Why a Trump-Kim summit in Hong Kong would suit everyone and be good for business too
Richard Harris says Hong Kong has the advantage of being a location Americans are comfortable in, easily reachable from Pyongyang and a part of China. Developing the city as a treaty destination would be playing to its strengths
Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China because we are different – we are like a minority people within China. One hundred and fifty-five years of British administration instilled a particular culture – not a British culture or a contemporary Chinese culture, but a uniquely Hong Kong culture.
We were renowned for hard work, getting things done, making things happen. The flair of British administration let people get on with their lives and blended perfectly with the sheer hard grind of Chinese migrants.
It may not have been perfect but it was an enormous success. Many elements of our society today, such as housing, public transport, personal security, universal health care, the rule of law, and our enviously healthy public finances compare much better against equivalent societies in the West who may think that they “more developed”.
Now take North Korea, which has been isolated during a critical phase of its development. From adopting a highly aggressive stance towards almost everybody, the country has thawed its relations with the outside world in a short six months, with leader Kim Jong-un waving the olive branch first at South Korea and more recently at the US. He has negotiated with skill – going extreme, then edging back to his preferred position.
The war talk certainly spooked financial markets and it is not hard to see that Kim has probably come under a lot of pressure to negotiate.
US President Donald Trump reminded us last weekend that the 65-year-old ceasefire between the two Koreas has no peace treaty. Imagine if Kim were able to do something his father and grandfather couldn’t or wouldn’t do. Imagine if Trump were the first leader in nearly seven decades to end the hostilities. It would elevate both into the small group of peacemaking statesmen.
Think of Jimmy Carter presiding over the Camp David Accords between Israel and Egypt, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk who crawled out of their trenches to bring peace to South Africa, or the parties that negotiated the end of generations of bloodshed in Northern Ireland. Nobel Peace Prize here we come. What a great legacy for two men whose egos are planetary.
But where to hold such a monumental gathering? The two Koreas are out for obvious reasons – although getting Trump off Twitter for a few days might aid the cause of world peace elsewhere. It is known that Kim does not fly, which may be a good idea if you look at the age of North Korean aircraft. That rules out the US or Europe. Japan is too incendiary.
China would be a possibility, with the fastest rail network in the world, but it is almost certain Trump would not want to share the glory with Beijing. The US will want to talk to Kim alone and the “Great Successor” will want to get the most publicity from bilateral talks with Trump. They might well get on if only because it is reported that both leaders share a liking for hamburgers.
China may have to resign itself to taking the part of the ex-boyfriend invited to the wedding.
So this is where Hong Kong comes in. The territory is sovereign China and yet is recognised and has a role as being different from the mainland. It performs this role daily as a business gateway to China. It is the perfect location for a Kim-Trump summit. Americans are comfortable with the city and we make great hamburgers.
Everybody remembers the Doha Trade Round and the Geneva Conventions. If you are a historian, you remember the 1783 Treaty of Paris that established the United States. The Congress of Vienna (1814–15) reshaped Europe after Napoleon and the Treaty of Versailles ended the first world war in 1919. Those cities have become cemented in history.
Hong Kong often gets overlooked because of its huge neighbour but it has a unique role as part of sovereign China, while at the same time also being a self-administered global business city. The government should be pushing us in global circles as a regular treaty location.
A Treaty of Hong Kong negotiated here would put us historically on the map. It would give us global exposure of the kind that money can’t buy – and show that we are a great place to do business.
Richard Harris is a veteran investment manager, banker, writer and broadcaster and financial expert witness. www.portshelter.com