Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, Washington DC
Hong Kong

Remarks of Clement Leung, JP
Hong Kong Commissioner to the United States
Chinese New Year Reception in Washington, D.C.

March 7, 2018

Good evening everyone, Minister Li, friends of Hong Kong,

Thank you for joining the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office to celebrate Chinese New Year. First of all, Happy New Year, Kung Hey Fat Choi and Gong Xi Fa Cai!

This is my fifth Chinese New Year reception in Washington, D.C. It is always our biggest event in the United States and the one that I most look forward to every year.

During this festive season, we exchange greetings and tell our friends how we were doing in the past year and our plans ahead.

For our office, Beatrice Chiu and Salina Mak returned Hong Kong after completing their tours in D.C. This is particularly rewarding for Salina who went back home with her baby boy. I constantly remind her to keep his long form birth certificate in a safe place, just in case he might one day decide to run for the highest office in the United States and you need to have the certificate handy. Shirley Yu just took over from Salina a little over one month ago.

And we have Jackson Wong (over there) joining us as our trade expert. He worked in Washington before from 2008 to 2011. Jackson told me that he likes watching reality TV. I guess this is why he has decided to come back for a second tour because he can now watch them at work every day.

But seriously, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my colleagues for working so hard during the past year, particularly putting together our 20th anniversary celebrations and today’s reception. Let’s give them a big round of applause.

For Hong Kong, 2017 was an excellent year. Our economy grew 3.8% – the fastest in six years. External trade, retail sales and tourism were back up again. Our public finance is in great shape. As a Wall Street Journal headline put it, I quote “A Very Hong Kong Headache: Too Much Money to Please Everyone”. We are able to increase spending, cut taxes and achieve a record-breaking fiscal surplus – all at the same time. Unemployment is only 2.9% – the lowest in 20 years. We retain the title of the freest economy of the world consecutively for 24 years. We are proud to be one of the world’s safest cities with the lowest crime rate in 46 years.

Hong Kong’s bilateral relationship with the United States is stronger than ever. In trade, the U.S. exported over 40 billion dollars of goods to Hong Kong last year, a 13% increase. This makes Hong Kong your ninth largest export market. We are of course concerned about the rise of protectionist sentiment around the world and the prospect of more trade frictions. But we remain optimistic about our future because many exciting things are happening in Hong Kong.

2018 is the year for direct flights, with new frequencies going from Hong Kong to San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. After much personal lobbying, I am extremely delighted to see that Cathay Pacific will launch its direct service from Hong Kong to Washington, D.C. in September. For those who have to “Fly America”, you will be glad to know that the CX flight will codeshare with AA. So this will give you reasons to go to Hong Kong more often. Our office and Cathay Pacific will do something big to celebrate the inaugural flight.

Talking about air travel, we are pushing ahead with the construction of the third airport runway to double our capacity for air cargo and to increase passenger throughput to 100 million a year.

The 18-mile bridge to Macau and western Guangdong will open later this year and will cut road trips from 4 hours to 45 minutes.

The express rail link will be ready for operation in the third quarter of this year and that will cut travel time to Guangzhou from over two hours to 48 minutes.

We are expanding our metro system. By 2020, 70% of our population will be living within two-thirds of a mile from a metro station.

We see tremendous potentials in the expansion of trade within Asia and concluded a free trade agreement with ASEAN last year and have started FTA talks with Australia.

We are riding on the Belt and Road Initiative to expand our markets, particularly in infrastructure financing and professional services. The Greater Bay Area Development strategy will speed up our economic integration with 10 other cities in the Pearl River Delta to improve the flow of people, goods, capital and information.

We are expanding our network of Economic and Trade Offices to Thailand, South Korea, India and the UAE.

Most importantly, we have a new Administration head by our first woman Chief Executive, Mrs. Carrie Lam. She has formulated ambitious plans to further improve Hong Kong’s competitiveness and to make it a better place to live, to work, and to do business. She is determined to uphold the core values that make Hong Kong successful, that is, free trade, open markets, the rule of law, judicial independence and protection of Hong Kong people’s civil liberties under “One Country, Two Systems”.

I can go on and on but my message is simple: that is the best is yet to come in Hong Kong.

This is the Year of the Dog. In previous years I always made some bad jokes about these sacred animals by implying that they are on the buffet table. I would not do that this year because we have guests from American Humane in here. But I would give two pieces of advice in the Year of the Dog. One, spend more time with your family and friends. Don’t be working like a dog. Two, stay out of trouble and let sleeping dogs lie. Dogs are man’s best friends. They symbolize diligence, discipline and partnership. I wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

I would now like to invite my colleagues on stage for a celebratory toast.

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