Fair organiser angry at 'unfair' competition

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 December, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 December, 2009, 12:00am

Fair organiser Global Sources has accused the government-subsidised Trade Development Council of unfairly dominating the local exhibition industry and has officially complained to the Competition Policy Advisory Group.

The November 24 letter to the government's competition watchdog is the latest in a string of complaints by the private sector about the council muscling in on the lucrative exhibition industry.

In the letter, Global Sources said the council was 'directly engaging in unhealthy and undue competition with the private sector'. It said a new council trade show, the Hong Kong Baby Products Fair, was being launched in January, three years after Global Sources started a baby and children's products fair. Similarly, the council will stage the Hong Kong International Home Textiles Fair from April 20 to 23, the same dates Global Sources is having its India sourcing fair for home products, including home textiles.

A council spokesman said its baby products fair was in response to market demand and that its shows aimed to help small and medium-sized companies do more business.

Describing the council as an 'evil empire', Tommy Wong, president of Global Sources Exhibitions, said that going up against it was challenging.

Trade fairs tend to be concentrated in April and October to coincide with orders placed around those times. At the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, there is a general industry understanding that similar shows are not held within three months of one another. Global Sources organises fairs at the AsiaWorld-Expo venue, near the airport.

Central to the argument against the council are comments by its former executive director, Michael Sze, to legislators in June 2000 that, 'in view of limited resources, if successful fairs had been organised by private exhibition services companies for a particular industry, HKTDC would not organise similar trade fairs to avoid unhealthy competition'.

Recently, the Concern Group for a Competitive Exhibition Industry filed a complaint to the Legislative Council, accusing the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau of ignoring the trade council's conflicting roles and domination in the market.