HONG KONG companies are missing opportunities to expand their markets in Latin America because of unwarranted fears over the Mexican peso crisis and its effects on neighbouring countries. The crash of the peso in December last year triggered a wave of currency instability throughout Latin America and Asia, but the effects have been largely over-estimated, said the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC). 'Perceptions about the problems facing Latin American countries have been overblown and can be misleading,' said Robin Chiu, the council's assistant executive director with special responsibility for the Americas and Europe. The TDC remains cautious about advising Hong Kong firms on trading with Mexico but says Brazil and Argentina are being overlooked because of the peso problems. 'The TDC was very concerned about how the fall-out from Mexico would affect Brazil, Argentina and Chile,' Mr Chiu said. 'But it has been much smaller than expected and potential traders should have moderated their views about these countries. 'It is true the risks are intrinsically higher when moving into an emerging market, but it is a case of education and making sure a business knows what is really happening.' In March, a TDC trade mission to Argentina and Brazil generated US$7.6 million (HK$58.7 million) in firm orders and another $11.7 million in orders under negotiation. The four-day whistle-stop tour of Buenos Aires and Sao Paolo has sparked another visit this summer. The TDC will be pressing its point tomorrow at its biennial Market Day in Hong Kong, organised to promote the council's role in developing trade overseas. The territory's traditional export destinations in North America and Europe have been gradually losing their market share over the past decade as emerging economies soak up more Hong Kong-manufactured and re-exported consumer goods. According to Mr Chiu, light industrial goods including electronics and toys are seeping into markets ranging from Russia and the newly independent states of the CIS to Asia and Latin America. In the two years since the TDC last displayed its wares to Hong Kong businesses, it has opened 11 offices overseas and undertaken more than 600 trade missions around the world.