The Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) - which represents the SAR on the international stage as a free-trade bastion - has been strongly criticised by disgruntled manufacturers for being an effective monopoly. The TDC is spearheading Hong Kong's participation at the world's largest jewellery and watch show in Switzerland which has attracted more than 240 Hong Kong delegates - the biggest non-European delegation. The government-funded TDC is the fair's sole agent responsible for recruiting Hong Kong participants, and charges delegates attending the fair. Delegates said instead of charging them, the TDC should offer them sponsorship to alleviate costs associated with attending. They pointed out they were representing Hong Kong's entire manufacturing industry, not just their own businesses. Watch-maker Artfield Manufacturing's assistant marketing manager Janice Kan Shuk-lin said: 'The charges are high and I have heard of a lot of complaints. 'We did not deliberately choose the TDC. If we don't join it, we can't join the fair.' The Basle fair hosts more than 2,400 exhibitors and is expected to attract 75,000 visitors. Watch-maker Peace Mark Holdings' marketing manager Gary Chan Wai-pong said: 'The TDC has charged too much. We can't challenge it simply because it is a monopoly. I don't know how much it has earned from us, but I'm sure it has made a profit.' He said the firm paid the TDC rent of $400,000 for four units, 44 square metres (about 475.2 square feet) altogether. Rent and other expenses - such as insurance, accommodation and transport - cost the firm $700,000. 'Expensive, very expensive. We are not only coming for the sake of our company, but also the whole industry. That's why the TDC should reduce the charges,' he said. The TDC's Frankfurt-based director Wing Sham Wing-tong defended the council's position, saying it had done 'a lot' to help delegates, which they might not have realised. Hong Kong Jewellery Manufacturers Association chairman Aaron Shum Wan-lung said: 'The Government should raise its funding of the TDC as the export of jewellery was the only sector that saw growth last year.' He said the TDC should fund half the delegates' costs to improve their competitiveness. 'We have new rivals from Thailand, Singapore and India which have strong backing from their governments. 'Amid the poor economic environment, the Hong Kong Government should give us a hand to fend off the competition,' he said. Mr Sham said: 'The TDC has limited resources. It's our aim to do our best to help manufacturers.' He added the TDC had provided services such as designing booths and hiring a legal adviser for the delegates.