Council defends role over Basle fair
The Trade Development Council (TDC) has hit back at claims that it overcharged Hong Kong exhibitors at the world's biggest watch and jewellery fair in Switzerland.
The TDC said it had cut its fees for the Basle fair by 10 per cent last year and planned to reduce them by a further 5 per cent next year.
The fair attracts more than 2,400 exhibitors, and is a key event in the industry calendar.
Many of the 245 Hong Kong manufacturers who took part in this year's eight-day fair complained the TDC's charges were too high.
They called for fee reductions and said the council should offer them sponsorship to offset the costs of attending.
Delegates complained they had no choice but to pay the charges as the TDC was an effective monopoly.
The government-funded trade promotion body is the fair's sole agent responsible for recruiting Hong Kong participants.
TDC deputy executive director Dennis Yau Tat-wang said: 'Manufacturers may think we are making a profit out of them after the Government cut its funding to the TDC last year.
'In fact, we have been trying to squeeze costs to the minimum, in particular amid the difficult economic environment.' The charges mainly included rents for booth space and construction of booths.
Mr Yau ruled out sponsoring manufacturers, saying the council adhered to two principles: that participants pay the cost of any trade activities and the TDC charge them at cost.
Mr Yau said the council had recorded a deficit last year as a result of the Government's decision to cut funding by one-third to $400 million, with the deficit expected to continue this year.
He also rejected claims the TDC had overcharged delegates, saying the council's charges this year at an average of $5,900 per square metre were about 4 per cent lower than the show organiser's.
'We offer a lot of value-added services such as promotion, hiring of a copyright specialist and image building of the Hong Kong jewellery and watch-making industry,' Mr Yau said.
He said the TDC had spent $20 million on the Basle fair, but would be able to recover the amount in full from charging manufacturers.
The trade fair ends today. The SAR's delegation is the largest non-European team attending.
FIGHTING BACK Jewellers, watch-makers complain charges too high TDC says fees cut last year, with more to come Lower government funds see council run deficit