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Trade and Industry Department The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
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Speeches

Speech by Director-General of Trade and Industry
Tuesday, December 11, 2001

Following is the full text of the keynote speech "Staying Ahead Today for Tomorrow" by Mr Joshua Law, Director-General of Trade and Industry at the HKANA Annual Members Forum 2001 today (December 11): (English only)

Staying Ahead Today for Tomorrow

Mr. Taylor, friends of the Hong Kong Article Numbering Association, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is my pleasure to be invited to speak on the occasion of the Hong Kong Article Numbering Association's 2001 Annual Members Forum.

2. The name of the HKANA reminds me of my early days of schooling at kindergarten, when I learned numerals and counting. Since then, I have hardly spent a day without coming across numbers, and using them to solve problems. Indeed, one can hardly imagine how life would be like without numbers.

3. While none of us are stranger to numbers, few could match HKANA as genuine experts on numbers. And, I guess that HKANA, being the professional body and the authority in Hong Kong on article numbering and bar coding, is probably second to none among local organizations in terms of the volume of "numbers" that it handles.

4. HKANA has invited me to speak on the long term development of trade and industry in Hong Kong. I consider this a too ambitious topic to cover in a five minute speech, and probably too meaty for a speech that immediately follows a delicious meal. Rather, I will speak generally on how I think enterprises in a knowledge-based economy, be they engaged in manufacturing activities or services, could rise to challenges in order to remain competitive and be prepared for new opportunities.

5. The world today is moving remarkably fast. The advent of technology, in particular, information technology, has removed geographical barriers and the physical constraints of delivering information. The invention of rapid prototyping technologies and the use of computer-aided design have shortened the lead-time for designing and producing products. Supply chain management tools, such as vendor inventory control, facilitate the efficient flow of goods and services. Global sourcing, which has been made possible by globalisation and e-commerce, has given rise to a demanding generation of consumers who look for quality products and services, speedy delivery, lowest price, one-stop services and international brand names. In short, consumers are expected to be pampered.

6. Enterprises that wish to remain competitive have to act fast. They have to think fast by anticipating, spotting and setting trends; make quick decisions by repositioning themselves for new markets, new strategies, and new mission; deliver new products and services fast by leveraging on their cutting edges and institutionalising innovativeness; and stay fast by maintaining efficient supply chain management and keeping close to suppliers and customers. The motto "do more with less" speaks only half of the truth, with the remaining half being "and to do it faster". While knowledge is the new currency of today's world, speed is the highway that draws a company to its customers, and possibly its competitors' customers as well. And, companies can react to market and consumers' demand faster through proper application of knowledge, technology and innovativeness.

7. Companies big and small everywhere have been doing their best to stay ahead of their competitors in the new knowledge-based economy. Some have been successful, but there are also many failures. Those succeeded are not necessarily big companies, whereas those failed are not necessarily small ones. The key to success is no longer the asset or size of a company, but rather its ability and determination to make speedy and necessary changes well before its competitors. This is true for enterprises around the world. And, it is certainly true for Hong Kong's enterprises, including SMEs.

8. I have heard people saying that SMEs in Hong Kong are risk-averse, and are not willing to adopt new technologies or conduct re-engineering. This may be the case for some SMEs. But I believe that the majority of them are dynamic enough to embrace changes. The fact that so many SMEs turned up for this Forum suggests that many of our SMEs are aware of the need to change. Those that are not yet aware of the need to embrace changes have to do so, if they were to remain competitive at all. The imminent challenges awaiting them, as a result of globalisation, China's accession to the World Trade Organization (which formally comes into effect today) and the emergence of the knowledge-based economy, will be unprecedented in terms of velocity and impact, and will demand a forceful response with unprecedented vision and determination to succeed.

9. The Government is aware of the challenges facing our trade and industries sector, in particular SMEs. We are keenly aware that the highly volatile business environment has been further aggravated by the economic downturn triggered by the 911 incident. Given their limited resources, SMEs will be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of an economic downturn. In this regard, the Government is committed to helping SMEs enhance their competitiveness. The Trade and Industry Department has upgraded its SME Information Centre into an information and advisory centre, known as SUCCESS in short, to provide free advice to SMEs on a wide range of issues pertinent to starting and doing business. Also, I am pleased to say that the Government will launch in the very near future four SME funding schemes to help SMEs which have the vision and determination to grow, and to help them build today a robust company for tomorrow.

10. The four funding schemes are, namely the SME Business Installations and Equipment Loan Guarantee Scheme, the SME Training Fund, the SME Export Marketing Fund, and the SME Development Fund. Through these funds, an SME can secure loans from lending institutions to procure business installation and equipment for business upgrading and expansion, provide proper training to their staff and their employers, participate in export market promotional activities, and work together with support organizations and trade and industry associations to embark on projects that are conducive to enhancing the overall competitiveness of themselves and their counterparts in the same sector. You will learn more about the details of these funding schemes when they are launched in a matter of days.

11. Having talked so much about changes and speed this afternoon, I would like to conclude by saying that while the only constant in a knowledge-based economy is change, our entreprenuers do possess many enviable qualities which can stand the test of time. They are, just to name a few, the vision, agility, perseverence and forward-looking characters of our entrepreneurs. Like the anchor of a ship, I am sure these are the virtues that will continue to keep Hong Kong enterprises afloat even in an ever changing environment.

12. Thank you.