Europe Forum 2020 - Zoom Meeting

 

Europe Forum 2020 (Zoom Meeting)

Meeting Notes

 

Date

:

4 June 2020 (Thursday)

Time

:

09:45 – 12:00 hours (CET)

 

Key Issues Discussed

 

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the 20th Europe Forum was held online on 4 June 2020, and all the 18 Hong Kong European business associations participated.

The Forum was chaired by Vice-Chairman of The Federation of Hong Kong Business Associations Worldwide and Chairman of The Netherlands-Hong Kong Business Association Mr Hans Poulis. He welcomed delegates, including the three special guests from Kazakhstan, Luxembourg and Turkey, to the first virtual Europe Forum,

 

Session I: Update on Hong Kong, Focusing on Impact of Social Unrest and Post-COVID-19 “New Normal”

Mr Nicholas Kwan provided an update on the post-Covid-19 “New Normal” in Hong Kong and the impact of social unrest. Hong Kong had learnt the lesson of SARS, 17 years previously. It had heightened public awareness of hygiene issues, established legal procedures to allow the imposition of lockdown, and created efficient coordination between government departments.

Battling against COVID-19, government relief measures around the world amounted to as much as 40% of GDP, unprecedented since WW2. Recovery involved preserving jobs, firms and institutions; reopening the domestic market, and those of the Greater Bay Area, Greater China, East Asia and the world; as well as creating fiscal and monetary stimuli.  

During lockdown, demand for food and home entertainment rose. Demand for transport, household goods and personal services would also pick up. The way of doing business would change - a recent biotech webinar attracted 54,000 participants across China. The importance of automation, digital and remote services was highlighted, as was the need to “go green”.

Hong Kong had been experiencing unprecedented instability in the previous twelve months. The national security law would not be the first time the Central Government decided to add to Annex III of the Basic Law.  As yet no details of the law had been released, so claims that it might violate the Basic Law would just be speculation. 

The US had announced that it might remove Hong Kong’s special privileges, but no details had been provided. Removal of Hong Kong’s status as a separate customs territory from China would affect Hong Kong goods worth US$400 million. Hong Kong bought much more from the US than vice versa, particularly food and technology. The US might refuse to recognise the Hong Kong dollar, but that would be very damaging to the US too.

Mr Laszlo Bakonyi asked about HKTDC’s plan for its exhibitions in Hong Kong. Mr Kwan said HKTDC planned to stage the Hong Kong Book Fair, 15-20 July, as scheduled.


Session II: Update on HKTDC’s Anti-epidemic Initiatives to Help European Companies Leverage the Hong Kong Platform

Mr William Chui said the Spring Virtual Expo, 1-30 April, had attracted 22,000 suppliers, 1.4 million buyers, and generated 217,000 enquiries. The top products searched and enquired included clothes, phones, face masks and latex gloves. More than 700 business-matching requests had been made, with 22% from Europe which was No. 2 in terms of numbers. The Summer Virtual Expo would be held from 29 June – 31 July with the theme “Smart Health Hong Kong”.

Mr Chui informed all members that HKTDC hoped to hold its autumn fairs as scheduled. The Wine Fair would offer an incentive of US$384 for new buyers, and past buyers who had spent US$1,000 or more. Subject to conditions specified, key buyers would be offered complimentary economy air tickets and hotel accommodation. Eligible overseas exhibitors would be subsidised 50% of participation fees up to HK$10,000 per event until June 2021. 

 

Session III: Update on Familiarisation Programme for Executive Committee Members and Hong Kong Forum

Ms Megan Fung introduced the familiarisation programme for executive committee members, the Hong Kong Forum and the Belt & Road Summit, which would take place back to back. A side trip to Suzhou had been planned for 3-5 December.  

 

Session IV: Way Forward for Hong Kong Business Associations

Ms Fung said the way forward for Hong Kong business associations was enhancing inter-association communication via social media, engaging with young members, leveraging HKTDC events to promote HKBAs, partnership with the Belt & Road Global Forum, and developing a new direction in line with the strategy of the Federation. Delegates should register for membership benefits, collect more business cards and recruit more members. The Awards Programme 2020 would feature an enhanced Start-up Award and a new Youth Development award. 

Furthermore, Ms Fung updated all members that the Belt & Road Global Forum had already attracted more than 140 member organisations from 36 countries and territories, and over 5 million corporate and individual members.  Its Annual Roundtable had been tentatively scheduled for 1 December 2020.  HKBAs in Europe which were interested in infrastructure developments were encouraged to join.    

 

(Post-meeting note: As at 16 June, eight HKBAs in Europe, including Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Sweden and the United Kingdom confirmed to join Belt and Road Global Forum.)

 

Interactive Session

Mr Poulis and Mr Ricardo Fuochi asked for “lines to take” to counter negative media coverage of Hong Kong. Mr Chui advised HKBAs to make good use of materials provided by the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Offices in Europe and the secretariat of the Federation, and added that he would develop with HKTDC Corporate Communication & Marketing Department a brief customised for HKBAs. .  

Ms Gerti Dogo asked for business success stories from HKTDC to engage new members. Mr Alexander de Beir encouraged all board members to each recruit five new members in the following year.

Ms Esther Naegeli suggested holding pan-European webinars for members from all associations.  Mr Poulis endorsed. Mr Chui added that he would select webinars being developed with pan-European nature and open them to all HKBAs in Europe.

 

(Post-meeting note: Having consulted Mr Poulis, three HKTDC webinars scheduled for late June in the Netherlands, Ireland and Luxembourg respectively were shortlisted.  A circular was sent to invite all HKBA heads in Europe and their members to participate.)

 

Closing Remarks

Mr Poulis concluded by thanking members for attending online, and hoped to meet with all HKBA heads in person at Hong Kong Forum. He emphasised his confidence in Hong Kong, and the long-term relationship between Europe and Hong Kong.