The Trade Development Council will consider hosting more trade fairs at AsiaWorld-Expo at Chek Lap Kok and enhance its co-operation with organisers in the private sector amid criticisms that the council is dominating the exhibition industry. Almost 40 industry representatives attended a Legco panel meeting yesterday, and were soon split into two camps in a heated debate over the dual role of the council - a government promotion arm and a competing trade show organiser. While many small- and medium-sized enterprises hailed the council's efforts to promote their trades to overseas buyers over the years, private exhibition organisers and the management of AsiaWorld-Expo had voiced their bitterness and branded the council 'a structural problem' to the industry. Eddie Leung, the managing director of Paper Communication Exhibition Services, said the council should take a lesser role in organising trade fairs as its dominance was now edging them out of business. 'Successful exhibitions are not necessarily being held by government bodies,' he said. 'The council is also responsible for supporting exhibition businesses in the private sector.' The call was echoed by Global Sources, which organises the China Sourcing Fairs that anchor the AsiaWorld-Expo venue. The firm has also raised its opposition to the council's plan to increase the size of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC) in Wan Chai. Company chairman Merle Hinrichs said the government had spent HK$2 billion to build the Chek Lap Kok venue and 'the investment will be totally lost' if it is to expand the Wan Chai venue. Allen Ha, the chief executive of AsiaWorld-Expo Management, said the venue had met with fierce competition. 'What we want is a level playing field to lure fairs to our venue,' he said. Council executive director Fred Lam Tin-fuk said the body had never intended to compete with the private sector but rather wanted to create business opportunities and help the industry flourish. 'Hong Kong is one of the most open cities for newcomers in the exhibition industry,' he said. 'In light of the comments, we will study, under prudent commercial principles, whether more trade fairs could be held in the HKCEC and improve our co-operation with the private sector.' Professor Chan Kei-biu, the chairman of the Hong Kong Electronic Industries Association, said the council had spent three decades to establish its reputation in the industry and its efforts were recognised by many trades. 'Many of us agree the council should continue its good work and an expansion could definitely help,' he said.