France a treasured HK partner

July 13, 2018

Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung

France is Hong Kong's third largest merchandise trade partner within the European Union. Last year, our bilateral merchandise trade totalled nearly $87 billion, or an increase of nearly 14% over 2016.


Turning to investment, French inward direct investment into Hong Kong stood at $77 billion at the end of 2016. French companies in Hong Kong flourish and thrive. Eight-hundred French companies count Hong Kong as home and about 170 of them choose Hong Kong as their regional headquarters or offices.


The close and lasting bond between Hong Kong and France explains why our Chief Executive Carrie Lam spent a highly productive but hectic week in France just last month. Her schedule took her to Bordeaux, one of the world's most renowned wine-and-dine cities, to witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Hong Kong Tourism Board and their counterparts of the Bordeaux Metropole. The agreement will no doubt boost bilateral co-operation in wine and food tourism and at the same time expand wine education and manpower training between the two places. I must hasten to add that our wine imports from France exceeded $7 billion in 2017 or a nearly 700% increase over the past decade. What is more exciting is that France captured a nearly 60% share of our total wine imports last year.


During her visit in France, the Chief Executive visited the headquarters of Airbus Helicopters outside Marseille to accept three brand-new H-175 helicopters on behalf of our Government Flying Service. We are expecting another four new helicopters to be delivered by the end of this year. These new helicopters are indeed a testimony of the successful East-West co-operation since our motherland contributed to the airframe manufacturing even though the production was mainly undertaken by Airbus Helicopters.


Flying down to Paris, the Chief Executive witnessed the signing of a co-operation agreement between the Hong Kong Science & Technology Park, the University of Hong Kong and Institut Pasteur. We have enjoyed a long and rewarding collaboration with Institut Pasteur, including the HKU-Pasteur Research Pole which specialises in the study of infectious diseases. We are hopeful that the Institut will expand its R&D in Hong Kong, in areas ranging from healthcare technology to artificial intelligence and robotics.


In parallel, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has set aside funds for two major research clusters: one focused on healthcare technology and the other on AI and robotics. We will continue to promote innovation and technology development in Hong Kong, with a view to attracting world-class scientific research institutions and technology companies to Asia's world city.


The Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area in which Hong Kong will play a key role is destined to rise as Asia's Silicon Valley. The city cluster, covering Hong Kong, Macau and nine prosperous Guangdong cities, will leverage on the unique strengths and advantages of each partner city, and boasts a GDP of US$1.5 trillion and a population of 68 million spread over 56,000 square kilometres. Hong Kong and Shenzhen are already working on an outsized technology park at full steam. Located close to the boundary with Shenzhen, the 87-hectare park will open in phases, beginning in 2022. Once it is up and running, it is expected to inject more than US$7 billion a year into Hong Kong's economy. Beyond technology, the bay area will count on Hong Kong's financial services capacity to power business opportunities.


Our motherland's far-reaching Belt & Road Initiative will create enormous opportunities for our next generation. As a leading international financial and services hub, Hong Kong has the talent, the experience and the connections to bring multinational partners together and ensure both project financing and implementation. French expertise is most welcome to partner with Hong Kong to seize the vast opportunities that the bay area and the Belt & Road Initiative will offer us.


I can reassure our friends from France they will certainly feel very much at home in Hong Kong. Our French community amounts to 25,000 French nationals, forming a unique "mini-France" in our city landscape. They may initially be attracted by the business opportunities, but they stay for the lifestyle and the confidence they have in Hong Kong. There is good reason for both.


Based on 148,000 interviews with adults in 142 countries and areas, Gallup's 2018 Global Law & Order Report ranked Hong Kong third in the world as the city "most likely to feel safe in". When it comes to lifestyle, Hong Kong is blessed with Le French May, one of the largest annual events on Asia's cultural calendar, and Le French GourMay, a food and wine festival perfectly attuned to the cosmopolitan hearts and appetites of Asia's world city.


Chief Secretary Matthew Cheung made these remarks at the French National Day 2018 reception on July 13.

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