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HK and region top UK priority

HONGKONG and the region in general are Britain's number one business priority, says the UK's senior trade commissioner in Hongkong.

Addressing a Hongkong General Chamber of Commerce audience yesterday, Mr Stephen Day said Britain had a three-pronged trade strategy.

''Hongkong is one of the best, if not the best, markets for the outside world and one of the best bases for operations within the Pacific region. And the stakes for the UK are very high in getting this right.

''This part of the world is top priority. It has the most encouraging commercial climate one could find anywhere in the world, and the degree of interest is probably higher here than any other part of the world in terms of business and environment.'' British firms - which like their Hongkong counterparts rely heavily on overseas trade - could tap into big infrastructural projects, financial services and technology.

With exports per head of GBP1,800 (about HK$20,160), the UK outstrips even Japan - which chalks up GBP1,400 according to the British Trade Commission - and outside markets are a crucial part of the economic equation.

A top-level conference is to be held in London next month, focusing on Britain's trade relations with China and Hongkong.

Hongkong businessmen including TDC chairman Victor Fung and Hopewell managing director Gordon Wu will share the platform with Trade and Industry Minister Richard Needham.

Mr Day also referred to pollution technology and retailing as areas of expertise in Britain that could find new markets here.

He said: ''Major British retail names did not seem to be appropriately represented in Hongkong, so we have put in more effort to take on Hongkong retailers and property developers and see why that is.

''Some pioneers in this field have done very well, like Marks and Spencer. Some of their most successful operations are here in Hongkong.'' He added that trips to Guangzhou by both Marks and Spencer, and Mappin and Webb proved very encouraging.