On Wednesday, we all thought Hong Kong was home and dry. As the Financial Secretary sat down after delivering his Budget, it seemed a racing certainty that Disneyland was coming to Lantau. Then Shanghai insisted it was still in the running and Subic Bay reported that Disney executives were due in the Philippines within a fortnight. To cap it all, there were rumours at the weekend that Zhuhai might be entering the lists, as well. Never having been to a Disneyland, I may not fully appreciate the awe and excitement such theme parks can arouse. I can only remember the amusement one felt back when the Disneyland outside Paris was announced and the French intelligentsia reacted by denouncing it as 'a cultural Chernobyl'. Now that it is a major source of jobs and attracts visitors from all over Europe, to the benefit of the French economy, nobody sees it as a nuclear cloud any more. Clearly, Disney has become something special. It used to be that talk of a businessman having concluded a 'Mickey Mouse deal' or a politician indulging in 'Mickey Mouse stuff' was regarded as derogatory. Now, any mention of the mighty rodent is clearly cause for bated breath. Nor is Mickey alone; where he walks can Donald be far behind? If the deal falls through, prepare for comments like that of the Queensland premier who said that 'only Goofy' would have gone through with an arrangement that Disney proposed with his state. Disney's interest in Hong Kong as part of a wider strategy to develop its business in China is entirely understandable. So is the company's negotiating strategy, even if a number of local commentators seem to find it strange that the firm should try to drive a hard bargain - as if its Snow White and Dumbo heritage should make it a soft business touch. Disney's approach throws an interesting light on the balance between governments and multinational firms. The company can play off one government against another. This is no longer a world in which governments necessarily have the upper hand in such matters. It is no longer a case of officials considering applications from a variety of competing companies anxious to make the most of, say, Hong Kong's geographical position or Shanghai's consumer demand or Australia's tourist potential. In times of economic downturn, and with such an uncertain future, it is the big multinationals that hold the whip hand. I am sure that the team from the Financial Secretary's department will be negotiating long and hard. But, in the end, it knows that Disney can go elsewhere if it wishes to, whereas Hong Kong cannot conjure up another Disneyland. That raises another point. It may be that negotiations have advanced further than the Financial Secretary let on last week. If not, the question is whether it was wise to make the announcement in the Budget speech, with the danger that the administration has, in effect, given up one of its negotiating cards in the interest of spreading good cheer for the next day's headlines. The downside would be if the Government was seen to more committed to Disney than Disney may, in the end, prove to be to Hong Kong. It all sounds so straightforward. Hong Kong wants a big tourist attraction; the magic kingdom wants to get into China. But, as The Economist points out this week, the record of Disneylands in the United States, Paris and Japan has not quite lived up to their promise. Not surprising, then, if the company is keeping its powder dry and letting the Government run with the ball for the time being. Tricky thing, dealing with big companies when they are in the driving seat.