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Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair on September 6, 2000

Mr Ng, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here to officiate at the Opening Ceremony of the 19th Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair, one of the world's largest events of this kind. Indeed, I've just been told that it is the largest in the world.

Just as this annual fair is an indispensable component in Hong Kong's spectacular event calendar, our watch and clock industry is an exemplary member of Hong Kong's manufacturing industries. Thanks to the efforts of our steady contributors, Hong Kong has in recent years maintained the record as the world's second largest exporter of watches in terms of both value and quantity; and the largest exporter of clocks by value and the second largest by quantity. And I know our manufacturers have also earned for themselves the reputation of being flexible, diversified, timely and reliable in delivery, and responsive to market needs and design trends.

Although not the hardest hit sector in our economy, our timepiece manufacturers have had two difficult years in the way of the Asian financial turmoil. But I am very glad to note that in the first four months of this year, total exports of watches and clocks picked up and recorded an increase of 11%. There is, however, no room for complacency because we see challenges from everywhere. To hold our stake firmly in the increasing globalised world economy, we have to stay forever vigilant.

While our manufacturers are working hard on improving product design and upgrading quality, the Government is fully committed to supporting the timepiece industry. Over $30 million has been granted under our Innovation and Technology Fund to finance various infrastructural and technological projects to facilitate the development of the industry. The establishment of the Watch and Clock Technology Centre, for example, provides an environment for promoting the development, the application and dissemination of technologies useful to the industry.

Looking ahead, the opening up of the Mainland market and the likely reduction of import tariff for timepiece items after China's accession to the World Trade Organisation would offer tremendous market opportunities. Doomsayers may worry that Hong Kong's role as the middleman will diminish once China joins the World Trade Organisation. But we see it quite differently. Let me just focus on the watch and clock industry. Given Hong Kong's strategic geographical location and our position as a world renowned watch and clock production centre, I am confident that our manufacturers will be well poised for strategic partnership with international companies to tap into the vast markets in Mainland China and in the Asia Pacific region. And our advantage as a middleman will be enhanced rather than diminished by China's accession to the WTO.

I offer my warmest congratulations to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and all the exhibitors for their efforts in putting together this important promotional event for the watch and clock industry. As can be seen from today's huge turnout, it is clearly already a very great success.

I wish you all a very fruitful week. Thank you.

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Content provided by Hong Kong Trade Development Council