 2020.
Hong Kong has a unique role to play. So we welcome the Hong Kong administrations emphasis on Hong Kong as a connector, not simply a gateway, to the mainland. The expertise and talent here – you in fact – combined with a predictable business environment and the rule of law are Hong Kong’s unique selling point. This is why Hong Kong can and should be confident about its future.
The UK and Hong Kong of course have longstanding historical, social and cultural ties. Today our open, outward looking, service based economies also bind us. HK is a key partner on multilateral trade, open markets and resisting protectionism.
In the UK’s G8 presidency the British PM has made a WTO deal on trade facilitation a political priority. Hong Kong has been playing a key role to broker consensus in Geneva.
Nothing exemplifies better UK-Hong Kong cooperation than our partnership on developing the global Renminbi market. The Hong Kong-London RMB Forum joins the private sector and the authorities from our two great global financial centres.
Hong Kong has cemented its position as the leading offshore RMB centre, with the introduction of cross-border RMB lending and increased investment quotas. London is firmly establishing itself as the western hub for RMB business – the largest centre for RMB payments with Hong Kong and the mainland. The announcement that London will soon, like Hong Kong, have a swap line with Beijing in place will help underpin the growth of the market.
We are determined to promote this cooperation and ensure the British and indeed European firms understand the business benefits of using the RMB.
If the past 12 months have been productive, the coming year promises to be equally so.
We are supporting, with colleagues in the British Council, Hong Kong’s ambitions as a hub for culture, sports and the arts.
A word on the British Council: their office in Hong Kong is the biggest in the world - a reflection of Hong Kong and the UKs shared interests in arts, education and creative industries. British Council achievements this year include the release of the smartphone app Learn English Grammar, which quickly became the number one educational app in Hong Kong. The two Education UK exhibitions this year attracted 16,000 visitors. The Council is working with Hong Kong partners on social enterprise and innovation: inspired by the Chief Secretary’s articulation of her vision for Hong Kong.
You will also be hearing more about the GREAT campaign – the British government’s biggest marketing campaign ever. This evening we are showcasing some of the best food and drink from the UK. It marks the start of a month of GREAT Taste of Britain events.
Please sample the outstanding British fare we have here today.
The second GREAT Week of Creativity in Hong Kong is scheduled to take place towards the end of the year. We would welcome your involvement.
The highlight of this year’s summer calendar for many will be the arrival of a Royal baby. Whether he or she will be subject to a two can limit on baby formula remains to be seen.
And around the same time, Hong Kong will also give what I know will be an enthusiastic cheer to some more GREAT British sport in the form of the British and Irish Lions tour, the Barclays Asia trophy featuring Premiership sides Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland and a pre-season friendly by Manchester United.
Not only do we all hope for fair play on the pitch, but also in politics. The year ahead will be an important one in Hong Kong as government, politicians and the people at large consider the issue of progress to universal suffrage. As I am sure you all do, we sincerely wish for a smooth resolution of this vital issue, in the interests of Hong Kong. The right outcome will generate true democratic participation, engender a strong sense of ownership, and give the people a real stake in their destiny. Settling this important question will also increase confidence, including among the business community, in what lies ahead for “Asia’s World City”. And those chosen to govern will have a popular mandate to deliver effectively for Hong Kong.
So, there has been a lot to celebrate, and a lot to look forward to.
I would like to pay a particular tribute to my wonderful colleagues and hard working team at the Consulate-General, the British Council and partners in the British Chamber and other British organisations in Hong Kong.
Also of course a big thank you to our Hong Kong partners and friends here. I am very grateful to you all for your support and look forward to working closely with you over the coming months.
On that note, I ask you to join me in a toast, ‘to the people of the People’s Republic of China and of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’.