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Cullen: Dinner for Financial Sec of Hong Kong

Hon Dr Michael Cullen
Deputy Prime Minister, Attorney-General, Minister of Finance, Minister for Tertiary Education, Leader of the House

22 May 2006 Speech Notes

Embargoed until: Monday 22 May 2006 at 7.00pm

Address to Gala Dinner hosted by Henry Tang, Financial Secretary of Hong Kong SAR


Carlton Hotel, Auckland

It is a great honour for me to welcome the Hong Kong Financial Secretary, Mr Henry Tang and his party to New Zealand’s largest city. This is the first occasion since 2000 that we have had the privilege of hosting a member of the Hong Kong government’s ‘triumvirate’ in New Zealand.

I would especially like to welcome the members of the ensemble of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra who will be performing for us tonight. It is, I understand, a longstanding Chinese tradition, dating back to the Yellow Emperor some four-and-a-half thousand years ago, that matters of state are best discussed with the accompaniment of skilled musicians, and along with fine food and wine.

This seems to me a very sensible concept and I will be talking to the Prime Minister and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra about the possibility of a regular performance at our Monday mornings Cabinet meetings.

The presence of the members of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra reminds us that the Hong Kong – New Zealand relationship has many layers and a rich history. Until that last twenty years or so, New Zealand’s Chinese immigrant population were primarily from southern China, and maintained family and business links through Hong Kong. Close to 9,000 families migrated to New Zealand from Hong Kong in the decade to 2004, and there are currently some 1,400 Hong Kong students studying at New Zealand institutions.

The flow of people goes the other way as well. Hong Kong is home to some 2,500 expatriate Kiwis, which is the largest group of New Zealanders permanently based in the Asian region. New Zealanders play important roles in business, law and education in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong and New Zealand share similar interests in many spheres. As two small, trading nations with much larger neighbours as our key trading partners, we are strong and consistent allies in international forums on matters such as trade access and international business law.

Hong Kong is important to New Zealand, not only as an export market for tourism and some of our niche products, such as racing bloodstock and wine, but also as an intermediary for exports ultimately destined for the mainland Chinese market.

New Zealand is home to some significant foreign direct investment from Hong Kong, totalling around $690 million.

I suspect that the major reason that our two peoples get on so well, however, is that we share some important leisure pursuits. New Zealanders are known traditionally for three passions: rugby, racing and various alcoholic beverages.

The people of Hong Kong are some of the world’s most passionate racing enthusiasts. I am told that the annual revenues of the Hong Kong Jockey Club compare very favourably with the total annual budget of the Hong Kong SAR. New Zealand bloodlines are well represented amongst the horses running at these events.

New Zealand muscle power is also prominent at the annual Hong Kong Sevens competition, which is one of the favourite venues in the International Sevens Competition.

And New Zealand wine is an increasing part of the tradition of fine dining, which is central to Hong Kong’s tourist experience.

Mr Tang and I share a number of more specialised interests, and I look forward to some productive discussions on those. Both of us are committed to maintaining fiscal discipline, and meeting the challenge of placing our respective Governments’ accounts on a stable long-term footing.

Both of us are interested in establishing a tax base that provides a stable revenue stream to support essential government services, while imposing the least possible burden on the business sector in terms of cost and complexity.

And both of us are interested in how our economies can maintain our current high ranking in international comparisons of ease of doing business. While New Zealand is considerably better off than Hong Kong in terms of natural resources, we both realise that our prosperity depends upon our people and their skills.

The Hong Kong Chinese community in New Zealand is a great asset to both countries. Not only are you active in the business community, and particularly in developing trade and investment links with the Asian region generally; but you also add immensely to the cultural richness of Auckland and other cities. The face of New Zealand is increasingly less white and Anglo-Saxon, and increasingly more multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual.

We as New Zealanders welcome Mr Tang here as an old friend, and I would like to propose an old Chinese toast to Mr Henry Tang and his delegation from the Hong Kong SAR:

Jiu feng si ji, chi-en bei shao

“When old friends get together, a thousand glasses are too few”.
Thank you.

ENDS

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