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Gareth Thomas MP, Former Minister for Trade, Development and Consumer Affairs (jointly with DFID)
Hong Kong Club, Hong Kong, 16 January 2009
I am delighted to be in Hong Kong, the third leg in a five country tour of Asia including Singapore and Taiwan this week and Vietnam and Malaysia next week.
There has been a particularly strong engineering theme to my week, for example promoting British expertise in sustainable construction and infrastructure development in Singapore and championing too Britain’s engineering capabilities to the Transport, Interior and Trade ministries in Taipei.
So it is a particular pleasure to be able to end the week here at your reception tonight.
I know you had your Asia-Pacific Conference earlier today and UKTI was delighted to be a co-organiser.
As an institution you have a powerful and worldwide reception with a long and distinguished history.
Indeed with over 80,000 members in more than 160 countries you continue to be a leader in shaping the engineering world.
It is sadly not well known that Britain is the sixth largest manufacturing nation in the world still.
I have to say I think the remarkable talent in British engineering firms is still for too many back home a hidden gem.
We in government are keen to work with you to raise the profile of Britain’s engineering capacity and next month will launch in the UK a new effort to better market the many different advanced engineering strands in which British firms excel.
I am particularly conscious tonight that in this room we have civil engineers from British working for Hong Kong companies and civil engineers from Hong Kong working for British companies.
That reflects the continuing strong links between the UK and Hong Kong, one of the world’s great cities; in business, in policy development and on a professional and personal level.
Hong Kong is our fourth largest export market in Asia, whilst at the same time Hong Kong is a major investor in the UK.
There is already a very significant British business presence in Hong Kong.
More British companies have their Asia Pacific Headquarters in Hong Kong than in any other Asian regional centre.
We want to strengthen and deepen the relationship still further. We want to support British firms win still more business here but we recognise as well that Hong Kong companies bring far more than just their capital when they invest in the UK.
They bring business acumen, managerial excellence and a global vision, which adds strength to the UK economy as a whole.
I’m delighted, therefore, that representatives from some of Hong Kong’s top investors in the UK will be in the business delegations meeting Premier Wen when he visits the UK later this month for the UK-China Summit.
Finally it would be remiss of me not to offer a special word of congratulations to you Dr Venables, the first woman President of the Institution in its 190 year history, I’m sure you won’t be the last.
UKTI is delighted to work with you and the Institution of Civil Engineers in particular as you expand your network in China.
Ladies and Gentlemen, congratulations to all those who are receiving certification and awards this evening.
Thank you again. I hope you enjoy the rest of your evening.