BANKAMERICA Corp chairman and chief executive Richard Rosenberg will today launch an important drive by the United States' second biggest bank into the Asia-Pacific market in an address to the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. Starting a week-long round of meetings in Hong Kong and China, Mr Rosenberg will reaffirm the bank's long-term commitment to Hong Kong as a centre for regional development and outline broad plans for expansion into China. He will be accompanied by 16 main board directors and, in a symbolically significant move, he will chair the bank's first board meeting outside the US for 10 years while in Hong Kong. 'We are here to see first hand the importance of Asia to our corporate strategy and business plans,' Mr Rosenberg will say. 'We've financed Asian business and development for almost 50 years, and the board of directors' meeting here is a reflection of our commitment to be the leading US bank in the region.' The party's visit to China will include discussions with senior business and political figures in Shenzhen and Beijing. During these discussions, Mr Rosenberg will raise the issue of convertibility of the yuan and the need for foreign banks to be able to deal in the local currency through their retail networks. BankAmerica will argue that 50 years' experience in the Asia-Pacific area and a 40-year presence in Hong Kong has given it a special understanding of the region, which has become an integral part of the bank's operations. The San Francisco-based bank believes its leading role in such an important city on the Pacific Rim offers it a unique geographic position to link the US and Asian markets. It will cite the fact that 75 per cent of Asia-Pacific trade with the US moves through the Californian ports of San Francisco and Los Angeles, which in the last quarter overtook New York as the busiest port in the US. From its formation in 1904, the bank has had close relations with the Chinese immigrant population in California. This has helped the bank develop contacts in China and in Hong Kong since the mainland began to open up to foreign banks. The broad question of increased foreign access to China will be a constant theme in his discussions. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has taken a softer line in recent months on the question of opening up China to foreign financial institutions than Washington. IMF managing director Michel Camdessus argued strongly recently that the establishment of a sound regulatory and supervisory framework was an essential platform from which to develop of the financial sector. There is concern that the exposure of China to the full force of global markets could destabilise the process of development. Mr Rosenberg is expected during his address to the American Chamber of Commerce, which is the biggest chamber outside the US, to compliment Hong Kong for its openness and adaptability. The chairman will express a confidence in Hong Kong's future beyond 1997 and support for its development as a regional headquarters for the bank, employing 1,400 staff. Foreign banks argue that China should move to full convertibility of its currency as soon as possible. Mr Rosenberg will make it clear that the timing will be crucial and that the process should be guided by economic conditions. To expand retail operations, BankAmerica, in common with other foreign banks, would like the ability to trade in the local currency. To counter the Chinese concern that domestic banks would be swamped by foreign banks if such a relaxation was introduced, US banks have argued, in part, that there is little likelihood of this while they can have only one branch in each city.