STATEMENT BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE DR. HONOURABLE D. ORLANDO SMITH, OBE DURING THE FIFTH SITTING OF THE THIRD SESSION OF THE THIRD HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
On The Asia Mission 2018
Thursday, 28th June, 2018
Madame Speaker, I wish to update this Honourable House on my recent Asia Mission trip, which was a productive two week engagement with Asian businesses, Government officials and individuals in financial services, tourism, and innovation.
Our relationship with Asia did not just start two years ago. The BVI is immensely proud and fortunate to have been doing business with the Asia region for approximately 30 years. What gives us even greater satisfaction is that nearly half of our financial services businesses originate from the Asia Pacific Region.
In 2016, I led a delegation to Hong Kong and Greater China from 5th to 13th September to similarly engage with business leaders, Government officials, financial services practitioners and clients in that region.
The visit coincided with the 30th anniversary of the International Business Companies (IBC) Act – the innovative piece of legislation which has positioned the Virgin Islands as a leading global financial services jurisdiction.
Madame Speaker, this year was just a bit different: from 2nd to 17th June, we covered five cities in Asia, the BVI’s largest market, to continue to promote our financial services - offerings traditional and new and to meet with key government and industry stakeholders in the region.
This mission trip was important because with the growing complexity and interconnectedness of the global financial system, we cannot sit on our laurels; we have to continue to engage stakeholders in the marketplace, discuss challenges, and seek out opportunities to diversify our brand.
As I have said elsewhere, BVI as a financial services jurisdiction remains in a leading position, comfortably ahead of our competitors in the Asian market. China is the BVI’s biggest market, and we were pleased to visit four of its cities with a total population of well over 50 million.
Madame Speaker, while in region, we met with well over 1100 persons at our various events including five mini conferences in Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai, at various Government Departments in Beijing, business associations in both Beijing and Hangzhou, the principals of various major business entities and individuals.
In Hong Kong we met with Andrew Heyn, British Consul General there, and with Ms Carrie Lam, the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
The trade mission established that there is tremendous potential for the BVI in Asia and that our clients there continue to be keen to use our traditional as well as new products for their various activities ranging from wealth management, to joint ventures, to mergers and acquisitions, to property development, to listings, indeed the whole gamut of financial services.
We joined over 500 business leaders and Government officials to celebrate the opening of Bank of Asia (BVI). There are a number of things we have been waiting to see come on stream and we were grateful for this good news that the banking needs of our Asian clients doing BVI business can now be fulfilled.
Madame Speaker, from Hong Kong we travelled to Singapore where we had a day and a half of high-level briefings and presentations from digital and fintech leaders including the Chief Operating Officer of ANZ Bank, Director of the Fintech & Innovation Group of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, together with financial and fintech experts who are developing start-up fintech companies and senior staff of the National University of Singapore.
We also visited Crimson Logic Pte Ltd, which among other activities is bringing the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court into the digital era, starting with three countries, including the BVI.
Madame Speaker, we then travelled to Beijing, and met with Madame Li Shaoling, President of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and discussed various matters including expanding Chinese tourism to the BVI.
While in Beijing we also met with senior officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Commerce. We discussed a number of economic matters such as opportunities for investment in the hospitality sector, the planned expansion of Beef Island Airport and upcoming major tourism and financial services activities in China.
Madame Speaker, were particularly pleased as well when Director of BVI House Asia Elise Donovan and Carson Wen the Chairman and CEO of the China Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (CASME) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a business relationship between CASME and BVI. With seven million members, CASME is one of China’s most influential business organisations.
Madame Speaker, in Hangzhou I was pleased to speak to a gathering of 130 Chinese entrepreneurs of the General Association of Zhejiang Entrepreneurs. What made this special was that these men and women were from that city but had established businesses all over China and much further afield using BVI companies.
I took the opportunity to outline to the entrepreneurs BVI innovations, such as the new Micro Business Company, the new Limited Partnership Act and the introduction of Bank of Asia, the BVI’s bank in the cloud.
Hangzhou has become famous as the home of Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, and is equally famous as China’s Silicon Valley.
Madame Speaker on the final day in Shanghai over 130 persons attended our mini conference. Delegates as at all meetings covered topics such as the BVI Advantage, the opening of Bank of Asia in BVI, new BVI products such as the Micro Business Company Act, the new Limited Partnership Act, and how the BVI can become more involved with the Belt and Road Initiative, a multibillion dollar project introduced by the Chinese government.
Earlier in the day we met with the senior management of China Union Pay, China’s largest integrated payment and information service company, to discuss a possible business relationship built around fintech and digital payment services.
Madame Speaker, overall, the mission was an unqualified success. We have long recognised that Asia WILL continue to make its mark with vitality, financial success and innovation.
As I said elsewhere the BVI brand remains strong and the Asia Pacific Region remains firmly committed to this jurisdiction and its offerings. I was very pleased to lead the delegation and am pleased that the information exchanged and the relationships forged are of tremendous potential benefit to this Territory.
I want to thank Minister for Health and Social Development Honourable Ronnie Skelton who accompanied me on this trip.
I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude; to Interim Director of BVI Finance Mrs. Lorna Smith and Director of the BVI House Asia Ms. Elise Donovan and their teams for organizing what has been another successful Asia Mission.
Madame Speaker, this mission no doubt cemented in my mind the need for my Government to continue to push for significant advancement in policies that facilitate the improvement of our capability and capacity in that region.
As a Government, we will continue to do what is necessary to strengthen and build our tourism sector and our international relationships so that Virgin Islands can further enhance our financial services and tourism brand in the regional and global economy.
Madame Speaker, this is important as our efforts as a Territory continue to be centered on the vision that we are collectively Build BVI Stronger, Smarter, Greener, Better.
Thank you, Madame Speaker.