Chinese New Year's reception

Remarks of Sylvester Wong
Director, Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office
Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium
February 15, 2024

Thank you for joining us as we usher in the Year of the Dragon. I am delighted to see familiar faces and to welcome new friends. I am especially grateful to Bryan Eng and his fellow musicians for their energizing performance.

The dragon has significant symbolism in Chinese culture. Those born under the sign are reputed to possess innovative thinking and an inquisitive nature. I hope it is an auspicious year for all of us.

Hong Kong has fully entered a post-pandemic economy. The economy continued to revive in the fourth quarter, with GDP growing by an estimated 4.3 percent. For 2023 as a whole, GDP resumed growth of 3.2 percent.

However, the external environment may subdue exports of goods. An enduring high-interest rate environment among advanced economies affects asset prices and investment appetite.

Thankfully, our trade relationship with the US remains robust. In 2023, US goods exports to Hong Kong totaled nearly $28 billion. The US enjoys one of its highest trade surpluses with Hong Kong, valued at over $23 billion.

Hong Kong is a gastronomic jewel – fusing Cantonese and regional influences. Elevating the dining experience is our love of wine, particularly from the US. In 2022, Hong Kong was the US’s 6th largest market for wine exports. Hong Kong was also the US’s 7th largest market for beef products.

The US is one of our largest sources of foreign direct investment. US FDI flows into Hong Kong in 2022 reached over $89 billion.

Nearly 1,300 American companies operate in our city. We are also home to approximately 90,000 Americans.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong last month released its business sentiment report. Some 75 percent of respondents regarded Hong Kong as a competitive global business hub thanks to its international connectivity, free flow of capital, low and simple tax regime and legal and regulatory systems.

Nevertheless, areas of improvement remain, with respondents citing the high cost of living. The government is committed to addressing housing affordability. Measures to improve the quantity and speed of our public housing supply are progressing.

A noteworthy achievement is the city’s quality of life standing in the United Nations’ Human Development Index. The index assesses long-term progress in basic dimensions of human development. Hong Kong ranks 4th out of 191 places. A notable statistic is that our life expectancy has reached 85.5 years.

Looking ahead, Hong Kong is making strides to spur the city’s economic development across sectors as diverse as financial services and tourism.

Hong Kong remains Asia’s leading asset and wealth management center, handling more than US$4 trillion in assets in 2022.

Hong Kong holds tremendous opportunities for private equity and venture capital investors. Our private equity sector is 2nd in Asia, behind Mainland China. Capital under management stands at more than US$220 billion. That accounts for more than 15 percent of the region’s total.

Hong Kong is also an engaged stakeholder in supporting climate action. In 2022, 1/3 of Asia’s green and sustainable bond issuance was arranged in Hong Kong. Total green and sustainable debt arranged in the city rose over 40 percent to more than US$80 billion.

We issued last year a one-year tokenized green bond, which amounted to over US$100 million. It was the first tokenized green bond issued globally by a government. In a second offering earlier this month, we sold US$750 million of two- year tokenized green bonds. The successful sales of digital green bonds boost the city’s status as a digital-asset hub.

As we promote innovation in financial services, we will continue to maintain a complementary and transparent regulatory environment that meets the highest of international standards.

International events are strategically significant for Hong Kong. The year kicked-off with the 17th Asian Financial Forum. In the coming months, we will welcome LIV Golf Hong Kong, Art Basel, Hong Kong Rugby Sevens and the finale of the electric motorsport E1 World Championship.

I hope that you may have an opportunity to experience any one of these events – or countless others – in-person.

Thank you for joining us this evening as we reinforce bonds of friendship. I wish all of you a happy New Year, Kung Hei Fat Choi and Gong Xi Fa Cai.

I would now like to invite my colleagues on stage for a celebratory toast before the Lion Dance begins.