Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hong Kong, France sign memo on cooperation in wine-related businesses

HONG KONG,(Xinhua) -- Hong Kong and France signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on cooperation in wine-related businesses on Tuesday.

The Hong Kong-France Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Wine-related Businesses was signed by Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development of HKSAR government Rita Lau and French Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Michel Barnier.

This first MOU that Hong Kong had signed on the subject, demonstrated the commitment of both sides to encourage wine- related businesses, Financial Secretary of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) John Tsang said at the signing ceremony.

Tsang said under the memorandum, Hong Kong and France would facilitate and promote trade in wine. The two sides would strengthen co-operation, exchanges and the sharing of experience in areas including the stimulation of wine-related trading and investment activities, wine education and manpower training, promotion of wine-related tourism and wine culture, as well as customs cooperation against counterfeit wine.

He said France is the largest supplier of wine imports into Hong Kong, accounting for about 30 percent of Hong Kong's imported wines in 2007. In terms of value, French wine represented about 57percent of all wine imports to Hong Kong last year, with a growth rate of 108 percent compared with 2006.

Also speaking at the signing ceremony, the French Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Michel Barnier, said the MOU would produce a win-win solution for Hong Kong and France.

He believed France's "unique expertise and large diversity in production" made it the reference partner for wine trade and promotion, Barnier said.

He also noted that with its logistical and financial expertise, its unique knowledge of the Chinese mainland's market as well as the strength of its hospitality and retail sectors, Hong Kong is "the natural wine hub for Asia and is well positioned to catch the emerging business opportunities of the fastest growing international wine market."

Hong Kong became the first free wine port among major economies with the abolition of wine duty earlier this year. Since then, there has been solid growth in wine imports, wine auctions with record-breaking sales and announcements by renowned companies to expand their wine trading, distribution and storage business in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's first International Wine Fair organized by the Trade Development Council of Hong Kong from Aug. 14 to 16, attracted more than 240 exhibitors from more than 25countries and regions as well as 8,800 buyers from 55 countries and regions.

Bi Mingxin