June 6, 2012

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Department of Commerce

Hong Kong Official Seeks To Boost Trade with Alabama


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Officials are seeking ways to boost trade between Alabama and a city-state that calls itself the gateway into neighboring China, the world's most populous country.

Donald Tong, who is based in Washington, D.C., as Hong Kong Commissioner for Economic and Trade Affairs, has been in Birmingham and Montgomery since Monday meeting with city and business leaders, Gov. Robert Bentley and state officials. He has been touting the trade benefits offered by Hong Kong.

In an interview Tuesday, Tong said the visit has already paid off. Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield will lead a business delegation to Hong Kong next week, and Gov. Bentley has said he wants to lead a separate group of business leaders on his first visit to Hong Kong in October, Tong said.

"That's the reason I'm here -- to tell Alabama business leaders about opportunities in Hong Kong and answer any questions they have in advance of their visit," Tong said. "I believe both Sec. Canfield and Gov. Bentley's visits will pave the way for Alabama businesses seeking trade in Hong Kong."

Stephania Cumuze, special assistant to Canfield, confirmed that the Alabama Commerce Secretary will lead a group of business leaders seeking trade opportunities on a trip to Hong Kong next week. Gov. Bentley has expressed interest in an October trip to Hong Kong, but details haven't been worked out yet, Cumuze said.

Hong Kong has 1,300 U.S. companies operating there, but none from Alabama, Tong said. He would like to see that change.

Hong Kong is the United States' 10th largest trade partner, Tong said. The U.S. exports $36 billion in goods and services to Hong Kong annually, but imports only $4 billion, giving it a $32 billion trade surplus, he said.

Alabama companies exported goods and services valued at $261 million to Hong Kong last year, up from $238 million the year before, and shipments have grown 300 percent since 1999, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Alabama businesses exported $2.31 billion to China last year, up from $1.93 billion in 2010, according to the Commerce Department. Tong said Alabama businesses wanting to sell their goods in China have a major advantage by setting up shop in Hong Kong, which has a free trade pact with China.

"By manufacturing their goods in Hong Kong, an Alabama business can avoid paying tariffs, and generate substantial savings," Tong said.

Hong Kong, located next to China, is a city-state of 420 square miles, less than half the size of Alabama, Tong said. But Hong Kong has 7 million people, compared to 4.8 million in Alabama.

Hong Kong was under British rule until 1997, when it became affiliated with China, Tong said. Hong Kong operates like a separate country, with a business environment very similar to the United States.

"Hong Kong has been rated the No.ยค2 business-friendly economy in the world by the World Bank," Tong said. "My hope is that Alabama companies will consider the economic benefits of doing business in Hong Kong."

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