The Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Mrs Carrie Lam, started her visit programme in Europe after arriving in Brussels, Belgium on 14 June 2018. Mrs Lam called on the Chargé d'affaires of Chinese Embassy in Belgium, Mr Zhang Chi, to express her heartfelt thanks to the embassy for its continuous support in various exchanges between Hong Kong and Belgium as well as for offering consular assistance to Hong Kong people in need.
Next, Mrs Lam met with the Vice President of the European Commission and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Ms Federica Mogherini. She said that since the return to the Motherland, Hong Kong has successfully implemented "One Country, Two Systems", "Hong Kong people administering Hong Kong" and a high degree of autonomy. Hong Kong people's freedom and rights are safeguarded under the Basic Law, and the rule of law and judicial independence are as robust as ever. She noted that Hong Kong has close ties with the European Union with a Structured Dialogue being held every year. She expressed the hope that collaboration between Hong Kong and the European Union will continue to strengthen, and in particular welcomed scientific and research institutions from the European Union to develop in Hong Kong.
Mrs Lam then attended a business luncheon co-organised by the European Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Brussels. In her speech, she briefed the guests attending the lunch on the growing and evolving relations between Hong Kong and the European Union. She said that Hong Kong is determined to become a global hub for innovation and technology and play an important role in the Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area Development. She welcomed European enterprises and start-ups to establish a presence in Hong Kong and ride on its unique advantages to explore business opportunities in Mainland China and Asia.
Attendees of the lunch included Belgian Deputy Prime Minister cum Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and European Affairs, Mr Didier Reynders, and European Commissioner for Trade, Ms Cecilia Malmström. Didier Reynders said in his speech that Belgian companies continue to appreciate Hong Kong as one of the freest economies in the world, based on the rule of law, independent judiciary, free flow of information and as an important connector to Mainland China. He said that these elements underpin the strong relation between Hong Kong and Belgium as well as the European Union. Cecilia Malmström said that Hong Kong is one of the most important partners of the European Union in the Asia-Pacific region. She praised Hong Kong's openness, and described Hong Kong as one of the most significant financial centres and trade ports in the world. She appreciated Hong Kong's support for the strengthening of the multilateral trading system, and looked forward to working together with Hong Kong to advocate the benefits of open global trade.
In the afternoon, Mrs Lam had an audience with HM King Philippe of the Belgians at the Royal Palace, and briefed him on Hong Kong's latest developments.
Mrs Lam later paid a visit to the Magritte Museum. Opened in 2009 and located in the heart of Brussels, the museum brings together the world's largest collection of the renowned Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte. She said to the director of the museum that the renovated Hong Kong Museum of Art and the M+ Museum in the West Kowloon Cultural District will become world-class museums in the future. She looked forward to working with Musée Margritte to bring its collection of art works to Hong Kong for exhibition.
In the evening, Mrs Lam officiated at the cocktail event organised by Cathay Pacific Airways (CX) with the support of the Airport Authority Hong Kong. She briefed the attendees on Hong Kong's role as an aviation hub of the region, and congratulated CX for launching direct services between Hong Kong and Brussels since March, which she believed will promote trade and business as well as cultural exchange between the two places.
In the morning of 15 June, Mrs Lam met with the President of the European Commission, Mr Jean-Claude Juncker. She said that the economic outlook of Hong Kong is positive with unemployment rate falling to a 20-year low and that the national Belt and Road Initiative and the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area development are set to inject new impetus to the city's economy. Noting that Hong Kong, which has been a staunch supporter of free trade, signed a Free Trade Agreement and a related Investment Agreement with the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations last year, she hoped to commence relevant discussion with the European Union (EU). She also hoped that youth exchanges with EU countries can be enhanced, including the launch of more working holiday schemes.
Mrs Lam then visited the Belgian Parliament which has a history of more than 200 years and met with the President of the Chamber of Representatives, Mr Siegfried Bracke. She introduced to him Hong Kong's latest situation, including the successful implementation of "One Country, Two Systems", the independent judiciary, new initiatives rolled out by the new term Government to enhance competitiveness of the city, etc.
Mrs Lam also attended a lunch hosted by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary and Head of the Chinese Mission to the EU, Mr Zhang Ming and knew from him the latest development of the bilateral relations between China and the EU. She thanked the Mission for its support for various exchanges between Hong Kong and the EU, and its help with the expansion of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government's external relations.
In the afternoon, Mrs Lam visited the GSK Vaccines' headquarters and received a briefing on the company's research and development operation as well as their experience of carrying out clinical trials in Hong Kong.
The Chief Executive started her visit to France in Bordeaux on 16 June.
Accompanied by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Edward Yau, Mrs Lam visited Château Latour to learn about the history of the Chateau, which is over 600 years old, and the wine-making process. Mrs Lam and Mr Yau also visited La Cité du Vin, a cultural facility on wine which opened in 2016, offering visitors various views of wine in different ages, cultures and places across the world with a unique presentation.
Mrs Lam and the Deputy Mayor of Bordeaux, Mr Stéphane Delaux, then witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) and the Convention and Tourism Office of Bordeaux Metropole on strengthening of collaboration in wine and food tourism promotion between the two places. In the evening, Mrs Lam and Mr Yau attended a cocktail reception organised by the HKTB, which was held on a tall ship on the river bank of Bordeaux decorated with the Hong Kong brand, to celebrate the friendship between the two cities established over years of collaboration.
Mrs Lam said that several of the fine wine and food tourism promotions in Hong Kong have all along been well received by tourists and locals. She noted that Hong Kong is Bordeaux's key wine market and France is Hong Kong's largest wine trading partner, and that the trade volume has soared since Hong Kong abolished the duty on wine in 2008. She expressed the hope that the two cities will continue its close relationship, and encouraged the wine merchants from France and Bordeaux to participate actively in the Vinexpo Hong Kong, the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair and the Hong Kong Wine and Dine Festival that have all been held for years.
Mrs Lam and Mr Yau then attended a dinner hosted by the Chairman of HKTB, Dr Peter Lam, and viewed lightshows and fireworks display.
Mrs Lam visited Château Montrose in Saint-Estèphe on 17 June before proceeding to Marseille.
On arrival in Marseille, Mrs Lam met with the Consul General of the People's Republic of China to Marseille, Ms Lu Huiying, over dinner. On 18 June, she met with the Vice President of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (PACA) Region, Mrs Caroline Pozmentier-Sportich, and listened to the sharing of experience by representatives of local enterprises in exploration of the Hong Kong and Asian markets as well as co-operation with Chinese enterprises. Businesses of the participants range from charging technology and renewable energy to interactive digital experiences, wine and engines. Noting that the PACA region and Hong Kong have a lot in common, with both places being major ports in the world having vibrant maritime and logistics industry and tourism, Mrs Lam said she looks forward to enhanced exchanges and collaboration between the two places. In particular on innovation and technology (I&T), she said she is pleased to note that both the region and Hong Kong attach great importance to I&T development. She expressed the hope that co-operation between universities and institutes from the two places as well as collaboration in terms of research and development would be strengthened.
Mrs Lam then headed for Airbus Helicopters to attend a ceremony on delivery of helicopters for the Government Flying Service (GFS). Addressing the ceremony, she said that she is delighted to accept three new helicopters on behalf of the GFS of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government. Praising the GFS for serving in all kinds of emergency operations, she said the GFS crew have to work under extremely testing weather conditions and demanding operating environments. She noted that the GFS has conducted many rescue operations in Hong Kong and the South China Sea, as well as after the massive Wenchuan earthquake in 2008. She added that with advanced helicopter manufacturing technology and enhanced capacity, the new helicopters will provide enormous help to the work of GFS and that she thanked Airbus Helicopters for ensuring their smooth production. Also attending the ceremony was the State Secretary to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Mr Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, who said in his address that he treasures the long-standing and close co-operation relationship between France and Hong Kong.
At noon, Mrs Lam attended a lunch hosted by the Chief Executive Officer of Airbus Helicopters, Mr Bruno Even, at which they discussed the development of the helicopter business in the Asia-Pacific region.
Mrs Lam toured Airbus Helicopters in the afternoon to learn about the factory operation and the facility for flight simulation training. The GFS sends their pilots there regularly to receive training.
In Paris on 21 June Mrs Lam met with the French Prime Minister, Mr Edouard Philippe. She expressed the hope that the Prime Minister and other French senior government officials will visit Hong Kong in the future to learn about the city's latest development. She believed that her successful visit will provide a good basis for the Hong Kong-France relationship to scale new heights. In particular, noting that France supports the nation's Belt and Road Initiative, she looked forward to working with different sectors in France to seize future opportunities.
Mrs Lam attended various activities before her meeting with Mr Edouard Philippe. In the morning, accompanied by the Secretary for Innovation and Technology, Mr Nicholas W Yang, Mrs Lam met with the Vice President of the French Parliamentary Office for Evaluation of Scientific and Technological Options and Fields Medalist, Mr Cédric Villani, to learn about the French experience and exchange views on such areas as research and development of artificial intelligence, open data, promotion of STEM education and attracting talent on scientific research.
Afterwards, Mrs Lam, Mr Yang and the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Edward Yau, went to Institut Pasteur where she, together with the President of Institut Pasteur, Professor Stewart Cole, witnessed the signing of a memorandum between Institut Pasteur, the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation on establishing a research centre for infection, immunology and personalised medicine at the Hong Kong Science Park. Institut Pasteur, which has been collaborating with the HKU, is committed to helping prevent and treat diseases, mainly those of infectious origin, through researches. Mrs Lam said that Hong Kong has clear advantages in healthcare technologies and that collaboration with Institut Pasteur will help both parties boost the relevant development, creating mutual benefits.
Mrs Lam and the other officials then visited Station F, a business incubator for start-ups. Station F, situated in a former rail freight depot with an area of about 34 000 square metres, is one of the world's largest start-up facilities. It provides office accommodation for up to 3 000 start-up businesses and famous corporate partners with the whole start-up ecosystem under one roof. Services include training programmes for start-ups, investment as well as provision of meeting facilities and venues for events. Mrs Lam expressed appreciation for the facilities, services and entrepreneurial atmosphere in Station F, and learnt from her exchange with entrepreneurs there that the support from Station F has been excellent. She looked forward to having more such facilities in Hong Kong and in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area so as to encourage young people to innovate and start their own business.
In the afternoon, Mrs Lam joined a business luncheon organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council and delivered a speech on the past, present and future of the relationship between Hong Kong and France. She noted that the ties between Hong Kong and France have a history of over 100 years. She said that, in addition to meetings with senior government officials, the programme of her week-long visit to France in her capacity as the Chief Executive covers three cities and includes wine-related activities as well as receiving helicopters, proving that the relationship between the two places is multi-faceted. With a strong community of French people and enterprises in Hong Kong, she said she is confident that the close ties between the two places will continue.
After the luncheon, Mrs Lam attended the MIPIM Proptech Europe 2018 forum and briefed participants on Hong Kong's advantages in innovation and technology. The forum, a two-day event featuring keynote speeches, panel discussions and start-up competitions, focuses on discussion on the application of proptech in different areas of the property sector to enhance efficiency and create value. She expressed the hope that similar proptech seminars will be held in Hong Kong in the future.
Concluding her one-week visit to France on 22 June; Mrs Lam met with the President of Ile de France region, Mrs Valérie Pécresse. Noting that Hong Kong is keen to collaborate with different parts of France and that the Ile de France region is very influential in the country, she said that Paris and Hong Kong, both of which are international metropoles, have a lot of room for co-operation in areas including investment, innovation and technology, culture and youth exchanges. She particularly introduced the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Bay Area to Mrs Pécresse, encouraging the Ile de France region to explore the huge market of the Bay Area through Hong Kong.
After the meeting, Mrs Lam visited the headquarters of Schneider Electric, a French multinational corporation specialising in digital transformation of energy management and automation. It has set up headquarters in Hong Kong in recent years. Mrs Lam toured the innovation hub of the company to understand the latest technology on energy saving and management, and smart solutions for various industries, cities and homes.
Mrs Lam said the visit to France was very successful. She welcomed the signing of two memorandums of understanding between the Airport Authority Hong Kong (AAHK) and Groupe ADP on strengthening co-operation between the Hong Kong International Airport and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in airport management, aviation development and air cargo development. She said the collaboration is set to boost Hong Kong's role as an aviation hub in the region and is yet another testimony that there is limitless potential for co-operation between Hong Kong and France in various aspects. The Chief Executive Officer of AAHK, Mr Fred Lam, who signed the memorandums of understanding on behalf of AAHK also attended the business luncheon organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council in Paris.
Mrs Lam left Paris in the afternoon for Zurich and traveled to Lindau to attend the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting Opening Ceremony the next day.