Tuesday, 13 October 2015

HK-Israeli cooperation on the rise

Chief Executive CY Leung

Hong Kong is a welcoming society. It's an open city, and what's more it's a very international city. I say Hong Kong is a welcoming society. I think it's a point without being immodest or presumptuous, and agreed by all our friends in the expatriate community.


Hong Kong is an open society not because we have pretty open borders, most importantly, the people of Hong Kong have open minds and we welcome our friends, and sometimes our competitors, from across the sea to join us. And we learn from our friends and our competitors, as well.


Hong Kong is an international society because historically we have been a very open society, on the personal level, on the business-to-business level and on government-to-government level. We've been working with our friends in the international community.


More importantly, under the ‘One country, two systems’ principle, ‘Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong,’ with a high degree of autonomy, the Hong Kong Government can enter into international agreements with governments in other parts of the world and we are, for example, a full member of WHO, WTO, APEC, under the name of China, Hong Kong.


And today has been a day of discovery, with memorable encounters with your remarkable nation, from its leaders to its singular history and culture, your world-beating technology, too, and the people and companies who drive it.


Speaking of driving, I was thrilled, and just a little apprehensive, to be whisked away on an auto-pilot, autonomous drive this afternoon during a visit to Mobileye, the Nasdaq-listed company powering automobile-driver assisted technology.


Shaping the future

I was also impressed by the success stories of the Hebrew University in bringing their innovations from the campus to the real world. No doubt these innovations will shape our future, the world's future.


Yes, the future is up and coming here in Israel, the world's start-up nation. In many ways, we are similar, Hong Kong and Israel. We count on our inventive, resourceful, tenaciously determined people. We count on the companies that they have built, on the businesses they are shaping, on the dreams they will one day realise.


Like the people of the great State of Israel, Hong Kong people have never been short of creativity and entrepreneurship. At the recent International Exhibition of Innovations of Geneva, Hong Kong walked off with 13 gold awards, five silvers and a Grand Prix.


The Grand Prix was awarded to a Hong Kong-based biotechnology company Vitargent, which developed a technology using fish embryos, rather than animals, to test for toxic substances in a variety of consumer products. Vitargent is one of the many tech start-ups, alongside established companies, based in our Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks Corporation.


Driving enterprise, innovation

Sharing the same innovative and entrepreneurial DNA, Hong Kong and Israel can be great partners in business. And such opportunities haven't gone unnoticed. Looking at the numbers, it's clear our cooperation has been on the rise for some time.


Over the past five years, trade between us was expanded by an average 14% a year. Hong Kong was Israel's third-largest trading partner and second-largest export market in 2013. It's pretty hard to imagine how a small place like Hong Kong can do that, but it's a reality, it's a fact. And, last year, Israel was Hong Kong’s second-largest trading partner in the Middle East.


Last year, our two governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen industrial research and development collaboration. More than just another MOU, it signalled clearly our mutual intent to strengthen ties between us, especially in technology and innovation.


I'm particularly pleased to note, we're seeing more and more of you in Hong Kong these days. In July 2014, 15 Israel companies took part in the first Israel Investment Forum in Hong Kong. A second Israel Investment Forum, in January of this year, brought 22 venture capital funds from Israel to Hong Kong. The event attracted about 100 Hong Kong-based investors.


Sharing IT, design success

And this time next week, your Consulate General of Israel in Hong Kong will host 13 Israeli companies for the Second Israel FinTech Forum. Each will present new technology designed for the financial and cyber-security sector.


Later in October, your Consulate General in Hong Kong will put up a month-long pop-up shop at PMQ, one of a number of heritage developments revitalising Hong Kong. The pop-up will showcase 25 Israeli designers. Their offerings, ranging from hand-crafted to cutting-edge, will include everything from pop art and jewellery to furniture and fashion.


We have what the Israeli companies need for their ambitions in the region: the capital, the expertise and the connections to market your technology and innovation in the Mainland of China and throughout Asia.


Hong Kong is one of the world's major financial centres, and China's international financial centre. A fund-raising hub for local and overseas companies, Hong Kong is perfectly placed to help Israeli companies raise investment capital in Asia.


Rising investment

To take one example, Hong Kong-based Horizons Ventures has invested in more than 20 Israeli companies, and in areas ranging from software and mobile applications to healthcare.


We are, as well, the business hub of Asia. Indeed, Hong Kong was second in the 2015 World Competitiveness Yearbook, published by the International Institute for Management Development. And, in the World Bank's Doing Business 2015 report, Hong Kong was ranked the third-easiest place in the world to do business.


Of course, you don't have to tell that to the 7,600 overseas and Mainland companies based in Hong Kong. They place their confidence in Hong Kong's rule of law and its independent judiciary. They like our low and uncomplicated tax regime. By the way, our profits tax ceiling is 16.5%. It's 16.5%.


They count, too, on the information that flows freely in and out of Hong Kong, and the knowledge that, in Hong Kong, the playing field for business is reassuringly level - wherever in the world you may come from.


That lies at the heart of why both the United States-based Heritage Foundation and Canada's Fraser Institute named Hong Kong the world's freest economy this year.


Young people welcome

I don't want to keep harping on economic benefits between Hong Kong and Israel. Indeed, in the people-to-people sector, there's a lot we can do together. And indeed in the people-to-people sector, particularly for our young people, there's a lot we can do together.


Hong Kong is unique in the fact that we are the only Chinese city that uses English as a teaching medium in our universities, and that, I believe, is a welcoming factor for Israeli young people. We'd like to welcome all Israeli friends, particularly young friends, to Hong Kong so that we can mix and grow up together.


Chief Executive CY Leung gave these remarks at a dinner hosted by Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely in Jerusalem.

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