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SDEV's speech at networking luncheon in Cambodia organised by HKTDC and HK Business Association of Cambodia (English only)

Following is the speech by the Secretary for Development, Mr Eric Ma, at a networking luncheon with local industries organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) and the Hong Kong Business Association of Cambodia (HKBAC) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, today (February 27, Phnom Penh time):

Dear Mr Liang (Assistant Executive Director of HKTDC, Mr Stephen Liang), Mr Kimson (Vice-Chairman of HKBAC, Mr Tom Kimson), and His Excellency Dr Sok Siphana (Advisor to the Royal Government of Cambodia), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon. It is a great pleasure to be here to meet friends from Cambodia and Hong Kong. I'm delighted to share with you the vision of this trade mission in fostering a closer relationship between Cambodia and Hong Kong.

I was amazed by Cambodia's rich culture and fascinating history after visiting the heritage sites in Phnom Penh yesterday afternoon. I was also impressed by the modernised and energetic Cambodia when I found myself surrounded by the high-rise buildings. Nowadays, visitors come to Cambodia not only for Angkor Wat, the famous wonder of the world, but also for Cambodia's rapid development, emerging economy and business opportunities.

Hong Kong's unique business strengths - professionalism, system and connectivity

I believe my fellow members of the Hong Kong delegation also share the same view of Cambodia. May I take this opportunity to introduce them to you. Our delegation members are outstanding leaders in their professional fields (by alphabetical order), namely, accounting, architecture, construction, corporate services, engineering, landscape architecture, legal, property investment and real estate. They possess internationally recognised professional qualifications, extensive experience in serving overseas clients and capability in managing large-scale projects.
 
They (the delegation members) are, in particular, good at communications and overcoming adversities. Through this trade mission, we would like to have more in-depth exchanges with friends in Cambodia in urban planning, infrastructure development and related professional services. As you may know, Hong Kong is a metropolitan city with a total land area of only 1,106 square kilometres and a population of over 7.3 million, of different nationalities. It is one of the world's most densely populated cities. Shortage of land is always a challenge in development. Nevertheless, it also brings about opportunities for our professionals to think innovatively. Notwithstanding the limitation in natural resources, tremendous achievements have been made by Hong Kong because of the people's talents, professionalism and "can do" spirit. The professional services sector is a cornerstone of our growing economy.

The unique "one country, two systems" arrangement gives Hong Kong advantages no other economy can hope to match. In terms of "one country", Hong Kong has preferential access to the market in the Mainland of China and enjoys support from the Central Government. For "two systems", Hong Kong maintains the common law system underpinned by an independent judiciary, a capitalist system featuring a low tax rate, and an open market allowing the free flow of goods, services, capital and business travellers. We, therefore, are familiar with the systems, languages, culture and business practices of both the Mainland of China and Western countries. There is nothing like doing business in Hong Kong and with Hong Kong.
 
Hong Kong's role as a pathfinder and "super-connector" for international business partners interested in the Mainland Chinese market could help Cambodian companies to seize the opportunity. There are indeed mutual benefits for Cambodia and Hong Kong to further enhance our business ties on various fronts.

Cambodia and Hong Kong
 
The economic interactions between Cambodia and Hong Kong have been increasing. In the first three months of 2016, Hong Kong's total exports to Cambodia were around US$218 million. In the same period, Hong Kong’s imports from Cambodia were around US$68 million, which was an increase of about 37 per cent year-on-year. There is trade between Cambodia and Hong Kong in apparel of textile fabrics, telecom equipment, tourism and services.
 
Cambodia has introduced policies to attract overseas investment, such as the scheme of Qualified Investment Project and the establishment of special economic zones. Cambodia's economy has been growing rapidly. We can see the rising demand for transportation and infrastructure development in Cambodia.
 
Cambodia is a member country of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). At present, Hong Kong is actively negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with ASEAN. Significant progress has been made. The FTA covers trade in goods and related issues, trade in services, investment, economic and technical co-operation, and dispute settlement. It is indeed a good time for us to come here to share our experience and expertise with our friends in Cambodia. I am optimistic that new business opportunities would be generated for further economic growth on both sides.
 
How can Hong Kong contribute to Cambodia's internal and external connectivity?
 
To support the rapid development of Cambodia, building infrastructure to facilitate its internal and external connectivity is essential. On a national scale, infrastructure projects such as highways, railways, airports, utilities and communication facilities will undoubtedly enhance the flow of people, goods, services, capital and information. On an international level, China and Cambodia established a comprehensive strategic co-operative partnership in 2010. National development is high on both countries' agendas. With mutual respect, both parties agreed to have deeper and wider co-operation under the Belt and Road Initiative.

Hong Kong's infrastructure and success stories
 
Hong Kong stands ready to make substantial contributions to Cambodia's nation-wide infrastructure development. As mentioned above, our professionals are renowned for creative thinking and overcoming adversities in infrastructure construction and real estate development.
 
We have successfully designed and implemented the "Rail-plus-Property" model in our urban development and financing. Adopting this model, Hong Kong's MTR Corporation Limited has been able to build a world-class mass transit system without the need for substantial direct injection of government funding. Instead, the Government has received significant land premiums from sites along the railway. Over the past three decades, out of the 91 MTR stations constructed, 48 MTR stations adopted the "Rail-plus-Property" model, providing more than 100,000 residential units and over 2 million square metres of commercial space. We are pleased to see that this development model has been successfully introduced in some cities in the Mainland of China and we hope to introduce it to other countries including Cambodia.

We are also experienced in construction and management of cross-border infrastructures. Allow me to just name four mega projects here. First, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge project. It is a large sea crossing linking Hong Kong, Zhuhai and Macao. The project will boost the trade, commerce and tourism between Hong Kong, the west coast of the Pearl River Delta, Guangxi Province and possibly Vietnam. The second cross-border project going full steam ahead is the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link project - a 26-kilometre high-speed rail link with Guangzhou.  Thirdly, a new cross-boundary highway called the Liantang/Heung Yuen Wai link. In addition, the construction of the third runway at Hong Kong International Airport has just begun. The total value of these projects is about US$43 billion.

At the moment, Hong Kong's construction industry is experiencing a peak with several mega projects. Last year, the total value of our various construction works was about US$30 billion. Throughout these years, our professionals and contractors have accumulated a wealth of experience, expertise and management know-how in taking forward projects of different scales.

Hong Kong's role as "super-connector" under China's Belt and Road Initiative
 
Currently, China is one of the biggest foreign investors in Cambodia, with projects mainly in the sectors of garment and other manufacturing, banking and finance, agriculture, tourism, energy, mining, real estate, transport and telecom. Based on statistics from China’s Ministry of Commerce, China's cumulative Foreign Direct Investment in Cambodia nearly tripled from US$1.1 billion in 2010 to US$3.2 billion in 2014. China has been for three consecutive years Cambodia's largest trading partner and largest source of investment. In 2015, the China-Cambodia bilateral trade volume exceeded US$4.4 billion, and bilateral investment is maintaining a strong growth momentum.

Cambodia is one of the major economies along China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. Together with the Silk Road Economic Belt – known as the Belt and Road - they cover the major economic corridors of Southeast Asia, South Asia, Middle East, Central Asia, Eurasia and Europe. Under the Belt and Road Initiative, we foresee closer co-operation between Cambodia and China. Hong Kong, as the "super-connector" between the Mainland of China and other countries, can certainly facilitate further exchanges between Cambodia's Khmer culture and China's Confucian culture, which can be traced back centuries ago in the history of human civilisation.

Thank you.
 
Ends/Monday, February 27, 2017
Issued at HKT 16:13

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