Speech by Mr. Joshua Law, Director-General of Trade and Industry at the Hong Kong Toys Council's Annual Dinner (9 January 2001)
Mr. Wong, Mr. Luk, distinguished guests, ladies & gentlemen,
I am honoured to have been invited to attend the Hong Kong Toys Council's Annual Dinner and to speak to such distinguished guests. I understand that some of the guests tonight are overseas toys manufacturers and buyers. They have flown a long distance to Hong Kong to attend not only the Council's Annual Dinner but also the 2001 Hong Kong Toys and Games Fair, a spectacular annual event for the international toys and games industries for which the Hong Kong Toys Council is one of the sponsors. May I extend a very warm welcome to all our overseas friends.
2. The new millenium has brought a robust recovery of the Hong Kong economy. The year 2000 concluded with impressive performance in our economic growth. Overall we have secured an estimated GDP growth of 10%, surpassing our original forecast of 8.5%. Much of this growth is supported by our strong upsurge of export and re-export trade at 17% and 18% respectively.
3. Being a predominantly service oriented economy, contribution from our manufacturing sector, such as the industry of toy making, is often under-represented in the trade figures. The fact that our export and re-export trade could bounce back so remarkably is due in large measure to the contribution from the strong manufacturing base that have been established in Mainland China by Hong Kong traders. The toy industry is a typically successful example that a strategic partnership could be struck by having our impressively large and well managed production plant established in the Mainland with Hong Kong based headquarters to coordinate design, marketing and trading services.
4. The toys industry is no doubt one of the driving engine of Hong Kong's production related services as well as an important income generator for our economy. The industry is the fifth largest exporter in our manufacturing sector. The value of the industry's total exports in the first 10 months in 2000 exceeded $79 billion or a handsome growth of 7% when compared with the previous year. Besides, in spite of the globalisation of trade and production, Hong Kong has over the years maintained its leading position as the world's top exports of toys and games. I am optimistic that as the world economy continues to grow and the local economy bounces back further, our toys industry would have a prosperous year ahead.
5. The toys industry is growing from strength to strength. Not only are we the major supplier in quantity but also in quality. I say so because Hong Kong has already earned itself an international reputation for producing toys of higher quality and safety. By putting in use a large variety of manufacturing techniques such as computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing systems (CAD/CAM), and 3-dimensional non-contact digitising technology, Hong Kong is capable of designing and producing the most sophisticated toys and games that meet the most stringent safety, environmental and health standards. Hong Kong manufacturers are renowned for being flexible, diversified, timely and reliable in delivery, creative and responsive to market needs and design trends. The fact that two very popular toys and games that were sold in the global market in recent years, namely the "Furby" and the "Finger Skate-board" are designed by Hong Kong toys manufacturers, is a strong proof of Hong Kong's capability to leverage on innovativeness, and her competitiveness in the international toys market.
6. One question the trade keeps asking me is the prospect of our industry and trade in the increasingly globalised world economy particularly with the entry of China into the World Trade Organization. My view as many of you have heard remain highly positive and I believe many successful traders who have seen great success over the years in establishing their foothold in the Mainland would share with my view.
7. Mainland's accession to the WTO carries a simple but important message - the further and irrevocable opening up of her market to the world, in an organised and rule-based manner. Hong Kong traders should be no stranger to this fast growing market and would certainly be a major beneficiary given our first mover position. While Hong Kong traders would not be the only winner, our businessmen, including those who have had their footprint in the Mainland and those about to set their foots on this new market, would be the obvious partners that overseas investors would be looking upon for alliance. This is a unique partnership that I would urge our overseas investors to leverage on as there is no better place than Hong Kong as the natural gateway into the Mainland market.
8. Given our long term experience in China business and the common language and culture we share, Hong Kong companies will be the ideal joint venture partners for foreign investors, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs) wishing to enter the China market. Likewise, they will also be the ideal strategic partners for Mainland SMEs wishing to go abroad. Realizing our niche as such, the next step is for our local enterprises to join hands with their Mainland and overseas partners to form mutually-beneficial strategic partnership. In this regard, may I take the opportunity to invite our overseas toys manufacturers and buyers to seriously think about the opportunities that will arise for them as a result of Mainland's accession to WTO, and consider partnering with our local enterprises to tap the vast Mainland market. And, my department and other industry support organizations, such as the Trade Development Council, stands ready to help in the process.
9. In this knowledge-based new millenium, the key to success is the ability to embrace innovation and technology, as innovation and technology are essential in adding value, increasing productivity and enhancing our overall competitiveness. As I have mentioned earlier, our local toys manufacturers are rather good at both. Moreover, through the Hong Kong Toys Council, the industry has made use of the Government's Innovation and Technology Fund to upgrade itself, including developing the quality improvement programme and establishing the manufacturing resource databank for the toys industry. Since its establishment in 1986, the Hong Kong Toys Council has been playing a pivotal role in helping the upgrading of Hong Kong's toys industry and enhancing its image, through promoting R&D and technology enhancement projects, co-organising seminars such as the APEC Seminar on ISO Global Toy Safety Standard in March last year, and representing Hong Kong's toys industry in the International Council of Toy Industries. May I thank you for all the excellent work the Council has done for Hong Kong's toys industry. And I look forward to the continued support and leadership of the Toys Council in shaping a even brighter future for the toys industry in the years to come.
10. May I conclude by wishing all of you a happy and prosperous Year 2001.