Consul General [Mr Antonello De Riu], Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- I am delighted to be here, celebrating the birth of the Italian
Republic with all of you this festive evening. On behalf of the
Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, may
I extend to you, Consul General, and the people of Italy, our
warmest congratulations on your National Day.
- We have a day’s head-start on your nation’s 2 June
celebrations. I am told these include a grand military parade in
Rome, culminating in one of the world’s most thrilling flyovers –
the pilots of the Italian Air Force orchestrating aerobatic
performance and painting a dazzling trail of green, white and red
smoke over the city.
- We may lack the parade and sky show, but in its own
inimitable way, the Italian community here in Hong Kong dazzles
on a daily basis with its vibrant presence in business and culture.
- I am pleased to say that the past year has been particularly
memorable for the friendship between Hong Kong and Italy.
- In December, Hong Kong’s annual Business of Design
Week (BODW) welcomed Italy as its Partner Country. Some 30
Italian companies participated, from acclaimed architects and designers to entrepreneurs shaping world-class businesses from
music to food. The Italian presence at BODW was significant
under the resonating theme of “Italy Makes a Difference.”
- The Italian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and
Macao certainly also makes a difference. Last year, the Chamber
marked its 20th anniversary here, coinciding Hong Kong's
celebration of our 20th anniversary as a Special Administrative
Region of China. The Chamber’s membership, of some 320
companies, plays a valued role in promoting business exchanges
with Hong Kong and expanding our bilateral ties.
- Those ties resulted in bilateral trade, last year, of US$9.4
billion. That makes Italy our fifth-largest trading partner in the
European Union. We are determined to build on our strong
economic relations. In that regard, our Trade Development
Council (TDC) continues to create opportunity.
- Later this month, a joint TDC and Guangdong Province
Department of Commerce business mission will visit Western
Europe, including Milan and Parma in Italy. These two cities have
strong commercial and industrial strengths, from manufacturing to
- Let me add that about US$5 billion in the total trade
between Italy and the Mainland last year was routed through Hong
Kong. It represented nearly 10 per cent of the total trade between
Italy and the Mainland in 2017.
- That, ladies and gentlemen, only underlines Hong Kong’s
central role as the springboard for business between the Mainland and the rest of the world. A role that cannot be replaced by others,
at least not in the near future.
- The Mainland is counting on Hong Kong's legal and
dispute resolution services, financial services, capital formation
advantages and other professional services, to help provide sound
legal protection and finance the big-ticket projects of its ambitious
Belt and Road Initiative.
- In pursuing the Initiative, Italy is no doubt one of the key
partners of China. With the elements of being a cradle of western
civilization and a birthplace of renaissance, Italy always has had a
significant impact on the developments in the west in the past
centuries. And I believe there are a number of similarities
between the Chinese and Italian cultures: The way we always have
family dinners, sharing the dishes on the table, the love of
traditional cultural opera (Italian and Chinese opera), and the way
we speak passionately.
- The Mainland will have a more thorough understanding of
Europe through Italy, and there will be abundant opportunities for
collaboration among the Mainland, Hong Kong and Italy in the
context of the Belt and Road Initiative. As the Consul General
mentioned earlier, I would very much encourage you to join the
Belt and Road Summit to be held by the Hong Kong Trade
Development Council on 28 June, so as to identify new
opportunities for your business in this visionary global project.
- Another visionary project is the Guangdong-Hong
Kong-Macau Bay Area. It is destined to become one of the
world’s most dynamic bay area creating boundless opportunities.
- The Bay Area, comprising nine Guangdong cities, plus
Hong Kong and Macau, adds up to so much promise, with a
combined population of 68 million and a collective GDP worth
US$1.5 trillion - a GDP comparable to that of Australia or Korea.
- Here in the Bay Area, Hong Kong is also confident of
making a difference by contributing in the field of, amongst others,
innovation and technology. It is why, as the Consul General
rightly pointed out, in the Financial Secretary's February budget
speech, he set aside HK$50 billion, this fiscal year, for innovation
and technology development. In our endeavor to develop Hong
Kong as a smart city, I am grateful for the Consulate General,
Italian Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and Macao, and other
relevant organisations in encouraging Italian entrepreneurs to grow
business by utilising Hong Kong's position as a financial and
- About HK$20 billion of that will kick-start the first phase
of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park.
Four times the size of Hong Kong Science Park, it will rise as
Asia’s Silicon Valley. We plan to make the Park’s developable
land available beginning in about three years.
- As a potential game changer for Hong Kong's innovation
and technology industry, President Xi Jinping has recently directed
a measure to allow universities and research institutions in Hong
Kong to apply for funds earmarked for pushing technology
innovation in the Mainland. This will definitely help us become
an international innovation hub.
- As for the smooth flow of people and goods within the Bay
Area, later this year, three state-of-the-art infrastructure projects are
slated to open: the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge; the Hong
Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail
Link; and the Liantang-Heung Yuen Wai new border point.
- The flow of people is important as understanding each
other's culture is a lubricant for communication. I have no doubt
that this year’s Bellissima Italia – your annual autumn festival of
culture and lifestyle, of food, wine and la dolce vita – will be
another rousing success in strengthening the people-to-people link
between Hong Kong and Italy.
- Speaking of enjoying life, I can see that a lot of
mouthwatering Italian great wine and delicious food has been
served for this joyful occasion. On this note, may I conclude by
wishing the people of Italy every prosperity and happiness in the
many years to come.
- May I now propose a toast “To the People of Italy”.