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Opening Remarks at the Third Hong Kong Monetary Authority Distinguished Lecture

by Joseph Yam, Chief Executive, Hong Kong Monetary Authority

8 July 1999

Governor Trichet, Governor Brash, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. It is my great pleasure to welcome Mr Jean-Claude Trichet, Governor of the Banque de France, to deliver the Third Hong Kong Monetary Authority Distinguished Lecture. I am also delighted to welcome Dr Don Brash, Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, as Discussant for this Distinguished Lecture.

2. Both Jean-Claude and Don are old friends of the HKMA, and their agreement to take part in this event is a double honour for Hong Kong. The presence here today of two eminent central bankers from opposite ends of the world, each with a strong international reputation, fully accords with the spirit in which this series of lectures was launched three years ago. The aim of the HKMA Distinguished Lecture is to provide a forum for the local financial community to hear and exchange views with influential figures from the international financial community. As financial systems become more and more globalised, the value of occasions such as this is all the more clear. Appropriately, in a week in which we commemorate the second anniversary of the eruption of the Asian financial crisis, the theme of this year's lecture is 'Risks and Challenges of the International Financial Scene.

3. Various explanations of the causes of the Asian financial crisis have been put forward. In the early stages of the crisis these explanations relied largely on local causes, and drew attention to such problems as macro-economic imbalances, policy errors, crony capitalism, poorly regulated financial systems and market panic in the crisis-hit countries. With the unfolding of the crises in Russia and Latin America, the Long Term Capital Management debacle, and the subsequent deleveraging of many hedge funds, the attention moved from local and regional explanations to a more international focus. It became clear that the Asian crisis - and the crises elsewhere in the world - were more than just a matter of a few economies failing to keep their houses in order.

4. The crises over the past two years have taught us that, no matter how well maintained the domestic financial environment may be, serious problems persist in what has proved to be an increasingly volatile international financial system. These problems cannot be resolved by individual economies on their own. Regional and international co-operation is clearly necessary for reforming the existing international financial architecture, which has failed to keep pace with the globalisation of financial markets and with technological innovation. We are therefore very pleased to have Mr Trichet, an expert in this field, here with us today to share his insights into the risks and challenges facing the international financial community.

5. The Banque de France and the HKMA have enjoyed what might be described as an entente cordiale over a long period of time, and for two very good reasons. First, we have similar views on major international issues, particularly on the need for international financial reform, and we have been echoing each other on these issues in the international forums. Secondly, at these international forums the seating is arranged in alphabetical order, so that Jean-Claude and I, representing France and Hong Kong respectively, are usually seated next to one another. Classmates who sit next to each other tend to form either very strong bonds or very strong antipathies, and the same rule can probably be applied to central bank governors' meetings. I am happy to say that Jean-Claude and I fall into the former category, and that we have become good neighbours and good friends.

6. Mr Trichet was appointed Governor of the Banque de France since 1993 - an excellent vintage, in which I was also appointed Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. He is also a Member both of the Board of Governors of the Bank for International Settlements and of the Board of the European Central Bank. Before being appointed to his present office, Mr Trichet held a number of important positions in the French Government, including a long period as Undersecretary of the Treasury. He has also served in a number of prominent advisory positions, including, in the late 1970s, a term as Advisor to President Giscard D'Estaing on industry, energy and research. Delving even further back, it is worth noting that Mr Trichet is a qualified mining engineer and, in fact, began his career in the 1960s as a research engineer. This is, I think, a useful qualification for someone prominently involved in re-engineering a structure as complex and as precarious as the international financial architecture.

7. Our discussant, Dr Don Brash, has also enjoyed a career outside central banking with his important work in cultivating, developing and promoting the kiwifruit. The kiwifruit is an ancient Chinese delicacy, which used to be known to a few western botanists as the 'Chinese gooseberry' until the enterprising New Zealanders took it over, renamed it the 'kiwifruit', and made it into an item on the international menu. With his involvement in the New Zealand Kiwifruit Authority in the early '80s, Don has played a prominent role in this marketing tour de force. It is, however, in his capacity as Governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand that we welcome him here today. As you may be aware, central bank governorship in this region has become a something of a high-risk profession during these times of financial turmoil. Don is one of the great survivors in the business: despite his youthful appearance, he is the longest serving central bank governor in the region, with myself coming a distant second. Dr Brash took up the governorship of the Reserve Bank of the New Zealand in 1988, and we have all learned a great deal from his wealth of experience. Before becoming governor of the Reserve Bank, Don served in the World Bank in Washington D.C., and in various positions as a public policy advisor in New Zealand.

8. Ladies and Gentlemen, I now take much pleasure in calling upon our speaker, Mr Jean-Claude Trichet, to deliver the third HKMA Distinguished Lecture. Mr Trichet, please.

Last revision date: 12 September 2011
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