Toymakers see no fun in anxiety over MFN
THE annual Hongkong Toys and Games Fair began with its traditional razzle-dazzle yesterday, but among all the talking teddies, water pistols and bleeping electronic games there was an uneasiness about relationships with the toymakers' largest market, the United States.
''I think we are more concerned this year because previously we had George Bush,'' said Mr Dennis Ting, chairman of the toys advisory committee of the Trade Development Council, which organised the event.
There are worries that with Mr Bill Clinton as president, it might mean the end of China's Most Favoured Nation status.
This would price Hongkong toys, which are 95 per cent made in China, off the toy shelves.
Despite the fun products which the record 596 exhibitors have on display, the fair is very much an adult event.
There are trade visitors only and tough negotiations begin within minutes after the doors open.
Mr Ting, chairman of Kader Industries, said that despite the risk over MFN, toymakers were not shifting production to other countries to any great degree, although Vietnam was attracting a lot of attention.
The long-term prize was the China market, said Mr Ting.
The China policy of one child per family meant that each child had six adults trying to buy toys for them. ''They are the jewel of the family,'' he said.
The problem is a distribution network - non-existent at present - and the structure of many toymakers' ventures, which would need changing before local sales are allowed.
Despite the recession in the US, which takes 46 per cent of Hongkong's toys, the territory still increased its toy exports by 36 per cent, to $50 billion, in the first 10 months of 1992, said Mr Ting, who reckoned the growth next year could be 15 to 20 per cent.
The show was opened by Secretary for Economic Services Anson Chan, who said it was ''interesting and encouraging'' that Hongkong was doing more toy designing.
She added: ''Designing toys is not an easy task as children become ever more discerning and demanding.'' Despite this, water pistols which can squirt amazing distances, dinosaurs and electronic hand-held games appeared on many stalls, with minute variations.
Mr Bill Blaauw, a well-known toy figure and director of Playmates International, counselled against reading too much into the toys on display. ''They keep the best toys under wraps.'' A buyer for a Norwegian store said he was impressed every year he visited. ''They just keep getting better and better.'' A buyer from Taiwan, meanwhile, was scouting for something lethal-looking. ''There are lots of new toy guns,'' he enthused.
The TDC expects attendance to exceed last year's 16,000.
Stalls come from 18 countries and include a large pavilion from Taiwan, Hongkong's sharpest rival.
The next biggest is from China, whose factories want the higher margins from direct sales.