The Slovenia Times

Interview: Christopher Jackson, Hong Kong TDC - Networking is Key



What has made Hong Kong a business hub?
In 1945 the main question was: how to reconstruct Hong Kong? There are several blocks that have made Hong Kong what it is today. One of them is the open trade. We have had zero tariffs on imports right from the start and this has helped to develop Hong Kong. The impact of the taxes is interesting because at the same time we did continue to have excise duties on wines and spirits. It's only been three years since we stopped having them. But we have become a major wine hub: wine trading, wine auctions - Hong Kong is second only to London in wine trading. So zero import duties have had an enormous impact on Hong Kong developing into a hub.

Are there any similarities between Slovenia and Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has similarities with Slovenia: it has legal tradition, clear government, and clear rules. There is this familiarity with English which Slovenia has developed too. We pegged ourselves to the US dollar in 1993. This is similar to the Slovenian Euro situation - a small economy linking itself to a bigger economy. The long term benefits of that move have been very good - we have become a financial centre. As most of the business in the world is made in US dollars, doubting us would virtually mean doubting the US dollar. We gained currency stability, but it came along with some tough discipline.
Another key element is logistics. If we look at Koper: it has a small port, but it is doing very well. We have one of the busiest container ports in the world. And if you combine it with the border, if you put the two together, it's the biggest port area in the world. However impressive and busy our port is, the value of trade coming out of the port is smaller than the one coming out of our airport. The air cargo hub is now the busiest in the world, the biggest in terms of value of trade.

What are the main reasons behind Hong Kong's success?
One of the reasons why Hong Kong is successful is the developing trade shows. The Trade Development Council now runs over 30 percent of them. We are not the only trade organisers, but we were the ones who developed the backbone of the industry. We have ten of Asia's biggest fairs and three of the world's biggest fairs. For us the proximity of China is very important too. Most of the manufacturing has gone to China, but we are not changing that because of our strengths: putting the deals together, raising the money in the finance, having the trade shows, logistics - Hong Kong has become much more of a service centre. Our GDP is now 90 percent services. And those services relate closely to trade, but are beginning to develop a power of their own, especially in the financing sector.
Hong Kong is a major banking player and a very important stock exchange. Last year the value of initial public offerings was greater than anywhere else in the world, largely because of China. For 12 years TDC was made responsible for the promotion of services which are very close to products. For example, every January the Asian financial forum is organised which is a great opportunity for financial people to come here and meet their regional counterparts. This is superb networking. Also there are other fairs that have bridged the gap between products and services, such as the Eco expo fair for environmental technologies: part of it is about products, a lot of it is about technologies (solar panels, electric cars etc). This is also useful for Slovenia and the EU: how to bring services and products together.

How is the Trade Development Council organised?
We have 40 overseas offices. Ten of our offices are in mainland China. A very important part of our focus is to help companies based in Hong Kong to gain access to this extraordinary emerging market - not an easy market, but one which is growing rapidly. There are various ways of doing that; one is to have a strong position in the domestic market in Hong Kong. 23 million mainland Chinese come to Hong Kong to shop and later on they talk about it at home. Consumer behaviour of Hong Kong is very influential on the Chinese. So to sell products or offer services here is a good starting point. But the Chinese market is not the only one of course and we in Hong Kong have to avoid putting all our eggs into one basket. We mustn't forget traditional markets like America and Europe as well as other markets in the region, such as Japan and Korea. A big, new and exciting market is Indonesia because of its size and also because its economy is doing quite well and is opening up and becoming more liberal.
We also encourage business people to go further afield to new markets. We have consultancies in South America, the USA, Canada, Europe and Dubai. Russia is also an interesting market for Hong Kong. With these 40 offices we have business associations all over the world, we have 13,000 business associates who are essentially unpaid ambassadors who want to do business or have lived in Hong Kong and are part of the Hong Kong business association federation network. We have a very big database of companies - more than five million. We don't have one in Slovenia yet, however. [To open an office] we need a group of people who are interested in doing business with Hong Kong.


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