Hong Kong trade rep touts economic growth

The most senior representative of the Hong Kong government based in the United States spoke Tuesday about the city’s current economic and business climate in Hong Kong.

Donald Tong, the Hong Kong commissioner for economic and trade affairs in the U.S., gave a lecture entitled “Hong Kong — 15 Years After the Changeover” that addressed Hong Kong’s future in light of its 1997 changeover from a British colony to a part of mainland China. At the talk, Tong explained that despite fears following the ownership change, Hong Kong continues to show rapid economic growth. Hong Kong’s link with mainland China, political stability and central location have contributed to the expansion of its economy, he said.

“Hong Kong is an astonishing tale of transformation”, he said. “At the changeover there was some skepticism towards its future, but it has continued to make robust progress since 1997.”

Tong outlined the sources of Hong Kong’s strength, such as infrastructure investment and a political system free from corruption, adding that the economy remained resilient after the 2008 global financial crisis. Despite concerns for Hong Kong’s future following the transfer of its ownership, he said, the city’s advantageous geographical position on the coast of China has allowed it to become an important trade route between the East and West. As a special administrative region of China, Hong Kong can independently arrange its own trade agreements with other nations, he added.

As a result, the city attracts a variety of foreign firms looking to invest — contributing to a stable level of economic growth, he said.

“There are many competitive advantages that have allowed it to flourish,” he said. “Our adherence to free market principles has been given worldwide recognition. The Wall Street Journal recently ranked Hong Kong as having the freest economy in the world.”

Tong also discussed future projects for Hong Kong, including the development of the 18-mile HK-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge to facilitate the flow of visitors from mainland China to Hong Kong. With nearly 42 million tourists coming to Hong Kong from other parts of China each year, the city is an ideal place for foreign companies to access the mainland market, he said.

He added that Hong Kong’s economy operates at a low unemployment rate — a positive economic force complemented by an increase in political participation by its citizens. At the legislative council election of Sept. 9, Tong said nearly 60 percent of 3.4 million registered voters — out of seven million citizens — cast ballots for the 70 members of Hong Kong’s legislative council. He added that Hong Kong has invested in a state-of-the-art infrastructure and emphasized improving the education system.

Several students interviewed said they enjoyed hearing from a prestigious Hong Kong official. Wylie Chow SOM ’13 said he appreciated that Tong considered many different aspects of Hong Kong’s economy and hoped similar events would be staged in the future.

“I grew up in Hong Kong, and I’m glad to have such a great opportunity to meet some of its officials,” he said. “I read the news from Hong Kong every day and I have lots of questions, so it’s an incredible opportunity to ask him about some of the current issues.”

Tong oversees the work of the three Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices in Washington, New York and San Francisco.

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