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Speech by SCMA at Hong Kong-Australia Business Association (National) Business Awards Gala Dinner

Following is the speech by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, at the Hong Kong-Australia Business Association (National) Business Awards Gala Dinner in Sydney, Australia this evening (September 23):

Good evening Mr Peter Sinn, Mr Mark Coure, the Honourable Ernest Wong, Deputy Consul-General Tong Xuejun, the Honourable Philip Ruddock, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to join you all here this evening for the Hong Kong-Australia Business Association (National) Business Awards Gala Dinner. First of all, I would like to thank Peter and his team for organising the Awards, and all the good work that you have been doing to promote the business ties between Australia and Hong Kong. I would also like to congratulate all the finalists and to thank all the judges, as it is not an easy task to select the final winners of the State-level Business Awards.

Last Thursday, we celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is also known as the Harvest Moon Festival, in Hong Kong. When I looked at the beautiful full moon, the image of Hugh Jackman in his wolverine costume naturally came to mind. In fact, the Australian Hollywood superstar did join us in celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival last year and took part in the traditional fire dragon dance - the first time an international star from Australia joined in this historic event. Early this year, we also welcomed another Australian Hollywood film star, Chris Hemsworth, to Hong Kong to kick off the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens.

I am delighted that the charm of our city does not just attract the Wolverine and Thor but also other Australian friends. Last year, some 574,000 visitors from Australia came to Hong Kong. Our very strong people-to-people links can also be illustrated by the fact that Hong Kong is home to the largest Australian expatriate community in Asia, with about 90,000 Australians living in the city. They, of course, include the lovely koalas, wallabies and kookaburras at our world-class Ocean Park. The Hong Kong-Macau region even has the second largest grouping of Australian voters outside Australia.

Reciprocally, close to 80,000 Hong Kong people live in Australia, and the largest Hong Kong community in Australia is in New South Wales. Australia is also one of the most popular destinations for Hong Kong students, and many of them study in Sydney.

Turning to our bilateral trade, Hong Kong is Australia's sixth largest source of investment and sixth largest trading partner in services. Around 550 Australian companies are based in Hong Kong, and a further 1,000 Australian companies have representative offices. The Australian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong represents the largest Australian business community outside Australia and is the second largest international chamber in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong people are also fans of Australian wine. Hong Kong is Australia's fifth largest wine export destination in terms of value, and also the biggest consumer of Australian wine on a per capita basis among the top 20 export markets. Apart from Australian wine, Hong Kong people can now enjoy Australian craft beer, as an Australian handcrafted beers brewery landed in Hong Kong just a couple of months ago.

Noting that Australians are putting an increasing focus on China with the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement coming into effect at end-2015, I would like to speak about the tremendous opportunities for Australian businesses emerging from the recent economic development of China.

To promote more balanced and sustainable development across the country in the long term, China drew up the outline of 13th Five-Year Plan for economic and social development earlier this year. The Plan outlines a new development model for China, one focusing more on quality than quantity. The objective is to develop China into a more service-oriented and innovation-driven economy with stronger focus on high value-added activities, and to build a "moderately prosperous society" by 2020.

In fact, China nowadays is more than just the world's factory. Through the "Made in China 2025" initiative, China will pursue an innovation-driven development strategy. The new initiative seeks to upgrade China's manufacturing sector, hoping to transform China's reputation as the world's largest manufacturer into the world's strongest manufacturer. It calls for more stringent standards, original and innovative designs, better protection for intellectual property, greener manufacturing processes, wider use of robotics and information technologies, and much greater emphasis on quality.

Another key national development strategy which is at the top of the Chinese leadership's agenda is the Belt and Road Initiative, that is the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. Inheriting the ancient Silk Road Spirit - "peace and co-operation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual understanding and prosperity", the Belt and Road Initiative seeks to promote infrastructure connectivity and policy co-ordination with countries along the Belt and Road, to create synergy from closer regional economic co-operation as well as to enhance people-to-people and cultural exchanges. Australia also signed to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank set up by China under the Belt and Road Initiative to help finance infrastructure development in the region in June this year.

It is evident that China's development offers massive opportunities to Australian companies and professionals. For example, the growth of the middle class will create a demand for high quality consumer products and personal services; the upgrading of the manufacturing sector will increase demand for high-end manufacturing equipment and producer services; the emphasis on green growth will be translated into more clean energy, advanced water and solid waste treatment solutions, as well as advanced agricultural technology and equipment to name but a few.

Now, you may ask: How can Hong Kong support Australian businesses to capitalise on these opportunities?

We are geographically, economically, culturally, ethnically and constitutionally connected to the Mainland. Hong Kong business people were China's first investors when it opened up in late 1970s. Today, Hong Kong is still the biggest source of FDI of every single province of China. We know the Chinese market better than anybody else. In Hong Kong, you can always find ready partners, knowledgeable professionals and valuable advisers to help expand your business into the Mainland.

Our international outlook and institutional strength make Hong Kong an ideal springboard for foreign companies to enter the Mainland market.

Under the "one country, two systems" principle, Hong Kong practises the capitalist system. We have a competitive and free economy. Our institutional strength is rock solid. Similar to Australia, our legal system is based on English common law. Judicial independence is guaranteed by the Basic Law. We even walk the second mile and invite highly respected judges of other common law jurisdictions, including judges from Australia to sit on our Court of Final Appeal.

We have a clean, transparent and accountable government and regulatory environment. We guarantee a level playing field for all companies, strongly protect intellectual property and have zero tolerance towards corruption. Foreign firms, like their local counterparts, can enjoy the same privileges under our bilateral trade agreements, which include CEPA, our unique free trade agreement with the Mainland. CEPA offers preferential treatment in accessing a wide array of service sectors across the country.

What's more, Hong Kong enjoys a simple and low-rate tax system. Our maximum salaries tax rate is only 15 per cent. We have no VAT, no GST, no capital gains tax, no dividend tax, no estate tax and not even tax on wine. That helps keep the compliance and enforcement costs low.

Our international outlook is also underpinned by our optimal mix of talents and cultures from East and West, the presence of international companies and institutions and our English speaking environment. We have a vibrant international school sector with about 50 international schools in Hong Kong offering more than 10 non-local curricula, including the Australian. The number of school places has been increasing in recent years. Over 70 overseas media organisations are based in Hong Kong, including Channel Seven from Australia.

Hong Kong's strength and competitiveness have been widely recognised by the international community. Hong Kong has been ranked the world's freest economy for 22 consecutive years by the Washington-based Heritage Foundation. In addition, the Canadian-based Fraser Institute once again ranked Hong Kong the world's freest economy in its 2016 annual report on world economic freedom announced last week. Same as Sydney, Hong Kong is one of the 20 safest major cities in the world, according to the Economist's Safe Index 2015. Hong Kong is also one of the most liveable cities in Asia, with a continual improvement of air quality.

All these factors combined have served Hong Kong well and make Hong Kong the right place to explore the outsized potential of China's development.

In fact, I am pleased to see that collaboration between Australia and Hong Kong to tap the development opportunities of the region is underway. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority signed a Memorandum of Understanding in July with the Global Infrastructure Hub established by the Australian Government to facilitate the financing of infrastructure projects. I am sure closer bilateral co-operation on all fronts will continue to come.

Last but not least, I would like to conclude my speech with the wisdom of Mencius, the Chinese Confucius philosopher, also called Mengzi, 孟子, in Chinese. Mencius once said to the Emperor, "It is more pleasurable to enjoy music with the company of many others than by oneself", or in Chinese, 獨樂樂不如眾樂樂, which means one's pleasure is doubled when sharing with others. Ladies and gentlemen, let us join hands to grasp the opportunities brought by the Belt and Road Initiatives and other developments of China.

Thank you very much.

23.09.2016


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