PRESIDENT’S MEMO

In our annual Washington “Doorknock” meetings this year, we spoke candidly about our view that the U.S. ought to remain actively engaged in Asia, especially as countries across the region fret over how the new administration plans to negotiate trade deals after axing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

We see healthy U.S. engagement as crucial to the health of both U.S. businesses and our Asian partners in the region, with the portion of global trade in this region being clearly on the upswing.

New initiatives such as the soon-to-be signed trade deal between Hong Kong and ASEAN could lead to an even greater level of trade, and there are potential infrastructure projects forming with China’s “Belt and Road” initiative.

But we also carried another message on our visit to Capitol Hill:  The importance of Hong Kong as a strategic hub for U.S. companies in Asia, and an explanation of the reasons why companies thrive here. Even as companies ponder potential political risk twenty years into PRC rule, the unique International framework of “One Country, Two Systems” provides many advantages.

Hong Kong operates under a well-established system of law; it has one of the highest levels of freedom of the press in Asia, and a developed financial architecture. Added to that, Hong Kong is a gateway in and out of China. Nearly half of all Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) flowing into China passes through this city.

Last but not least, Hong Kong has a track record of excellent cooperation with the United States and, despite its small population, is the ninth largest trading partner of the U.S.

Our view is that we should grant Hong Kong SAR passport holders visa waiver status, the same as the U.S. does for Taiwan and South Korea.

The Doorknock reminded me that in Washington, a city based around politics and security, the American Chamber of Commerce should serve as a constant voice of the business community in Asia.

The American businesses in Asia create both wealth and opportunity which will lead to job growth in corporate headquarters back home. Just as important, many members of our Chamber have lived and worked in Asia for decades. We have both influence and perspective from working on the ground.

Our frequent exchange of dialogue with officials and experts is especially crucial as new trade relationships and institutions develop among other countries with the U.S. opting out. These initiatives include the continued negotiation of TPP by 11 remaining countries and the growth of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

We may be concerned about U.S. positioning on trade in Asia, but the Doorknock was well worth the effort. All of those whom we visited were welcoming and receptive to hearing our views, and I’m confident the dialogue will continue.

Tara Joseph
President
The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong