Speech by SDEV at networking luncheon with the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (English only)

Following is the speech by the Secretary for Development, Mr Paul Chan, at the networking luncheon with the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) in Yangon today (October 5):

Vice-President, U Zaw Min Win, friends from Myanmar and Hong Kong, ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon. It is my great honour to have this opportunity to address you on behalf of the Hong Kong delegation to Myanmar.  May I first express my deep gratitude for your hospitality during our visit to this wonderful city of Yangon.

Myanmar, China and Hong Kong

To most Hong Kongers, Myanmar is known for the Buddhist temples amidst your beautiful mountainscape, the solemnity and tranquility, and the superb jadeite that you produce and export.  To the people of Myanmar, perhaps Hong Kong is a vibrant business city and also a small place offering awesome shopping and gourmet food.  We have been proudly regarded as the "Pearl of the Orient".  

Myanmar and Hong Kong do, however, share a lot in common: Our geographic locations at the seafront offer us strategic advantages as transport and trade hubs.  And we both are familiar with Eastern and Western cultures.  We have the "best of both worlds".

And speaking of "the best of both worlds", perhaps Hong Kong has one further advantage.  Since the return of sovereignty to China in 1997, Hong Kong has held an advantage that is unique in the world - the "one country, two systems" policy. While enjoying preferential access to the Mainland market and support and protection from the Central Government, we are able to keep our common law system, the capitalist system, and a high degree of freedom and autonomy in our daily lives, travel and business. Hong Kong companies and professionals have established solid footholds on the Mainland and built up excellent contacts and relationships with our counterparts there.  We know the systems, languages, cultures and business practices of both the Western developed countries and the Mainland.  We have benefited tremendously from the Mainland's opening up and economic reform since 1978 and at the same time have also contributed tremendously in this process. We have provided not just expertise, experience and capital but also our role as a pathfinder and "super-connector" for foreign businesses interested in the Mainland market and Mainland companies seeking opportunities overseas.

Investment, Trading and "One Belt, One Road"

Coming back to Myanmar and Hong Kong, the economic interactions between Myanmar and Hong Kong have been increasing rapidly.  Hong Kong has emerged as the third largest investor in Myanmar. According to figures from Myanmar's Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), Hong Kong's investment in Myanmar up to August 2015 was over US$7 billion. In the same period, China is the biggest foreign investor in Myanmar with cumulative investment of over US$14.6 billion.  In terms of trade, Hong Kong's exports to Myanmar comprise mainly telecommunications equipment and optical goods, while Myanmar is Hong Kong's major source of aquatic products and precious stones. The total value of both imports and exports is about US$20 billion.  On top of that, there is further trade through tourism and cross-border employment and services.

Currently, Hong Kong is in discussions with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on a Free Trade Agreement and the negotiations are at an advanced stage.  Myanmar is a member country of ASEAN. We look forward to strengthening our friendship and business ties with Myanmar.

Myanmar's economy has been growing rapidly with a substantial increase in FDI over the past few years.  Demand for offices, hotels and commercial facilities is rising. Other development plans, such as the establishment of special economic zones is also attracting a lot of interest from Hong Kong. To support Myanmar's continuing growth and development, investment in infrastructure is essential.  

Looking to the future with a broader international perspective, one cannot ignore China's recently launched "One Belt, One Road" initiative. It is a new model of connectivity that will open up tremendous opportunities for countries and cities along the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, covering a broad spectrum of areas including infrastructure, trade, capital, culture and people.  

It is a new model of connectivity aiming to connect people of different countries, regardless of their  cultural and religious backgrounds, geographic locations or forms of government. It aims to foster friendship and promote peace through mutual development and thus building a community of shared interests.  This initiative is open to all countries; all people are treated equally. Mutual understanding, mutual development and mutual respect are the core foundation of this grand vision.

In the process, physical infrastructure will be constructed: roads, bridges, railways, ports, airports, power lines, oil and gas pipes and more.  By improving infrastructural connectivity, the flows of people, goods, trade, services, as well as capital, will increase naturally.

Against this backdrop, our visit to Myanmar is very timely. Our focus is to share our experience and expertise in infrastructure development and the services of our professional sector. We have come to promote mutual understanding, make friends and explore areas of mutual interest.

Hong Kong Infrastructure and Opportunities

For those of you who have visited Hong Kong, I believe you would have been struck by the never-ceasing development and construction works.  At the moment, we are at the peak of our construction activities.  To improve our internal transportation network and connections with the Mainland, we are building four railway projects including a 26-kilometre high-speed rail link with Guangzhou, a 55-km cross-the-sea Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, and a new cross-boundary highway called the Liantang/Heung Yuen Wai link.  The total value of these projects is about US$49 billion.  In addition, as our airport is approaching its capacity, we are planning to build a three-runway system. This system, together with the associated extension facilities, is estimated to cost about US$18 billion. At the same time, we are working hard to make land available for the development of residential, commercial and community facilities.  Our target is to supply 480,000 housing units in the next 10 years, and to create new land for economic activities. 
Last year, the total value of our various construction works was US$25 billion.  Throughout these years, our professionals and contractors have accumulated a lot of experience, expertise and management know-how in taking forward projects of different scales.  

Hong Kong Professional Services and Advantages

As I just said, we take pride in our team of professionals in building our world-class infrastructure and further developing Hong Kong as an international financial centre.  I am proud to introduce my delegation to you here today.  They are outstanding professionals, comprising (by alphabetical order) accountants, architects, company secretaries, engineers, lawyers, planners and surveyors.  They are experts in their own fields and work together as coherent teams.  They possess internationally recognised professional qualifications, are conversant with international standards and practices, and are experienced in working with clients and professionals from different countries and different cultural backgrounds. Given the many mega-projects and deals completed in Hong Kong and overseas, they are very good at managing projects involving multi-disciplinary professional teams.

Integrated Services and Success Stories

Our professionals have completed many successful projects overseas.  The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) has helped showcase their services by way of capability statements.  You are welcome to visit the HKTDC's website, in which there is a dedicated section describing their services and success stories. You may appreciate how they have helped local and overseas clients complete their projects on time and within budget, and how they have worked together as integrated professional teams of different expertise.

One case study reported in the website and proven to be very successful is the "Rail-plus-Property" model.  Adopting this model, Hong Kong's MTR Corporation Limited has been able to build our world-class mass transit system without the need for substantial direct government funding. Instead, the Government has received significant land premiums from sites along the railway and holds a majority stake in this very valuable entity listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange which pays billions of dollars in dividends every year.  Over the past three decades, 39 MTR stations have been built and, along the connecting rail lines, more than 100,000 residential units and over 2 million square metres of commercial space have been made available.  We are pleased to see that this development model has been successfully introduced to some cities in the Mainland and other overseas countries.

Our stories in the website are abundant. I am sure members of our delegation will be happy to share their own expertise and success stories with you.

Mutual Co-operation

Ladies and gentlemen, you will definitely see my excitement in presenting to you the opportunities before Myanmar and Hong Kong that we can work together to seize. People often say that in business there is no free lunch. I hope you will find this luncheon a good investment.

Finally, I would like to thank the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Hong Kong Trade Development Council for their marvellous work in making this trade mission possible.

I would also like to express my wish that Myanmar and Hong Kong can continue to be harmonious partners sharing a shining future. Thank you very much.

Ends/Monday, October 5, 2015
Issued at HKT 21:07