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Financial Secretary


My visit to France and the UK

Over the past week, I visited France and the UK respectively. This was my first visit to Europe since 2019. The focus of this trip was to actively introduce Hong Kong's latest developments and advantages to the industrial, commercial and professional sectors in the two countries, as well as exchange views on topics of their concern. I also visited life and health technology companies and green technology enterprises, as well as cultural and creative institutions, briefing them on the new opportunities offered by Hong Kong and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (GBA), and exploring possibilities on deepened collaboration.

During the exchanges with enterprises, I learnt that they were keen on developing business in Hong Kong. Some of them have been in touch with the Office for Attracting Strategic Enterprises on landing in Hong Kong, so as to use Hong Kong a base for expanding into markets in the GBA, the Mainland and even the rest of Asia. Eyeing the economies of scale and growth potential offered by the Mainland and Asian markets, they consider Hong Kong a familiar, trusted and preferred location for their business because of our edges, including the practice of common law, excellent reputation of the rule of law, business-friendly environment, simple and low tax regime, and regulation that aligns with the international standards and is suitably enforced.

Visiting AstraZeneca, a global biopharmaceutical company, during my trip to London, and in a photo with Mr Shaun Grady, member of the company's senior management.
Visiting an enterprise engaging in water resources management and waste recycling technologies in Paris.

It can be said that Hong Kong's role as a gateway and springboard is very clear. I encouraged the enterprises in both countries to expedite and expand their development in Hong Kong.

During this trip, I took the time to visit a number of green technology enterprises and encouraged them to settle in Hong Kong. By doing so, we will enrich our green technology industry composition and speed up our development into an international centre for green technology and green finance.

I also visited some collaboration projects between Hong Kong and local organisations, including the MTR Elizabeth line, which was commissioned in the UK last year. The line was operated and managed by the subsidiary of the MTR Corporation, and was named Passenger Operator of the Year 2023 in the UK's National Rail Awards in recognition of its timely, safe and efficient services. The services have won high satisfaction with local passengers.

Visiting the MTR Elizabeth line during my trip to London. The line, commissioned last year, is operated and managed by a subsidiary of the MTR.

Apart from such areas as finance, commerce, investment, trading and professional services, exchanges between Hong Kong and the two countries in arts and culture, as well as academic fields have continued to develop steadily.

For instance, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University has started collaborating with the Royal College of Art of the UK since 2021 to jointly establish a research facility to explore how artificial intelligence can empower fashion, product and interior designs. Maison et Objet (M&O), the largest design exhibitor in Europe which I visited in Paris, is also collaborating with Hong Kong's design industry on various fronts, which include setting up a Hong Kong Pavilion in M&O's 30th anniversary celebration event to be held in Paris next January. Moreover, the exhibitor is planning to stage some thematic design activities in Hong Kong at the end of next year. These collaborations are testimony to Hong Kong's top-notch professional services and soft power in culture. They represent our in-depth and diversified exchanges with the countries.

Visiting Maison et Objet during my trip in Paris, and encouraging them to stage thematic design activities in Hong Kong.

As in previous visits to overseas, I took the opportunity to meet with Hong Kong young people living, working and studying in the UK and France. This time, I met in London with a group of students from Hong Kong studying in the UK under the Hong Kong Scholarship for Excellence Scheme, as well as a number of Hong Kong young people engaging in the music and cultural industries in Paris, to learn about their lives there and brief them on the latest situation of Hong Kong. All these young people are energetic, full of ideas and passion about their future. They are indeed ambassadors for us to establish deeper cultural connections with the rest of the world, key to laying foundation for sustaining long-lasting friendships.

Meeting in London with a group of students from Hong Kong studying in the UK under the Hong Kong Scholarship for Excellence Scheme.

During this trip, I had plenty of opportunities to meet and exchange with representatives from the industrial, commercial and professional sectors. From small-scale closed-door roundtables to large-scale gatherings attended by hundreds of trade leaders, I took the opportunity to highlight Hong Kong's future development directions and positioning, in particular our new strengths and opportunities in the areas of financial services and innovation and technology. Financial and business leaders of the two countries generally recognised the enormous business opportunities that Hong Kong could offer. Their confidence in Hong Kong is underpinned by the institutional arrangement of "one country, two systems" principle , particularly our maintenance of the common law and the rule of law. At present, there are about 650 British and 360 French enterprises respectively in Hong Kong. The stock of inward direct investments from these two countries exceeded US$200 billion in 2021.

Attending the "Think Business, Think Hong Kong" Symposium organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council during my visit to Paris.
Attending the Hong Kong-France Business Council Meeting in Paris. During the meeting, both sides explored ways to further deepen our economic and trade ties.

Looking ahead, the commercial and industrial sectors in the two countries believe that there is still ample room for them to strengthen collaboration with Hong Kong, explore opportunities together and join forces in tapping into the Mainland and Asian markets. In particular, in the fields of finance, innovation and technology, green technology, green finance (including standards and certification), as well as arts, culture and the creative industries.

This trip indeed provided the opportunities for us to have in-person exchanges and dialogues with local businesses, enterprises, arts and cultural organisations, and academic institutions. We were able to establish, or re-establish, in-depth connections and warm relationships with old and new friends. People-to-people contact and face-to-face exchanges are important. They allow direct, in-depth and more comprehensive communication through raising questions and concerns, and the presentation of objective facts and figures in response. In this process, we could know and understand each other better, establish mutual respect and create the conditions for deepening collaboration in the future. Today, I will continue my visit to Germany, and I look forward to meeting more friends from the business sector there, with a view to building more friendships and better presenting the new opportunities in Hong Kong.

September 24, 2023

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