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Country Comercial Guide: Hong Kong (Country Commercial Guides)

Country Comercial Guide: Hong Kong (Country Commercial Guides)

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This Country Commercial Guide (CCG) presents a comprehensive look at Hong Kong’s commercial environment using economic, political and market analyses. The CCGs were established by recommendation of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), a multi-agency task force, to consolidate various reporting documents prepared for the U.S. business community. Country Commercial Guides are prepared annually at U.S. embassies and consulates through the combined efforts of several U.S. Government agencies.

After a very painful recession brought about by the financial and economic crisis that affected the entire Asian region, Hong Kong’s economy began to recover in the second quarter of 1999, and the recovery has continued to strengthen. Unemployment stood at a very high 6.2% for 1999, but has now fallen to 5.5%. GDP rose by 3% in 1999, after contracting by 5.1% in 1998, and grew by a very impressive 14.3% in the first quarter of 2000. Some economists are now calling for 10% real GDP growth for full-year 2000.

The stock market, after losing over 60% of its value from its peak in August 1997 to its nadir in August 1998, has recovered to pre-crisis levels. Inbound tourist arrivals, a key economic driver for the Hong Kong economy, have also recovered strongly, growing 11.5% in 1999, and by 15% through the first four months of 2000. Property prices, which also fell sharply during the crisis, have now stabilized. For office space in the prime “Central” business district, prices are currently 30-40% lower than at their peak in 1997.

According to U.S. Government statistics, U.S. exports to Hong Kong totaled US$12.6 billion in 1999, and two-way trade totaled US$23.2 billion, making Hong Kong the United States' thirteenth largest trading partner. US exports to Hong Kong in the first quarter of 2000 were up 5.5% over the year-earlier period.

The keys to Hong Kong’s economic success -- its free-market philosophy, entrepreneurial drive, absence of trade barriers, well-established rule of law, low and predictable taxes, transparent regulations, and complete freedom of capital movement -- remain as strong as ever. And Hong Kong’s attractiveness as a profitable commercial and financial center have been enhanced as the high cost of doing business, largely stemming from rising property and labor costs, has come down considerably because of the economic crisis. The rise in unemployment has eased wage pressure and dampened the high turnover that most companies faced here in the past, as a result of the extremely low unemployment rates that had prevailed traditionally (2.2% in 1997).

There are over 1,100 U.S. businesses represented in Hong Kong -- including over 400 regional operations -- and over 50,000 American citizens reside in Hong Kong. According to preliminary U.S. Government statistics, U.S. direct investment in Hong Kong totaled almost US$24 billion at year-end 1999 (based on historical cost), making the United States one of Hong Kong's largest investors, along with the U.K., China and Japan.