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Carrie Lam

Make clear what ‘one country, two systems’ offers foreign businesses, AmCham urges next administration

Chamber’s new president Tara Joseph says government also needs to reassure international firms that rule of law remains strong in city

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 April, 2017, 8:03am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 April, 2017, 8:03am

The American Chamber of Commerce has urged Hong Kong’s next government to reach out to international businesses still “unclear” about what opportunities the city can offer under the one country, two systems policy.

The chamber’s new president, Tara Joseph, also called on chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s incoming administration to give assurances over the continuation of the rule of law, which makes Hong Kong different from other mainland cities.

In an interview with the Post, Joseph said Amcham had enjoyed a good relationship with Lam, who as chief secretary had chaired the government’s international business committee, and agreed with her drive to spend more public money on education and health care.

“Carrie Lam’s effort to reach out to the younger generation is something important for the reputation of the city in the long term – that reputation leads to business and people wanting to have their offices and headquarters here,” she said.

Lam was elected with 777 votes from the 1,194-member Election Committee on March 26.

While forthcoming on investment in social policies, Hong Kong’s leader in waiting has not promised to restart the city’s stalled political reform process for universal suffrage. On this topic, Joseph said the chamber was “not here to be political”.

“What we see as very important in Carrie Lam’s administration is ‘one country, two systems’. That is crucial for businesses operating in Hong Kong,” Joseph said, adding that it was important for Lam to “come out and say” what that meant.

“What are the opportunities Hong Kong has as a unique place to do business? It is something that really is still unclear to people.”

What are the opportunities Hong Kong has as a unique place to do business? It is something that really is still unclear to people.
Tara Joseph, AmCham president

Joseph, who has lived in Hong Kong for 15 years and worked as a journalist covering Asian politics and the economy, said she had no problem in understanding the political model, but it was still hard for outsiders to grasp. There had also been “a lack of reaching out” by past administrations, she said.

She went on to suggest that officials should explain how Hong Kong could be developed as a “bay area” together with mainland cities in the Pearl River Delta – an ambitious plan announced by Premier Li Keqiang in his work report last month – while showing its strengths in professional services, banking knowledge and culture.

To foster understanding, in its annual visit to Washington in June, AmCham will reflect the business perspectives of ­Asia-based US firms to emphasise the importance of Hong Kong’s strategic position under the one country, two systems policy, and the US position on trade in Asia.

For Hong Kong, she added, the chamber had set up a technology and innovation committee under which Google and other technology giants were organising an outreach programme for start-ups.

Joseph also called for more assurances by the government that the rule of law would be upheld.

Despite some “scary incidents” – which she did not name – and the swearing-in row which saw two newly elected pro-independence lawmakers being disqualified for distorting their oaths of office, she found the rule of law was still strong in general.

On concerns about Beijing’s lobbying for Lam during the campaign, Joseph said: “I think people will give Carrie Lam a chance.”