Commentary

[SCMP Column] Punching Our Weight

September 18, 2017

Trade has grown so strongly that ASEAN is today Hong Kong’s second largest market, behind China, but overtaking the European Union and the US. Total merchandise trade amounted in 2016 to HK$833bn, with services trade amounting to HK$121bn. ASEAN still ranks just 6th as a destination for Hong Kong investment – with a stock of HK$218bn at the end of 2015 – but this will rapidly change as Belt and Road investments gather momentum.

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[SCMP Column] Beyond the Boundaries

August 07, 2017

So ASEAN’s 50th anniversary is a landmark worthy of serious celebration. For Hong Kong, which has long neglected the south east Asian economies because of its perfectly understandable obsession with developments to our north, there will hopefully be a second serious reason for celebration later this year: completion of Hong Kong’s long-overdue ASEAN free trade agreement. We have down-played an economic region of more than 600m people for far too long. Perhaps on its 50th anniversary, we can make amends.

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[SCMP Column] Multilateral Deals Superior

July 03, 2017

So when our Australian friends knocked on the door proposing an FTA, this was for Hong Kong a big deal – perhaps not as big as the undeniably significant China-ASEAN agreement, but not to be sniffed at. With a GDP of US$1.4tr, and a population of 24m, it offers the prospect of almost doubling the scope of our FTAs. As Hong Kong’s 8th trading partner (their main export to us is gold) and with 600 Australian companies based in Hong Kong, there is serious business here. Splice in too the fact that 100,000 Australian nationals live in Hong Kong, and a further 98,000 Hong Kong-born people live in Australia, and the people-movement elements of FTAs could be of particular importance. Australia’s services exports to Hong Kong have grown five-fold in the past five years, driven by Hong Kong kids going to Australian schools and universities, property investment, and tourism.

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[SCMP Column] Rare trade deal

February 25, 2017

But realists in Bangkok and elsewhere acknowledged that the celebration was rather hollow. The TFA was a crumb on the table of the now-defunct Doha round of global trade negotiations. It was proposed by WTO director General Roberto Azevedo – and endorsed by the world’s trade ministers – in Bali in late 2013 as a single salvageable initiative after more than a decade of fractious and ultimately fruitless efforts to bring global trade rules into the 21st century.

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[SCMP Column] Language lessons

July 09, 2016

Whatever the pace of Britain’s decline as a global colonial power, there is one area where the sun still never sets on Britain’s hegemonic reach – the use of the English language.

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[SCMP Column] Resource Curse

April 30, 2016

If you want evidence of the “commodities curse”, look no further than Port Moresby, the raggle-taggle capital of Papua New Guinea.

Of course, the curse is not PNG’s problem alone – the global collapse in price of so many key commodities is creating wrenching challenges in economies ranging from Venezuela, Peru and Brazil to Mozambique, Indonesia and Russia – but PNG lays out the challenges in stark and basic terms.

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[SCMP Column] Crowded Skies Add to Woes for Airports

March 21, 2016

For leading airlines like Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines the biggest challenge will not be to win agreement at home to add capacity in home airports – though we know from painful local experience this is hard enough – but to persuade other governments around the region to take seriously the challenge of finding sufficient slots for their aircraft to land.

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[SCMP Column] The "Good Guys"of Pacific Alliance Mean Business

December 12, 2015

Just as we on the Pacific’s western shores have suddenly begun to realise that we need to know more about South America’s economies, so too have the Pacific Alliance partners begun to turn attention to Asia, and the potential for a “Puente Pacifico”, or Pacific Bridge – even though so few of us speak Spanish. For Mexico and Columbia, there is the “push” factor that they are anxious to reduce their reliance on the US as the dominant export market. But for all four, even though China’s demand for raw materials may have faltered for the time being, there is a rising awareness of, and interest in, China (and ASEAN) as significant future consumer markets. We should ensure the Asian end of the “Puente Pacifico” lands here in Hong Kong. If it lands elsewhere, we will be the losers.

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[SCMP Column] Pacific Trade Deal Welcome, Despite Geopolitical Baggage

October 08, 2015

Such US rhetoric makes me deeply queezy. As the Financial Times Trade Editor during the Uruguay Round of trade liberalization talks, I travelled the world for five years listening to Trade Ministers and local chambers of commerce making the same complaint: “If it were not for those pesky deceitful foreign businesses and manufacturers twisting and breaking the trade rules, our fine, upstanding exporters would perform much better in global markets.” Slipped into this rhetoric was always the call for “fair” trade – code for “our right to do protectionist things to frustrate the deceit and manipulation of those pesky foreigners”. On cue, Obama talked of the US negotiating “free and fair trade that would support our workers, our businesses and our economy as a whole.”

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Keeping the Trade Bicycle Moving Forward

December 17, 2010

The DDA is dead. Long live KORUS, the TPP and the FTAAP – so say APEC and the G20, between the lines, at least. And if you manage to wade your way through this “acronym soup”, there is actually something quite important here. I promise.

Outside the logistics industry, the world of international trade negotiation is as impenetrably acronym-laden as any I know. Some perhaps think this insiders’ code language is cool. I must confess I find it impossible – especially in those notoriously sleepy conference sessions that happen straight after lunch.

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