International trade is good for business. By making business more productive and competitive we raise living standards. There is good evidence that companies which export pay more, invest more in training and are more aware of health and safety issues than those companies who choose not to trade overseas. And this applies whatever the size of company. So although I know there are many who have misgivings about the effect of trade on those who work in a number of industries, the hard evidence is that trade is good for workers too.
Our strong business links underpin our whole relationship with Hong Kong and I am confident that they will strengthen and grow over the coming years. Hong Kong continues to occupy a pivotal place for us as a major trading partner in its own right.
I think it worth spelling out just how extensive those links are. Two-way trade flows are now running at nearly ￡9 billion per year. Hong Kong is our thirteenth largest export market for goods with a quarter of our exports to the Chinese mainland going through Hong Kong. Hong Kong is also a huge market for us for services, as many of the companies represented here tonight will testify.
It is also worth remembering that Hong Kong is the UK's second largest market in the Asia Pacific, The UK is one of the largest external investors in Hong Kong and we account for 80 per cent of Hong Kong’s investment in Europe. And what diverse investment it is! It ranges from the textiles and clothing sector to ICT to bottled water to ports. The British Governments inward investment promotion body, Invest, UK, is working hard and successfully to attract Hong Kong investors and to give I comprehensive after-care to those who have chosen to invest in the UK.