THOMAS ROE, head of the European Union's Office of the European Commission in Hong Kong, has been struck in more ways than one by business in the city since he assumed his position six weeks ago. 'I have been impressed by how extraordinarily global Hong Kong businesses are. Many European brands are partly owned by Hong Kong partners,' he said. 'Also, there is the extraordinary speed in which information and business ideas flow, and the proactive ways in which Hong Kong business people act on those ideas.' Mr Roe said the EU and Hong Kong shared many ideals when it came to doing business, such as free trade, openness to trade and emphasis on service. Hong Kong is the EU's 16th largest trading partner, with imports and exports amounting to more than Euro29 billion ($292.3 billion) last year. The Chinese mainland is second at Euro175 billion and Taiwan 10th at almost Euro36.5 billion. There is still some way to go to catch up to the United States, which did about Euro390 billion worth of business with the EU last year and ranked number one. The EU's presence in Hong Kong is also remarkable. Although it had only about 37,400 citizens living in Hong Kong as of the end of last year, the city is the regional headquarters or offices for more than 1,000 EU firms. There is also a big presence in the finance sector. Of the 113 licensed banks in Hong Kong, 34 are incorporated in the EU and 68 EU firms conduct securities and commodities trades from the city. 'Hong Kong has a history based on banking and trading so it is a natural place to choose,' Mr Roe said. 'This is why we fully support the 'one country, two systems' policy, with Hong Kong maintaining freedom of speech, free flow of information and an independent judiciary.' Mr Roe sees similarities between the SAR and the EU. 'In the case of Hong Kong, you have a society governed by common law in a larger sovereignty that has more of a civil code legal system, and in the EU there are laws of the union's competence and others of national competence.' He said the EU's principle was 'subsidiarity', which meant that matters should be handled by the lowest competent authority required. 'We always try to have a mutual recognition system ... we set the minimum regulations rather than having the exact same law in every country,' he said. Mr Roe said the EU admired Hong Kong for many of its policies, but there were a few things it would like to see advancing, such as the establishment of a competition law. 'In the EU we have a competition commission managed with high transparency. The EU is anti-cartels and anti-monopoly,' he said. 'I think having a competition law would be good for Hong Kong. It would increase its competitiveness and reduce the cost of doing business.' There are other challenges ahead. Mr Roe said although Hong Kong had to an extent controlled the violation of intellectual property rights, there were still a few cases occurring.