Directors of overseas trade offices to face Legco's commerce panel

Directors of city's 16 trade offices, which will spend HK$485 million this year, face lawmakers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 18 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 18 November, 2012, 4:58am

The work of Hong Kong's 16 trade offices overseas and on the mainland, which cost more than HK$485 million a year, will come under scrutiny this Tuesday for the first time since the new administration took power.

The director of each office will be in Hong Kong this week to face the Legislative Council's 16-member panel on commerce and industry and talk about their staff's achievements over the past 12 months.

Typically, the meeting is held every June, but the meeting was pushed back to November because of September's Legco election.

Each trade office has submitted annual reports which detail their work but there are no concrete dollar figures that measure how much business each office brings to Hong Kong.

Instead, their work is measured by the number of meetings they attend, events they organise or attend and press releases they write. There are 11 overseas economic and trade offices managed by the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau: Brussels (17 staff); Geneva (15); Berlin (4); London (18); New York (14); San Francisco (15); Washington (18); Singapore (11); Sydney (11); Tokyo (13); and Toronto (10).

On the mainland, the offices in Beijing (16 staff), Shanghai (6), Chengdu (8) and Guangdong (15) are managed by the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau. A new office in Taiwan (15 staff) opened last December and is also managed by this bureau.

It has been confirmed that a fifth office is slated to open soon in the centre of the mainland.

The commerce bureau said the non-mainland trade offices would continue to remain relevant despite the mainland opening its trading doors and potentially reducing Hong Kong's role as a gateway.

The bureau said the offices promoted Hong Kong as a reliable trading partner and regional hub giving access to other Asian economies. A spokeswoman for the mainland trade offices said that with the "increasingly close co-operation and relations" between the mainland and Hong Kong, the offices would still be needed.

At last year's annual meeting, the industrial sector lawmaker Lam Tai-fai raised concerns about the budget of the mainland trade offices.

Panel chairman Vincent Fang Kang of the Liberal Party refused to answers questions about the annual reports, saying the report and meeting were routine matters.