MELBOURNE, June 17, 2011 — Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang emphasised the opportunities to build partnerships beyond business and finance — in the arts, innovation and education — in a lunchtime address to more than 200 guests, hosted by Asialink and the Asia Society Australia Centre.
"I can think of no international partners for Hong Kong better than Australia," he said.
Tsang identified great opportunities for Australian innovation companies in Hong Kong, including a competitive research and development capability, sound legal system and "robust IP protection regime."
He spoke highly of Australia's performance in environmental and creative industries, and said his government was "helping to clear the way" for Hong Kong's same industries to fulfil their potential in the region.
"We can't pick winners," he said, because that is not the way Hong Kong's government works. "But we can direct necessary land resources, funding and skilled labour to help these industries really take off."
Tsang, now in the final year of his term as Chief Executive, made the comments on the second day of his four-city visit to Australia.
Traditionally a centre of business and finance, Hong Kong plays a key role in connecting Australia to opportunities in a rapidly developing China. Last year more than four billion dollars worth of trade between Australia and China was routed through Hong Kong.
There are more than 600 Australian companies operating in the Special Administrative Region and bilateral trade has been growing at an average annual rate of about four and a half per cent over the past five years.
Another key relationship between Hong Kong and Australia is in education, which Tsang emphasised as an area for further development.
"Seven thousand of our kids come over [to Australia]," he said. "You should bring your expertise to our part of the world — it will generate a lot of good."
Asked for a comment on the likely next leader of the region, Tsang explained the characteristics required to be Chief Executive:
"You have to be trusted by Hong Kong people, and you must also be trusted by Beijing," he said.
Reported by William McCallum
This Asialink - Asia Society Australia Centre luncheon was presented in partnership with the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office.
Video: Donald Tsang in Melbourne