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Chief Executive wraps up Middle East visit

February 1, 2008 - Hong Kong's Chief Executive Donald Tsang returned today from his first week-long mission to the Middle East region, paving a path to increased trade and financial exchanges between Hong Kong and Kuwait, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Accompanied by Fred Lam, Executive Director of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC), and more than 20 senior delegates from Hong Kong's financial, infrastructure and media sectors, the visit introduced leading Middle East officials and businessmen to Hong Kong's strengths as an international financial centre.

Hong Kong is well placed to become a centre for Islamic finance in Asia, the chief executive told audiences at business luncheons organised by the TDC in the cities of Kuwait, Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. He invited Middle East banks and financial services companies to extend and diversify their global reach through Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's sound financial services infrastructure make it an attractive location for investments. The first Islamic retail fund launched recently in Hong Kong had attracted about US$45 million worth of orders by December.

In the UAE's Gulf News, TDC's Mr Lam was quoted as saying "We are not only seeking investments in Hong Kong. Our companies are also interested in investing in Abu Dhabi. That is why we have brought along developers, contractors, and professional services companies."

Mr Lam added that Time magazine, in its January 2008 cover story, had called Hong Kong "China's Wall Street at the dawn of the Asian century", noting the city's world-class financial services sector and bustling stock market. "We believe we can also become the Middle East's Wall Street," said Mr Lam.

In addition to financial services, Mr Lam said that opportunities in the Middle East exist for Hong Kong's real estate, infrastructure and construction service companies. He cited Saudi Arabia as an example, adding that approximately 60 per cent of its population of 24 million is under the age of 20. With its youthful population now trending towards more individual housing and related new infrastructure, an opportunity is emerging for all the sectors.

Through the week-long trip that began on January 26, the HKSAR Government announced various measures to facilitate business exchanges between Hong Kong and the Middle East, including the extension of visa-free visits for nationals of Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to 30 days, from the previous 14 days. The new scheme will become effective from February 4, 2008.

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About TDC
Established in 1966, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) is the international marketing arm for Hong Kong-based traders, manufacturers and service providers. With more than 40 offices worldwide, including 11 in the Chinese mainland, the TDC promotes Hong Kong as a platform for doing business with China and Asia. The TDC also organises trade fairs and business missions to connect companies with opportunities in Hong Kong and the mainland, while providing information via trade publications, research reports and online. For more information, visit www.tdctrade.com


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