Chief Secretary for Administration Henry Tang Speaks at the Opening Ceremony of
Secretary Idrac, Ms. Hriard Dubreuil, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed my great pleasure to join you for the opening ceremony of this year's Vinexpo.
First of all, may I extend a very warm welcome to all of you, who have come from overseas. I have many, many friends who have joined this exhibition. And I wish you a very warm welcome and a very warm visit to Hong Kong.
I am delighted that Hong Kong has been chosen to host the Vinexpo Asia-Pacific for a third time. This year's event promises to be the biggest and best so far. And I believe that Ms. Dubreuil has given you numbers that are most impressive for a third time event.
But I'd like to emphasize that your presence here today is a huge vote of confidence for Hong Kong in hosting this important event, and strengthens our commitment to become a centre for trading in wine in Asia.
Our commitment was reflected earlier this year in our decision to reduce duties on wine down to zero. That makes Hong Kong the only duty-free wine port among major economies. As you can imagine it was a pretty popular decision, but the decision was based on more than just benefiting the consumer, so that wines you can drink are now cheaper.
The decision was made because we wish to seize an opportunity or create an opportunity to develop Hong Kong into a regional hub for wine-related business activities. That includes events such as Vinexpo like this, as well as other wine-related economic activities - auctions, storage and distribution of fine wine, tourism, brand promotion, wine appreciation, and also, especially for some who are not so aware of this. Actually wine education is a big business.
Zero duties on wine will help to create jobs for Hong Kong as we strive to meet a growing demand for wine in Asia, and in particular-China.
With duties removed, the related administrative arrangements will also be gone very soon. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I hope, by tomorrow actually, because the Legislative Council will go through the process of ratifying the zero duty tomorrow, as well as the simplification of the procedures.
Currently, the Asian market represents only a few percentage points of global consumption. But judging from Asian interest in wine, I believe that there is huge potential for growth. Take the Mainland of China for example, a strong economy, growing affluence and lifestyle changes offer tremendous prospects for the wine industry.
And the trade expects mainland of Chinawine imports to increase to as much as US$870 million by 2017, or 58 percent of the whole Asian market, excluding Japan. I have a feeling they are wrong. Based on Ms. Dubreuil's figures and what my feeling is, I think the growth will be even bigger than that.
The market response to zero duties in Hong Kong has been very positive, very encouraging. Within two months, our wine imports increased by over 120 percent compared with the same period last year. And value has increased by more than 200 percent. Renowned companies are planning to expand their wine business in Hong Kong, and two auction houses have already held, well,, one has already held their first auction and the other one will be holding it on Saturday. And more are being lined up.
Earlier this month I was fortunate to be able to visit France. I am pleased to say that the French government has responded positively to a proposal to conclude a bilateral arrangement related to the wine industry. Under this arrangement, France would share with us their experience in promoting wine-related trade and tourism, as well as providing training on wine-tasting.
I also hope that the considerable experience and expertise of the many companies that are present today will help us establish internationally recognised standards in Hong Kong for the handling of fine wine as an investment asset.
Ladies and gentlemen, I hope I have given you a taste of the new opportunities for the wine industry in Hong Kong and in Asia.
We already have the world-class infrastructure, logistics, financial and telecommunication systems required and, more importantly, very discerning palate and ample appetite to become a wine trading and distribution centre in Asia.
We count on your knowledge, we count on your support in lifting the wine industry to new heights in Asia.
It just remains for me to wish Vinexpo every success. I look forward to the opportunity to welcome you back here frequently. And trust me, you will find your presence here worthwhile. So I wish you good business and every success.
Thank you very much.