Support our local exporters? But we've exported 'em all

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 February, 2012, 12:00am

'If we don't expand the centre there will be long-term problems with the city's business community, especially the small and medium[-sized] enterprises, which need such channels to show their products.'

Monica Lee-Muller, deputy managing director, HK Convention and Exhibition Centre

Really, madam? If so, I think my flat has enough space for these Hong Kong-based SMEs to showcase their export wares. I'll turn over the laundry corner. We won't need to take out the laundry.

The chart shows you the ratio of Hong Kong's domestic exports to gross domestic product over the past 25 years and it's probable that even these figures mostly represent booking anomalies. Let's echo the auctioneer's chant here - 'Going ... going ... gone.'

But the Trade Development Council, a government agency that has long passed its sell-by date, won't have it. The TDC was set up to promote Hong Kong export products, and therefore Hong Kong has export products.

The fiction on which the TDC relies is that neighbouring provinces in China are all source zones of Hong Kong exports. Many operations there were set up by people who carry Hong Kong identity cards. Their products are therefore Hong Kong products and the TDC's responsibility.

There is a facsimile of logic to this, I suppose, but the difficulty is that it can as well apply to Hong Kong ID card holders living in Canada. Shall we also promote the businesses of Hong Kong emigrants in Toronto? Extraterritorial responsibility was never in the TDC's founding brief. It was set up to promote goods made in Hong Kong, full stop.

There are other difficulties for the TDC here, however. Low-end manufacturing has begun to move out of southern China. The costs are now too high and the Hong Kong industrialists who set up many of these facilities were so over-indulged with cheap labour and cheap land that they never bothered to move upmarket.

The TDC's big trade shows at the CEC generally reveal it: endless arrays of plastic rubbish and other low-end junk. The makers of the really hot stuff don't need this sort of show. Their trade shows are the shelves of the world's star retailers.

If you want to see an exhibition of the best that is made in southern China, go to the two-floor Apple showroom in the IFC mall. It's packed out every day, and makes a mockery of that big TDC shell down the road. What the TDC gets is the losers. Going ... going ... gone.

The TDC knows it, too which is why it now wants to justify its existence by promoting SMEs, service exports and inward investment. SMEs are very politically correct. You can't go wrong by saying you are in favour of SMEs. You don't even have to say why.

But the TDC can't teach bankers to bank or shippers to ship. Service exports don't suit a manufacturing- goods pedlar. And we already have an inwards investment promoter, InvestHK (big fight coming up here).

Thus the TDC now seems to have gone for a fourth option - defy them all. Brazen it out. The line of talk it has now set for itself is that our show facilities are too small. We need more, much more. I kid you not.

The obvious place for a new exhibition centre is across the harbour at the West Kowloon Reclamation, where chief executive designate Mr Henry Wineboy reigns in the Culture Kingdom. I expect he will soon confer his blessings on this TDC silliness.

Henry could stand to do well from it. The family money is based on quota-protected rag making across the border, and a little Hong Kong public money to help push rag sales in these harder post-quota times would not go amiss.

But that wouldn't be a conflict of interest, would it, Henry?



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