The Hong Kong International Wine and Spirits Fair was established in 2008 to back the Hong Kong government's policy that the city should become the wine hub of Asia and, since the elimination of duty on wine and beer in that year's budget, this has largely been achieved. Hong Kong has become Asia's wine trading centre, with record-breaking sums at auction, and large auctions now held every few weeks at the major auction houses, including Bonhams, Christie's and Sotheby's. The city is now the second-largest centre for wine auctions behind New York. As Financial Secretary John Tsang Chun-wah noted in this year's budget speech, there has been robust growth in the number of importers and wine trade service providers. 'After recording an 80 per cent increase in 2008, the value of wine imports reached HK$4 billion in 2009, marking a further growth of 41 per cent year-on-year,' he says. Demand for wine, and for wine of higher quality, has snowballed and is also growing on the mainland, a situation which Hong Kong is well-positioned to take advantage of. Government figures for the first nine months of the year showed that 34 per cent of wine exports from Hong Kong went across the border. In February, a co-operation agreement was signed by Hong Kong and mainland authorities covering easing of customs measures for the passage of wine entering the mainland through Hong Kong. This will enhance co-operation on wine-related matters and strengthen the city's position as a regional wine-trading hub.