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TDC News(HKTDC Electronics, Vol 05,2001)

Vol 5, 2001

TDC News

Finance Centre Widens Appeal

Report Praises IPR Progress

New Zealand Fosters Closer Ties


Finance Centre Widens Appeal

Shown at the 16th Joint Plenary Session of the Hong Kong-US Business Council in Atlanta are (left to right) US consul general in Hong Kong Michael Klosson; Hong Kong commissioner for economic and trade affairs Jacqueline Willis; Hong Kong chairman of the Hong Kong-US Business Council Ronnie Chan; US chairman of the council Doug Daft; US Chamber of Commerce president Thomas Donohue; and TDC executive director Michael Sze.

RULE of law and pro-competitive regulatory reforms are cornerstones of Hong Kong's ability to sustain its role as an international financial services centre, concluded members of the Hong Kong-US Business Council at their recent 16th Joint Plenary Session in Atlanta, Georgia.

In a joint communiqu members noted Hong Kong's efforts to raise standards of corporate governance and its role as a place for Chinese mainland enterprises to raise international capital.

US members suggested Hong Kong should be proactive in Asia's broader efforts to reform and strengthen the region's financial institutions. They agreed Hong Kong serves as a model for other countries, specifically for the mainland as it undertakes financial liberalization consistent with entry to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The Hong Kong-US Business Council, comprised of corporate leaders, is a private-sector initiative to strengthen and expand business links. The recent meeting was co-chaired by US council chairman Doug Daft and Hong Kong chairman Ronnie Chan.

Members anticipated opportunities for increased government-business cooperation on promoting the growth of a Greater China knowledge economy. They agreed intellectual property protection must remain a policy objective.

They endorsed Hong Kong's achievements in telecoms liberalization while noting that IT and hi-tech development on the Chinese mainland and the development of 3G and digital broadcasting in Hong Kong created attractive opportunities for overseas companies.

Council members discussed progress in liberalizing transport sectors. They noted Hong Kong's strength as a transport and distribution hub and agreed the city must adapt to changing regional dynamics, adjusting to the integration of its transport infrastructure with that of the Pearl River Delta.

Members also discussed the opening of the mainland's transport and logistics sectors to foreign investment and the need to continue developing Hong Kong as a logistics centre.

The council received a message of support from US secretary of commerce Donald Evans. At a pre-plenary dinner, the guest speaker was US transportation secretary Norman Y. Mineta. Immediate past US ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, addressed the council on the strategic importance of the US-China relationship. Atlanta mayor Bill Campbell delivered closing remarks.

The full-day meeting also covered the US economic and political landscape; the Bush administration's priorities and their implications for the Asia-Pacific region; China's WTO accession; and Hong Kong's role as a business platform in Asia.

The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) administers the Hong Kong section and the US Chamber of Commerce, based in Washington, administers the US section. The next such plenary meeting is scheduled for Hong Kong in 2002.


Report Praises IPR Progress

Hong Kong remains "one of the freest cities in Asia", according to a recent US Department of State report to Congress on US-Hong Kong relations.

The report covers the period of 1 April 2000 through 31 July 2001.

"During the past two years Hong Kong has made substantial progress in the fight against pirated movies, audio and software compact discs and pirated trademark goods," the report concedes.

It welcomes the fact that Hong Kong has "significantly strengthened" its regime for protecting intellectual property rights (IPR), including legislation to criminalize corporate use of unlicensed software.

The State Department says the Office of the US Trade Representative "now regularly cites Hong Kong as a model for other Asian economies struggling with their own problems of IPR piracy".

The report says Hong Kong has few non-tariff barriers and investment restrictions and is dismantling the few existing restrictions.

It acknowledges that Hong Kong opened broadcast and telecoms markets to greater competition starting in 1998, resulting in "a significant increase in US direct foreign investment (US$2.5bn in 1999), including several major telecom projects". In the US government's assessment, the main remaining hurdle is opening the wire-based telecoms market, which Hong Kong has promised to do by January 2003.

The US bemoans an absence of antitrust laws and the high cost of market entry, a combination leading to domination of some sectors by incumbent local operators. The report underlines the need to liberalize civil aviation, concluding that a wide gap lingers between the US position and Hong Kong's more restrictive approach.

Citing an annual business confidence survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in late-2000, the State Department says US companies have a favourable view of Hong Kong's business environment, including its autonomous, impartial legal system, free-flowing information, low taxation and well-developed infrastructure.


New Zealand Fosters Closer Ties

TDC chairman Peter Woo (left) comes to grips with New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark at an Auckland meeting to explore opportunities to strengthen partnerships between the two economies.

HONG Kong and New Zealand can anticipate stronger economic ties, according to New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark. She spoke after a recent meeting in Auckland with TDC chairman Peter Woo and other Hong Kong business leaders.

Clark said she supported Woo's idea of closer partnerships between small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and welcomed the TDC's pledge to work closely with Trade New Zealand to foster business links.

Woo said Hong Kong could benefit from strategic partnerships with SMEs in New Zealand's information technology and biotechnology sectors. He added that New Zealand could become Hong Kong's Silicon Valley.

Hong Kong's strengths are marketing-orientated while New Zealand's are in research and development, he added.

"The idea is to seek strategic partners with complementary skills and core competencies," Woo said.

Hong Kong traders handle 40% of the Chinese mainland's foreign trade. With the mainland's trade expected to double in five years after accession to the World Trade Organization, New Zealand SMEs can benefit from Hong Kong's "first mover advantage" there.

Clark said she strongly supported the signing of a Closer Economic Partnership Agreement between the two economies. "The bilateral agreement is expected to reduce non-tariff barriers and liberalize service trade and investment in New Zealand. We look forward to strengthening ties with Hong Kong," she said.

New Zealand's exports to Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland have more than quadrupled during the past decade, and the combined markets are New Zealand's fourth largest.


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