Europe Forum 2021


Europe Forum 2021 (Zoom Meeting)

Meeting Notes




1 June 2021 (Tuesday)



14:00 – 16:20 (CET)


Key Issues Discussed


Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 21st Europe Forum was held online on 1 June 2021. 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 Mr Rolf Willy Hansen, the newly-appointed President of the Norway-Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce, to the virtual Europe Forum.


Mr Silas Chu, the newly appointed HKTDC Regional Director for Europe, Central Asia and Israel explained that HKTDC remained committed to supporting the associations and their activities. He highlighted Hong Kong’s important role in Europe’s export-led recovery post pandemic.



Session I: Latest Update on Hong Kong


Mr Nicholas Kwan provided an update on Hong Kong’s economy and latest developments. In the Covid-19 pandemic, Hong Kong had an infection rate one tenth of the world average.


Mainland China was the only major economy that recorded positive growth last year, sustained by a strong currency and a strong domestic economy. This would create strong import demand, a strong outflow of capital, and strong investment, all of which would benefit Hong Kong. Trade played a strong role in this growth, with imports and exports saw close to triple digit growth.


He also highlighted the strengths of Hong Kong in doing business. Hong Kong was the most international city in Mainland China with the largest cluster of foreign chambers and consulates, the most open economy with a free port, and free flow of capital, goods and information, the most market-driven economy, the most business-friendly environment, the largest trade, finance and aviation hub, and more.


Hong Kong had returned to growth in Q1 2021, though the momentum was uneven. HKTDC expected to revise its trade forecast to double-digit growth by mid-June. Nonetheless, tourism was constrained by quarantine restrictions which had also created difficulties for HKTDC as an organiser of trade fairs and conferences. Other domestic services had fared reasonably well, and retail sales had picked up.


The Greater Bay Area (GBA) was Mainland China’s most market-driven, open and innovative region. China was the world’s largest applicant for patents, and more than half of applications originated from the GBA. GBA played a crucial role for Mainland China to achieve quality growth, by taking the lead in reform, openness and innovation.



Session II: Way Forward for Hong Kong Business Associations


Mr Hans Poulis reported that the Netherlands Hong Kong Business Association had held virtual meetings and participated in international seminars organised by HKTDC and InvestHK. The Dutch economy was recovering. Looking ahead, the Association would organise monthly live events from September 2021. It was anticipated these events would be well attended and appeal to young people.  


Mr Stefan Petters mentioned that he had utilised LinkedIn to promote business with Hong Kong and received positive feedbacks. Mr Petters explained he was a Counsellor at The European Brand Institute, which was able to offer all business associations the opportunity to make Hong Kong more attractive for young entrepreneurs.


Ms Katerina Daskevica, Acting Chairperson of the Baltic Hong Kong Trade Association said that the Rail Baltica project, which will link Baltic states with the European rail network, had continued to progress. The Association had sustained the interest of members through regular dialogue with the Russia-Hong Kong Business Association and the start-up community.


Mr Alexander De Beir said the Belgium-Hong Kong Society organised two successful online events last year, and this year’s virtual Chinese New Year celebration was attended by almost all members. Membership of the Society was stable. The focus of the Society is not just business, but also includes culture and education which enable it to reach out to young people.


Mr Nikolaj Juhl Hansen, Chairman of the Denmark-Hong Kong Trade Association, said a new rule had been introduced in Denmark on foreign direct investment (FDI). The Association had held online events on FDI, risk control and the Hong Kong start-up scene. It had also taken part in the first cross Nordic collaboration event, and linked up with the Danish Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. In 2021 it would seek to engage with Denmark’s Society of Young Professionals.


Mr Salla Auerto reported that the Finland-Hong Kong Trade Association had held monthly online events during the pandemic. Membership had been maintained. Forthcoming events included the Nordic Innovation House collaboration with Sweden on digital entertainment and gaming. Also, Finnair would recommence its weekly flights from Helsinki to Hong Kong.


Mr Eric-Jean Thomas noted that France had been badly hit by the pandemic, and subject to curfews and restrictions. Despite this, the France Hong Kong Business Association had kept in touch with members and the Federation via Zoom meetings, WhatsApp, LinkedIn and its website. The online meetings were well attended. The Association would hold a webinar in June about the GBA.


Mr Eike Kuehl updated that the German Hong Kong Association had undertaken several online activities. Membership was stable, and consideration should be given to opening a chapter in Munich. To involve young people, it should work with universities offering Chinese studies. 


Mr Laszlo Bakonyi, Chairman of Hungary-Hong Kong Business Association, said Hungary was the first country in Europe to import the Chinese vaccine. Membership of the Association was stable. Shanghai-based Fudan University would open a campus in Budapest, a good source of new members. Lastly, the Association undertook various online meetings and activities, which were very time and energy efficient.


Mr Brendan Foster, President of Ireland Hong Kong Business Forum, mentioned the Forum was active online in events supported by HKTDC and Dublin Chamber of Commerce. Looking ahead, a challenge for the Forum was lobbying Cathay Pacific to reinstate direct flights between Dublin and Hong Kong. Membership of the Forum was stable, with the further enhancement of social media activity as a priority.


Mr Riccardo Fuochi, President of Italy-Hong Kong Association, reported that the Association had participated in online seminars with HKTDC on GBA and Hong Kong trade fairs. Younger members were a priority, and events would be organised with universities to this end. The Association would support HKTDC’s forthcoming event Think Business, Think Hong Kong in Milan.


Mr Rolf Willy Hansen, President of the Norway-Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce said the Chamber had undertaken various online events which proved successful. With regard to recruiting younger members, the Chamber would work with the Law Faculty at Bergen University that offered exchange programmes with Hong Kong. It would also put Norwegian start-ups in touch with the Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong.


Mr Bartosz Michalak, Chairman of Poland-Hong Kong Business Association, mentioned that the steep increase in the cost of sea transport had made rail routes from China to Europe more attractive. The Association had held several events online. The Association had also made a number of podcasts, with interest in logistics and Hong Kong as a global city. Attention should be paid to connecting Hong Kong and Polish start-ups. Mr Michalak noted that a new Polish Vice-Consul has just been appointed in Hong Kong.


Mr Bernando Mendia, President of Portugal-Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce & Industry, suggested a physical Federation membership instead of the e-card, as well as the inclusion of the member associations logos. In terms of online tools, LinkedIn had proved useful for promoting greater awareness of the Chamber and recruiting new members. The recommencement of Hong Kong interns coming to work in Portugal next year would help promote great engagement with young people.


Mr Sergey Vikulin, Chairman, Russia-Hong Kong Business Association, said domestic demand in Russia was currently strong. RANEPA (the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration), Russia’s leading university, had reached an agreement with Hong Kong to start an exchange programme. There were several interesting projects planned, but they awaited the lifting of travel restrictions.


Mr Laurent Kilias updated that members had joined online seminars organised by HKETO Berlin and the Swiss Consulate-General in Hong Kong. Networking events for young professionals were planned for the second half of 2021. A survey was being undertaken to determine the needs of members. Work on the Association’s newsletter and LinkedIn account were also in progress.


Mr Paul Thornhill reported that a few new members had been recruited last year. Business sentiment in the UK was the strongest for five years. For youth development, the HK-UK Business Forum was liaising with the business schools and universities. The Forum was also trying to reach out to the 35,000 Hong Kong people who have come to the UK this year to expand membership and invigorate Forum activities.



Session III: Interactive Session


·   Post-Covid strategies and business plans


Mr Stefan Petters noted that the Deputy Chairman at the Austrian Hong Kong Society was Dr Gerhard Hrebicek, President of the European Brand Institute that helps value intangible assets such as brands. This could be harnessed to Hong Kong’s expertise in financing and securitisation. the European Brand Institute would continue to strive and uplift branding and associated aspect.  


Mr Torborg Chetkovich described the “green switch” taking place in northern Sweden. The Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce in Sweden could act as a platform to attract talent from Hong Kong to the region.


Mr Riccardo Fuochi emphasised the need for information about when Hong Kong would open up again in order to create confidence among businesses in Europe.


Mr Hans Poulis encouraged associations to open their online events to members from other associations in Europe. Mr Michael Pronk, Board Member of the Netherlands Hong Kong Business Association, invited members to join the webinar Chinese investments in the EU: How fundamental global change impacts on the rules of play on 30 June.


Mr Jesper Faber Stuhr, Secretary General of Denmark-Hong Kong Trade Association, suggested a number of “one liners” that summarise Hong Kong’s advantages as a business centre.


Mr Silas Chu confirmed that Think Business, Think Hong Kong would be held in October 2022, and invited the associations to support this initiative.


·   Election


Mr Hans Poulis confirmed he would stand as a candidate for the position of Chairman in the coming election, which was a decision welcomed by all participants. He added that the post of  new Honorary Secretary would also need a candidate from Europe.


·   Leverage HKTDC event to promote HKBAs and foster recruitment


Mr Laszlo Bakonyi recommended the Federation should operate a promotional booth at HKTDC trade fairs to recruit potential members.



Session IV: AOB


Mr Silas Chu thanked members for their support for the Forum and for Hong Kong. He noted that the Hong Kong Government was currently providing a 50% subsidy to exhibitors taking part in Hong Kong trade fairs. Mr Chu also highlighted the European regional seminar, as well as other HKTDC exhibitions in Hong Kong.


Mr Carlos Torres, General Secretary of the Portugal-Hong Kong Chamber of Commerce & Industry, confirmed their bid to host the 2022 Europe Forum.



Session V: Closing Remarks


Mr Hans Poulis thanked members for attending the Forum and looked forward to meeting members in person.



17 June 2021