HK an East-West gateway

I am pleased to welcome you to the 12th Asian Logistics, Maritime & Aviation Conference, the largest annual event of its kind in Asia, this year featuring some 90 high-profile speakers from all over the world.


That demands logistics of a superlative order, especially given that this year’s two-day conference is taking place both here at the Convention & Exhibition Centre and online. And, just to stir the logistics pot, satellite events are being held in 10 cities: Chengdu, Chongqing, Fuzhou, Wuhan, Taipei, Hamburg and, new this year, Budapest, Edinburgh, Paris and Warsaw.


I am told that at least 14,000 of you, online and offline, will take part in this year’s conference.


You are service providers, managing such businesses as air freight, maritime, supply chains and logistics. You are also service users: shippers, brands, e-commerce players and more. And you are professionals with logistics expertise in such areas as finance, law, technology, regulation and academia.


Welcome one and all, whatever your logistics background and interests, and from wherever you are enjoying this conference.


We are here, all of us, because we believe in the power, and the future, of logistics. You are here for networking, insight and intelligence to better chart that future in the face of today’s daunting challenges.


The global economic outlook is worsening and full of uncertainties. The lingering COVID-19 pandemic, geopolitical tensions, trade disputes, supply chain disruption, high inflation, tightening monetary policies, as well as energy and food prices. All these are severely testing economies and companies. Not to mention the governments charged with managing their lagging economies.


The Hong Kong economy has not been spared. Our economic growth this year has been blunted by the pandemic and the faltering global economy. But our fundamentals remain strong, our financial system sure. And I take heart in the words of Franklin Roosevelt, and I quote, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor”.


And Hong Kong itself is a testimony of resilience. Over the past 25 years since Hong Kong’s return to the motherland, we weathered the Asian financial crisis in 1998, the burst of the IT bubble in 2000, the SARS epidemic in 2003, the global financial tsunami in 2008, and more recently, the black-clad violence in 2019.


And looking into the future, there is clear and compelling direction in the National 14th Five-Year Plan and the development plan of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Together, they reaffirm Hong Kong’s future as both an international shipping centre and a premier international aviation hub.


To achieve these goals, Hong Kong will continue to integrate into our country’s overall economic development. We will fully embrace the boundless opportunities they present us, in logistics – and in a great deal more.


There is strategic direction, too, in this year’s theme: “The Future of the Sustainable Supply Chain: Connectivity. Collaboration. Innovation”. It hammers home what we need to realise the future we want.


Hong Kong believes in connectivity, collaboration and innovation. We believe, too, in competitiveness. For the next few minutes, please allow me to explain how they fit into our logistics future.


Thanks to our world-class infrastructure, Hong Kong has long been recognised for its connectivity and efficiency. Before the pandemic, our aviation network was tied to more than 200 destinations worldwide, including 50 on the Mainland.


From Hong Kong, major Asian cities are within four hours’ flight time.


Hong Kong International Airport has been the world’s busiest international cargo airport for 11 years. And that includes the challenging year of 2021.


Our airport’s Three-runway System is scheduled for completion in 2024. It will significantly enlarge our passenger and cargo-handling capacity and thereby enhance our competitiveness. And that can only boost Hong Kong’s status as an international aviation hub.


Airport Authority Hong Kong is also expanding our airport’s intermodal transport network to enhance connectivity between the airport and the cities in the bay area and beyond.


Hong Kong is equally seaworthy. With over 150 years of maritime heritage, international connectivity and multi-faceted excellence, Hong Kong Port remains one of the top 10 container ports in the world. It is also a major regional transhipment hub, handling nearly 18 million 20-foot equivalent units of containers last year.


The port manages about 270 international container vessel sailings a week, connecting to nearly 600 destinations. Rest assured, we will continue to enhance intermodal transhipment, realising our advantages in air and sea connectivity.


To further strengthen our maritime centre competitiveness, we have also rolled out tax concessions for maritime enterprises.


I wish to invite overseas companies to capitalise on Hong Kong’s connectivity with the Mainland, to tap into enormous business opportunities offered by this world’s second-largest economy. In particular, the bay area is full of potential – it comprises Hong Kong, Macau, and nine major cities in Guangdong Province. With a population of 86 million and a per capita GDP of about US$22,000, it is a huge consumer market with far-reaching investment opportunities to tap.


We make it easy for you and your business. Hong Kong is both a global city and a longstanding believer in free market and multilateralism.


That means reducing trade barriers, ensuring the free flow of goods and services, people and capital.


Our longstanding institutional strengths include a premier geographical location, business-friendly environment, low and simple tax regime, the rule of law and an independent judiciary, as well as world-class infrastructure. And these advantages all flow smoothly under our singular “one country, two systems” principle.


It is why Hong Kong is, and will always be, the ideal business gateway between the Mainland and the rest of the world.


Last month, the Chief Executive delivered his maiden Policy Address, outlining his governing beliefs and a multitude of policy measures. Central to this Policy Address are a variety of initiatives designed to create a more attractive and enabling business environment for companies, and talent, looking to seize the opportunities in and from Hong Kong.


The Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises will be established by the end of this year. It will make it as easy as possible for foreign and Mainland companies to set up in Hong Kong.


In addition, a Co-Investment Fund in the order of about US$4 billion will be created to invest in these companies that look to Hong Kong for their future.


At the same time, the Government has announced much more aggressive talent admission schemes to attract talent from all over the world to sustain our economic growth.


Besides attracting business and talent, we are also eager to create new connections and strengthen existing ones. To date, Hong Kong has signed eight free trade agreements with 20 economies. The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement and the related investment agreement effective since February last year will boost the high levels of trade and investment that we already enjoy with ASEAN countries.


Meanwhile, we are now seeking early accession to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, the world’s largest free trade agreement. All 10 members of the ASEAN are RCEP members, and they have indicated that they welcomed our early accession to RCEP.


And we in the Government are proactively reaching out to strengthen our ties with our trade partners. The Chief Executive attended the annual APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Bangkok, taking the opportunity to meet political and business leaders, tell the good stories of Hong Kong and promote the boundless opportunities we offer. So did I in my recent visits to the Middle East and Indonesia. Indeed, we all felt the strong interest by our counterparts in using Hong Kong as a bridge to invest in the Mainland, as well as a premier financial and high-value-added services platform to support their burgeoning infrastructure development and commercial needs.


Technology and innovation are no less critical to our economic future. The pandemic of the past three years has certainly taught us that. And it holds true for every sector of our economy, logistics included. Innovative solutions, after all, are essential if we are to overcome global supply-chain disruptions.


The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government is working to incorporate big data, artificial intelligence, robotics and other smart solutions to our airport, port and logistics sector, and the professionals who power it.


With the removal of our inbound compulsory quarantine requirements, Hong Kong is once again welcoming a world of business, people and professionals, investors and entrepreneurs. We are back in business.


I invite you to join us, to see for yourself what the future looks like from Hong Kong.


Financial Secretary Paul Chan gave this speech at the Asian Logistics, Maritime & Aviation Conference on November 22.