HONG Kong is well positioned to become a leading diamond trading centre as demand from developing countries in East Asia increases in the next few years, says a banker at a leading diamond financing house. Fred Schillern, ABN AMRO Bank general manager of international diamond division, said the trade in diamonds through Hong Kong would increase while that through other major world markets would remain stable. ABN AMRO, the world's largest diamond trade financing bank, said Hong Kong was number three in the international division behind Antwerp and New York. Last year, diamond imports were worth $15 billion, of which local sales totalled $10 billion and re-exports $5 billion. Mr Schillern said imports were worth $12.9 billion in 1991. ''The diamond trade can be divided into various stages, and Hong Kong is very important as the final stage where polished diamonds are sold to jewellery manufacturers,'' said Mr Schillern. ''The whole region is becoming more important, gaining market share from places like Europe, the US and Japan, where sales are growing but are quite stable,'' he said. ''But here in East Asia with the developing countries becoming more active and more rich, there is more interest in buying diamonds.'' With publicity, the interest in and knowledge of diamonds is growing in East Asia, which, although jewellery oriented, has usually focused on gold and in some countries, pearls. Last week, De Beers, the world's largest diamond producer, publicised its first venture in China, a diamond processing plant in Shanghai. ''De Beers, which markets 80 per cent of the world's rough diamonds, is not alone in recognising the fact that the world diamond market is shifting to East Asia, and in particular, China,'' said Mr Schillern. Belgium, India, Israel and the US are traditional manufacturing and polishing centres, with Sri Lanka and Thailand recent additions. Mr Schillern said China, with a relatively low-cost and industrious workforce, was well placed to play an important role. ABN AMRO, which is looking to open a branch in Shanghai, claims to be the only bank with a specialised department overlooking diamond financing. ''It is only a small part of our business - less than a half per cent of our total loan portfolio,'' said Mr Schillern. ''Diamond financing is a profitable business if you do it worldwide on a large-scale basis.'' But the bank does not advise people to buy diamonds as a sole investment. ''Our bank is never advising people to buy diamonds as an investment because it is a little like an old painting: it can go up in value, but when you want to sell it there is not a liquid, secondary commodity market. ''But diamonds have kept their value over the years at large stable levels. Many Asians wish to have jewellery they can show and that will also keep its value.''