Export marketing spot 'wide open'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 April, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 April, 1999, 12:00am

The contest for the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) service award for export marketing is wide open as local firms 'surge ahead' of their regional competitors.

Hong Kong now ranked as the world's ninth largest exporter of services, behind only Japan in Asia and ahead of Singapore, South Korea and Switzerland, Stephen Liang, the TDC's manager for services promotion, said.

'It is well known that Hong Kong has taken eighth place in the world as a merchandise trader, but what many do not know is that the SAR is now also ninth for exporting services around the world,' he said.

'The sector has posted an average growth rate of 15 per cent since 1985 and the SAR is now a world leader in many individual service industries.' Last year it accounted for exports worth $265 billion.

'The territory has also surged ahead of its competitors within the region in many service industries, from banking and insurance to professional services and telecommunications,' Mr Liang said.

Statistics, however, do not even tell the full story. The full value to the economy is under-estimated because a lot of the international business is carried out by the offices of Hong Kong companies in other countries.

'The business of these foreign offices is not recorded as external trading activity, but as foreign direct investment,' according to a recent TDC report.

Though not recorded, such offshore trade generates 'significant income' in the form of services exports, now earning about $75.5 billion a year for Hong Kong.

Despite (or perhaps due to) such industrious export activity, the contest for the SAR's most effective service exporter attracted only 13 entries last year, when removal specialists Crown Worldwide scooped the top prize.

But the TDC is optimistic that the competition will be stronger this time around. 'We are promoting the fact that a wide range of companies are in the running and are hoping for around 20 entries this year,' Mr Liang said.

'Entries are welcome from any service exporter, no matter what size. They can be architects, interior designers, software houses, constructors - the only thing that matters is that they demonstrate thorough research of export potential, promote an effective strategy and show sales results.' He said the economic downturn should inspire more companies, rather than fewer, to take part.

'As business has slowed down a bit, it's an ideal time to participate,' he said. 'This is an opportunity for companies to review their strategies. By taking part in this exercise, they can see how other firms are succeeding.' Some software houses, for example, were performing exceptionally despite the general slowing of the economy. 'There are a few doing really well, producing some very good new products,' Mr Liang said.