Professor K C Chan,
Secretary for Financial Services and the Treasury of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Excellencies and Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- I am delighted to join you at the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office’s (HKETO) Gala Dinner tonight to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR). Let me start by conveying my heartiest congratulations to Hong Kong on reaching this significant milestone.
- 2017 is an important year for Hong Kong, not just because of the upcoming 20th anniversary of the establishment of the HKSAR, but also because of the leadership transition from incumbent Chief Executive Mr C Y Leung to CE-elect Mrs Carrie Lam. Ahead of these events, I would like to convey my warm appreciation for CE Leung’s efforts in promoting greater cooperation between Hong Kong and Singapore. Under his Administration, bilateral relations have flourished, and government officials from both sides have stepped up cooperation across many fronts. I am confident that, under the leadership of Mrs Lam, we will continue to deepen our engagements and take bilateral ties to an even higher level.
- Singapore and Hong Kong, as all of you know, share many things in common. Our two cities were former trading outposts of the British empire. Because of this legacy, both our cities adopt the common law system and use the English language at work and in schools. Both our cities lack natural resources. But we have never allowed this to hinder our progress. On the contrary, through the hard work, enterprise and ingenuity of our people, we have succeeded as business hubs for Asia.
- Both Singapore and Hong Kong are ranked consistently at the top of world competitive tables. We compete with each other for a number of business and financial services. This is healthy competition. It spurs each one of us to strive to be better and to offer more value to companies and investors. But the competition is not a zero sum game.
- Asia is the fastest growing region in the world. The market is big enough for both our economies to thrive. There are also many new opportunities for cooperation and synergies between us.
- One good example is in infrastructure. We all know that the needs for infrastructure in Asia is huge. Emerging Asia is expected to need US$26 trillion of investment between now and 2030 to develop a whole range of infrastructures, ranging from power, utilities, telecommunications and transportation. This is why China has also proposed the Belt and Road initiative to accelerate infrastructure development in the region. So both our cities, Singapore and Hong Kong, have a unique opportunity to work together, and help develop new financing solutions that will meet the significant financing needs of the region. As members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the ADB, we both can also use these platforms to exchange views, and to mobilise more private sector funds towards infrastructural assets in the region.
- There is also greater scope for collaboration through ASEAN, as Secretary Chan mentioned just now. The ASEAN Economic Community is a growing market with a population of more than 600 million people. ASEAN and Hong Kong are already important trading partners, and ASEAN was Hong Kong’s second largest trading partner, after Mainland China. So a Free Trade Agreement between Hong Kong and ASEAN will help to bring our economies closer together, boost trade and investments, and generate new opportunities for businesses. As the Secretary mentioned, we have made good progress in our negotiation. It has been three years since we started. So I joined in and echo his views in wishing the negotiations can be completed, and we can conclude the FTA by the end of this year. I hope we are not putting too much pressure on the negotiators, but I believe we should be able to make an expeditious completion of the FTA before too long.
- Singapore is happy to play our part to strengthen these ties between HK and ASEAN. The HKETO in Singapore in fact plays a key role in fostering economic ties and cultural exchanges between Hong Kong and ASEAN. The office helps companies from ASEAN countries to better appreciate the opportunities in Hong Kong, and supports them as they venture into Hong Kong and the larger China market. At the same time, it provides support for Hong Kong and Chinese companies seeking to expand into Southeast Asia.
- One excellent initiative is an internship scheme for students from Hong Kong to intern at organisations in ASEAN. We have hosted many of these students in Singapore. They have worked for a wide range of companies and institutions, including Fullerton Hotel, Park Hotel, NUS and NTU. We welcome many more people-to-people exchanges because we believe these sort of people to people links will lay the foundation for stronger cooperation between Hong Kong and Singapore, and the rest of ASEAN.
- In conclusion, Singapore and Hong Kong share a unique and long-standing friendship. In this global age of unpredictability, uncertainty and constant technology disruptions, our cities will face many more new changes ahead. Our circumstances are different, and we will naturally work our own responses to these challenges as we have always done. But no matter how the future unfolds, I am confident that the links between our two cities will continue to strengthen, not weaken. As the two major hubs of Asia, we can enlarge the possibilities for connectivity and benefit businesses and people all over the region.
- On that note, I congratulate the HKSAR once again on your 20th anniversary, and I wish you even greater success in the coming years.
- Thank you very much.