Rapaport Magazine

Hong Kong

By Karolyn Schuster
Gateway to China

A Hong Kong delegation of more than 200 top-ranking government officials, trade representatives and business leaders visited New York and Los Angeles in June to promote Hong Kong as the gateway to the promising, growing consumer market in China and Asia. It was the largest Hong Kong trade promotion ever organized in the U.S.
   Jack So, chairman of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) that organized the event, assured the more than 3,000 persons in attendance in the two cities that “Together, we can find you a market in Asia.”
   One indication of the promotion’s importance to Hong Kong was the fact that the opening address in New York was delivered by CY Yeung in his first visit to the U.S. since his election as Hong Kong chief executive one year ago. “Our message to the U.S. business community is simple,” he said. “The best route for your companies to reach the vibrant Chinese and Asian markets is not a straight line on a map but a route through Hong Kong. When you think of the opportunities for your companies to do business in our part of the world, then think Hong Kong. A presence in Hong Kong is a ticket to the Asian and Chinese markets.”
   Noting that 1,300 U.S. companies already are operating in Hong Kong, where one-half of them have regional headquarters, Yeung told the audience that “They know if their products sell well in Hong Kong, they will also sell well in China. Our city is a very effective showcase for your goods and services.”
   The “Think Asia, Think Hong Kong” trade promotion included a daylong schedule of panel discussions, private sessions matching individual U.S. businesses interested in the Chinese market with Hong Kong–based service providers, including legal, financial and marketing firms, and testimony by executives of U.S. companies that have successfully expanded their business base by selling to Asia.

A Diamond Perspective
   Hugo Foutermann, a third-generation dealer in antique and estate jewelry in New York City, told the audience at an afternoon breakout session that his family’s company, Windsor Jewelers, has been going to Hong Kong for 20 years and has found it to be a strong platform for reaching out to Asian customers.
   “We go to all three Hong Kong jewelry trade shows — in March, June and September — and we have seen their growth,” Foutermann said. “At the March jewelry show 15 years ago, the show occupied one hall in the convention center. This year, it occupied the entire Hong Kong convention center, and there are plans to expand into space in the airport convention center.”

Selling Direct to Consumers
   “Fifteen years ago, we limited ourselves to wholesale jewelry,” Foutermann said, noting that since 2009, “it has become easier for Mainland Chinese people to visit Hong Kong. We have seen a huge increase in the number of Mainland Chinese coming to Hong Kong to shop and to buy. As a foreign company, these shows are a way for us to directly reach private Chinese customers.”
   Foutermann added that his company has built up a mailing list of 1,000 private clients who come to every jewelry show in Hong Kong. Noting the well-known affinity of Chinese consumers for luxury products, he pointed out, “You can sell everything in Hong Kong — from small pieces of jewelry priced at $10 to diamonds costing $4 million. Whatever your company sells, you can sell it in Hong Kong.”
   “Half of our company’s income is done in coming to Hong Kong three times a year,” Foutermann continued. “It’s a really big wave we’ve been surfing. Hong Kong is a free trade zone. There are no import issues, no tax issues. Hong Kong is centrally located in Asia and its currency is set against the U.S. dollar so there is no impact on your investment when there are fluctuations in the euro or pound currency.”

It’s Easier in Hong Kong
   The U.S. businesses already in Hong Kong are there, according to So, “because it is the place in Asia where they feel most comfortable doing business. Apart from the Western culture, apart from people speaking English, Hong Kong has the most wealth, freedom of the press, freedom of expression, the best communication and transportation. Its proximity to China and a common culture with China make it easy for U.S. companies to use Hong Kong as a springboard to do business in Asia and China.”
   Noting that the world economic order has been transformed over the past decade, So said, “Led by China, the economies of Asia have assumed a more significant role in the global economic recovery. This continuing shift from West to East offers new business prospects for U.S. companies.”

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - July 2013. To subscribe click here.

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