Competition law could exempt TDC
The Trade Development Council is likely to be exempted from the competition law, an official has suggested, while saying he thought the bill will come into force this year.
Most of the city's other 500-plus statutory bodies, which include universities, Ocean Park and the Airport Authority, will be excluded from the new law. But an exemption for the TDC would be controversial because of its dual identity as trade promoter and exhibition organiser.
Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Andrew Wong Ho-yuen said yesterday he 'could not see why the TDC should not be exempted. The council is not the only exhibition organiser in the city. The shows it is in charge of do not make up a majority'.
He added: 'It is also obligated to promote Hong Kong's exports and help small and medium enterprises participate in trade shows.'
Wong also argued that although the TDC owned the Convention and Exhibition Centre, a private company was in charge of managing the Wan Chai venue.
Bureau secretary Greg So Kam-leung, said he was confident lawmakers would pass the bill this year.
In amendments made to the bill in the hope of speeding up Legislative Council approval, the government has cut the proposed maximum penalty for anti-competitive behaviour. The penalty was to have been 10 per cent of global turnover for the entire period of such behaviour. Now it is to be 10 per cent of Hong Kong turnover for a maximum three years. The government has also undertaken to set a market threshold to protect small businesses.
Complaints about the bill have been muted since such amendments, but there is still debate about how a 'small business' should be defined, according to the official.
Exhibition and Convention Industry Association chairman Daniel Cheung Wai-hung said the industry was divided over an exemption for the TDC and was open to all options.
Members who oppose the exemption say the TDC uses the government's resources when organising exhibitions, giving it an unfair advantage.
'Although the number of fairs organised by the TDC may make up less than half the total, their scale is big and many are the biggest ones in Asia,' he said.
Meanwhile, Tourism Commissioner Philip Yung Wai-hung said 26 new hotels would be finished this year, increasing room supply by 8.5 per cent compared with a year ago to a total of about 69,000. In the five years to 2016, the number of rooms will increase by 9,087 to 71,346.
The government would continue to provide land designated for the development of hotels and encourage the change of factory buildings from industrial use to hotel, he said.
The city might see a surge in demand for hotels from Guangdong residents if they were to be allowed multiple-entry visas, he added.