IF Barrie Wiggham becomes Hongkong's top envoy in the United States this September, he is likely to receive most, if not all, ambassadorial privileges. Administration and Congressional officials see no reason why Mr Wiggham would not gain access to Washington's senior policy-makers or be excluded from the A-lists on the cocktail circuit. ''If he is Hongkong's most senior representative, then that's how he will be treated,'' said one Congressional staff member. ''Congressmen won't ask if he has ambassadorial rank or not.'' There will, however, have to be limits to Mr Wiggham's orbit as Hongkong's de facto ambassador in the Clinton era, as he will not, of course, have the right to deal with foreign policy or defence issues. Unlike ambassadors, Mr Wiggham will remain limited to trade and economic advice unless he was specifically invited by the British ambassador in Washington to negotiate on behalf of Hongkong. At the height of the Vietnamese Boat People migration to Hongkong in the late 80s, such a process was adopted when the United States opposed Hongkong's forced repatriation of asylum-seekers. Hongkong's current representative in Washington, Mr Peter Lo, was, at that time, invited by the British Embassy to explain Hongkong's refugee policy to Congressmen and other officials. But as Hongkong's new Commissioner for Economics and Trade, Mr Wiggham's primary role will be to deal with trade issues. It is unclear how, or if, the Chinese Embassy will assume political responsibility for Hongkong after the sovereignty change over. Hongkong and British officials in Washington say the clear goal of Mr Wiggham's posting is to raise Hongkong's profile in the capital. While Mr Lo enjoys relatively good access to senior legislators, but his full-time attention on China's most favoured nation (MFN) status and other trade matters has prevented him from cultivating crucial contacts. That role will now be left to Mr Wiggham who will be counted on to win the ear of decision-makers not only in Washington, but around the country. It is unlikely that Mr Wiggham will have the ear of top Clinton administration people but more doors may open as Hongkong grabs greater attention.