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High-Level Hong Kong and EU Dialogue in Berlin, Germany
Business representatives believe opportunities outweigh risks

Group Photo of all members of the Plenary Session in front of the famous Gendarmenmarkt and its Baroque buildings. This is one of the most picturesque places in the city of Berlin hosting the German Dome and the French Dome (North side) which can be seen on the photo. Pictured front row, centre are the two Committee Chairmen: Dr. Raymond K.F. Ch’ien, Chairman HK-EU BCC (fifth from left) and Michael Treschow, Chairman, EU-HK BCC (fifth from right).

European small-to-medium sized companies can use Hong Kong's technological and financial services expertise to invest in tackling China's environment challenges. That was one of the key messages heard by members attending the annual Plenary Session of the Hong Kong-EU and EU-Hong Kong Business Cooperation Committees.

The meeting was held in Berlin to coincide with the German presidency of the EU and marked the tenth anniversary of the Committees' founding. The annual gathering aims at enhancing business-to-business dialogue and partnerships between European and Hong Kong-based corporations.

Led by Michael Treschow, Chairman of Ericsson, and Raymond Ch'ien, Chairman of the Hong Kong-based MTR Corporation, Committee members discussed challenges and opportunities for trade and investment between Europe and China, and stressed the continuing importance of Hong Kong as a gateway to the rapidly growing mainland Chinese market, and as a facilitator for mainland investment in Europe.

Responding to the perception that the majority of the discussion was focused on China rather than Hong Kong itself, Chairman Ch'ien noted that many concerns about investing in China were aired at the meeting, including problems with legal capacity, financial market regulation and environmental protection standards.

"Hong Kong is not being marginalised. It is the capacity enhancer for China," said Ch'ien.

European Committee members reported that economic growth in Europe has taken a decisive turn for the better, and that consumer demand was strengthening. Europe's comparative advantage in knowledge workers makes it an attractive destination for investment, and it was noted at the meeting that no global company can be built without a presence in Europe.

In summing up, Chairman Michael Treschow highlighted a number of key points raised during the discussion: the question of whether anti-globalisation sentiment could undermine recent EU growth gains, the importance of concluding the Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations to facilitate global supply chains, the growing competition for business talent in both Asia and the EU, and the important business prospects that will arise from the increasing focus on mandatory policies to curb global Climate Change.

It was agreed that compliance costs for businesses would be far less than the gains that could be realised through investments in innovation and technology.

The meeting was also attended by Board Members of the numerous Hong Kong Business Associations in Europe. Chairman Treschow welcomed their participation and felt it was an excellent opportunity to broaden understanding of the EU-Hong Kong relationship.

The Committee plenary is an annual gathering of CEOs or Chairmen of EU- and Hong Kong-based companies. It serves as a channel for a high-level dialogue on the increasing bilateral trade, investment and economic cooperation between the EU and Hong Kong.

The two Committees were founded in 1997 as a European Commission initiative to reach out to the newly formed Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China. Both stand for the importance of the EU's relationship with China and the importance of Hong Kong as a gateway to the Chinese market. The Hong Kong Trade Development Council is responsible for organising the annual sessions, the next of which will be held in Hong Kong in 2008.

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