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Local Firms Catch Middle East's Wave

Local companies and brands are expanding into the Middle East's rebounding markets by stepping up their profile in Dubai, the "Hong Kong" of the Middle East.

The Trade Development Council staged Hong Kong's largest expo of products there this week and co-organised Hong Kong's highest-level business mission to the Middle East, with Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce.

The week-long programme combined profile raising with networking. A highlight was a Hong Kong gala dinner and jewellery and watch parade attended by 500 government and business leaders, Dubai-based buyers and regional media.

Dubai, one of the United Arab Emirates, is a trade platform, distribution centre and shopping destination that describes itself as the Hong Kong of its region. Trade fairs in Dubai attract buyers from across the Middle East, North Africa, India, Central Asia and even Eastern Europe.

The business mission, led by General Chamber Chairman and TDC Council Member, Mr David Eldon, met with senior executives of the Jebel Ali Free Trade Zone and the Dubai Investment Group, which has chosen Hong Kong for one of its first overseas offices, to open in January.

The delegation also toured an upscale Dubai shopping mall, themed after the journeys of 14th century Arab explorer Ibn Battuta. Local jewellery manufacturer Aaron Shum, president of Lifestyle Arts and Fine Jewelry, recently opened a boutique of that name in the mall.

"It's a large mall with good attractions that targets Dubai's huge tourism market and large community of resident expatriates".

The "Hong Kong in Style" exhibition, held in parallel with Dubai's International Autumn Trade Fair, featured thousands of products from 225 companies. It follows the success or the first "Hong Kong in Style" expo in Dubai a year ago.

One of the exhibitors, Paul B Bathan, Operations Manager, Middle East and GCC, Lifestyle Arts & Fine Jewelry said: "The show is a good entry point into the booming market, and has been great for generating business leads."

Eddie Wong, Marketing Manager, Peace Mark Limited said: "The UAE market is growing rapidly, and the show has served as an excellent business platform. We received a lot of inquiries about our products. While the Hong Kong in Style exhibition may not be as big as the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair, we were approached by many one-piece buyers as opposed to trade, we managed to glean very useful information on the Dubai market for watches."

Ricky T.K Choi, Sales Supervisor, Goodway Electrical Co, Ltd said: "The show was 'okay'. There weren't many business deals to be closed, but there was much negotiation, which is good for our business profile. If invited, we will certainly participate next time, and we fully support future exhibitions."

The four-day Hong Kong expo was formally opened by Sheik Hasher Maktoum Juma Al Maktoum, the Dubai Government's Director of Information, and Mr Eldon. Products on display include: electronics and IT products, garments and accessories, gifts and premium, jewellery, watches and clocks as well as household goods.

After Dubai, Mr Eldon and the delegation visited Tehran, in Iran, for a Hong Kong business seminar jointly organised with the Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Mines.

The UAE is Hong Kong's top export market in the Middle East. In the first nine months of 2005, Hong Kong's exports to the UAE edged up year-on-year by 7% to HK$10.76 billion.

Hong Kong's major exports to the UAE include clothing; telecommunications equipment; watches and clocks; pearls, precious & semi-precious stones; parts & accessories of office machine/computers; and audio & video recorders & players.

Mr David Eldon is pointing on the crystal ball the location of Dubai, where market opportunities lie. Mr Eldon meets Mr Aaron Shum at the booth of Lifestyle Arts & Fine Jewelry Ltd. Mr Eddie Wong, Marketing Manager of Peace Mark (Holdings) Limited introduces a new watch model to the VIPs
Hong Kong famous models showing Hong Kong's jewellery, watches and handbags on the catwalk. The delegation points to an Arabic rendering of a familiar Hong Kong brand that is succeeding in Dubai, Crown Worldwide, a transportation and logistics firm. Pictured next (left) to Mr Eldon is Mr James E. Thompson, the company's Chairman and Chief Executive Buyers are interested in the watches offered by Hong Kong exhibitors.

For press enquiries, please contact Katherine Chan of TDC's Corporate Communications Department at 2584 4537.

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