ONE-ON-ONE WITH PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE
DR. THE HONOURABLE D. ORLANDO SMITH OBE
OCTOBER 12, 2016
PREMIER’S CONFERENCE ROOM
“ENHANCING BVI INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS”
Good Afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press, thank you for being here for today’s press briefing where I will focus on my upcoming trips to the Asia Pacific Region and United Kingdom.
I’ll first talk about my trip to the Asian Pacific Region
On Friday, I will lead a delegation in partnership with BVI Finance on a historic BVI Asian Trade Mission to further build and strengthen the relationship between ourselves and Hong Kong, Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Hangzhou.
I say historic because, this is the first time that we will be covering four provinces in Mainland China in one mission.
The main objective of this mission is to maintain the BVI’s position as the leading offshore jurisdiction in the Asia Pacific region and gain support for the continued use of BVI offshore structures in Asia.
China is one of the countries leading the world’s growth so we must use this opportunity to capitalise on this growth for our own development.
In the past we would have had missionsto Hong Kong and Shenzhen, but as we continue to strengthen the Territory’s economic relations with the Asia Pacific region we recognise the importance of including missions to the other provinces mentioned.
I must remind you that our relationship with the Asian market dates back to the 1980s. We have long been a trusted partner in the Asia Pacific Region. In fact, we have been fortunate to have been working with Asian businesses and individuals as they achieve their economic success.
That is why we have opened BVI House Asia in Hong Kong to ensure that the region is supported; that we are uniquely positioned to further facilitate economic growth across the region; and that our relationship continues to grow.
As you are aware, the BVI have broadened our product offering in the areas of trust, estate and succession planning, investment funds, captive insurance and business companies.
We have also included value-added services including trademark registration, vessel registration, legal services, litigation and restructuring.
This means that our visit to the Asia Pacific Region is important as we improve, innovate and diversify our BVI brand.
Hong Kong is a vibrant city, a key service economy and major gateway to China. We will meet officials of the Hong Kong SAR Government as well as the Tianjin Government as we seek to expand and deepen the British Virgin Islands’ footprint in the Asia Pacific Region, and broaden the understanding of how the BVI is used in the region.
I will meet with the Chief Executive of Hong Kong and the New Consul General of the UK in Hong Kong.
Beijing, is the capital of the People’s Republic of China. The city is home to the headquarters of most of China’s largest state-owned companies, and is a major transportation hub of China.
Tianjin houses some of the most prominent production facilities in China that produce computer components, automobiles, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and holds one of China’s largest oil deposits.
Shanghai is a major economic and tourist hub which serves as a prominent economic, financial, international trade, cultural, technological, and scientific centre in China.
And, Hangzhou is a cultural and economic hub that is famous for providing entrepreneurial support and e-commerce activities.
During our visit to these provinces, we will engage with business leaders, financial services practitioners, tourism practitioners, and clients.
We will also take this opportunity to sign our Memorandum of Understanding with Tianjian which will strengthen our relationship with akey province China and develop long term cooperation with a commitment to provide services to Tianjin’s enterprises and supporting their ‘go global strategy.’
In Hong Kong, I will be speaking at the 2016 Business BVI Asia Annual Conference themed “Creating The Future: Leveraging Our Asia Relationships + Technology”, with other featured speakers. These will include Director of BVI House Asia, Ms. Elise Donovan; Interim Director of BVI Finance, Mrs. Lorna Smith, OBE; Chairman of the Board, BVI International Arbitration Centre, Mr. John Beechey; and guest speakers from BVI firms in Hong Kong and Greater China.
Overall, the BVI has been working with Asian businesses and professionals for 30 years and has become the jurisdiction of choice for corporates, joint ventures and all forms of wealth management by Asian clients.
The Asia Pacific region continues to be a fundamental market for the British Virgin Islands. Around half of our financial services business emanates from the region, and given its increasingly influential role in the global economy, Asia represents a significant economic opportunity for the BVI both in terms of financial services and tourism.
A primary focus for the jurisdiction is to continue to be a trusted business partner for our Asia stakeholders, add value to the services provided, and to support their ongoing economic success.
From Hong Kong, I will travel on to London for my annual visit to the United Kingdomwhere I have a full agenda.
In my capacity as President of the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association (UKOTA) Political Council, I will chair a meeting of OT Leaders to coordinate our positions on Brexit and other issues as we prepare for ministerial discussions with the United Kingdom Government at the Joint Ministerial Council.
My goal for the meeting is to see the BVI and other Overseas Territories move toward deepening our cooperation going forward on issues that affect us to amplify our collective voice in the international arena to better defend our interests in an increasingly uncertain world.
On the JMC agenda are Brexit and issues dealing with sustainable economic development, climate change, health, international trade and the OT-UK partnership.
Britain’s impending exit from the EU is a highly important issue for the BVI as our international affairs is anchored in part by the UK’s EU membership which gives us policy access in Brussels.
I and other OT Leaders will collectively call on the UK to fully involve the OTs in Brexit negotiations under an established framework for discussions between the territories and the UK.
We want to ensure that the negotiations do not adversely affect our near-term position with the EU with respect to ongoing EU support for programming scheduled to expire in 2020.
On the question of international trade, I will call on the UK for a new economic partnership with the OTs.
As the UK re-emerges as an independent trading nation, the BVI and other territories can be an asset in facilitating UK trade with emerging markets in the Commonwealth in Africa and Asia.
We can also be a vehicle by which to channel inward investment to the British economy in critical sectors such as housing and infrastructure. Such a partnership would be a win-win for both the UK and BVI.
In the margins of the JMC, I will also have a bilateral meeting with the UK Government in which I will discuss my Government’s plans for a constitutional review in 2017.
As our Constitution turns 10 years old it is only appropriate that we consider modifications to our current constitutional arrangements to better enable us to meet new and emerging challenges in the 21st century.
I will also raise this in the UK Parliament at the House of Commons where OT Leaders will meet members of the Foreign Affairs Committee. The committee’s support will be critical in building momentum for constitutional changes.
Also at the parliament I will meet members of the BVI All Party Parliamentary Group which is chaired by former UK OT Minister Sir Henry Bellingham.
I will provide an update on the progress we are making in the territory and hear views on how we can strengthen our relationship with the UK Government going forward.
I will highlight my Government’s positive international engagement on tax and transparency, the imminent opening of our International Arbitration Centre and the measures we are taking to strengthen tourism.
While in London I will also host a roundtable at BVI House with members of the financial services industry to update them on the progress we are making with the BVI Forward campaign, including our plans to transition BVI Finance next year from a government department to a corporate entity that can better meet the needs of the industry.
Outside of London, I will visit Hertfordshire County on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the BVI Government’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Hertfordshire County Council.
There I will meet with a number of the County’s stakeholders to celebrate the BVI-Hertsfordshire relationship as we prepare to launch a new round of twinning partnerships from which both sides can benefit.
My visit will complement my hosting of senior Hertfordshire officials at my annual Reception at BVI House where I will officially thank them for the Council’s generous support which has benefitted the Territory in areas such as sports, education, culture, youth exchange, agriculture, public policy and higher education thus far.
I round off my visit to the UK with an afternoon at BVI House with over 50 of our students to hear their concerns and inform them of my Government’s plans for the year.
Overall, I am looking forward to the long-lasting relationships that we will build with our international partners both in the Asia Pacific Region and the United Kingdom, as I believe that a healthy relationship between the British Virgin Islands and the rest of the world is fundamental to our quality of life, economic and social success.