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Back from Boao

On April 6 and 7, I attended the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference in Hainan. It was a very fruitful trip. Let me share with you some of my observations.

The first BFA Annual Conference was held in 2002. In just 12 years, the BFA has grown into a high-level platform for government, business and academic leaders in Asia and other continents to discuss major economic and trade issues concerning the region and the world at large.

The theme of this year's Conference was "Asia Seeking Development for All: Restructuring, Responsibility and Cooperation". In this three-day event, over 50 discussion sessions were held, covering a host of topics ranging from the global economic and investment landscape, the positioning of emerging markets and food policy to life science and the relationship between education and employment, all closely related to the development of Asia and humankind.

The Conference was attended by many influential people. Among them were President Xi Jinping and the government heads of more than 10 countries, including Finland, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. Other notable guests included the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Ms Christine Lagarde; founder of Microsoft, Mr Bill Gates; founder of Soros Fund Management, Mr George Soros; the President of the 67th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Mr Vuk Jeremic; and over 30 managing directors and chief executive officers from some of the world's top 500 companies. Apart from them, nearly 1 500 representatives from over 40 countries and regions' political and economic circles also joined the event.

The large scale and high level of the Conference reflect the power and global status of our country and the whole Asian region. The HKSAR Government and our entrepreneurs have to think seriously about how to capitalise on the countless opportunities presented by this trend.

As I pointed out in my speech at the Hong Kong SAR Dinner held on the eve of the opening of the Conference, Hong Kong, as the world's freest economy, has rich experience in promoting free trade. Given our close ties with the Mainland and our status as a modern metropolis, we have unrivalled strengths as a connector in the process of rapid development of, and integration between, our country and the rest of Asia. This is our value and our development direction. In this role, Hong Kong can not only sustain its own development, but also contribute to that of our country.

I firmly believe that the BFA will scale new heights in the future, attracting even greater international attention. Hong Kong should play a more active role in the BFA to help build consensus and enhance co-operation within the region for the development of our country and the rest of Asia, thus achieving an all-win situation.

April 16, 2013