Hong Kong leader calls for increased trade with Michigan

Samantha Trauben/Daily
Donald Tong speaks at the Ross School of Business. Buy this photo

BY ALEX KIRSHENBAUM
For the Daily
Published October 14, 2009

With its low tax rates and economic freedom, Hong Kong is an ideal destination for investment, an official from the budding city said in an address on campus yesterday.

Donald Tong, the Hong Kong Commissioner for Economic and Trade Affairs in the United States, spoke before about 70 people at the Ross School of Business yesterday afternoon.

In his presentation, Tong discussed Hong Kong’s present economic state, as well as the city’s future prospects and its potential relationship with Michigan and the United States.

Hong Kong stands out as a global city largely because of how inviting the economy is, ranked the freest in the world, Tong said.

“You should keep most of what you earn,” Tong said.

“Trade is our bread and butter,” he said. “We pay no taxes to foreign authorities. Our tax rate is simple and low.”

Tong said Hong Kong’s warmth to foreign investors, embraced by the United States as a whole, has historically not extended as fully to Michigan. He said he believes that this is changing, though.

“If you look at the trade volume, it’s not on the very high side,” he said. “But the more important thing is that you look at the growth.”

Over the past few years, trade between Michigan and Hong Kong has been steadily increasing, according to Tong. This figure should increase even more in the near future, Tong said, especially with the American auto industry’s new focus on going green.

“Hong Kong and China, and indeed most of the global players, have attached great importance to reduction of greenhouse gasses,” Tong said. “Electric vehicles would be one way to shift that.”

Tong pointed out, however, that Hong Kong’s hilly geography makes current electric car models difficult to sell there.

Though electric cars with roughly a 100-kilometer range are useful for travel within a most cities, Tong said that with the heavy automobile traffic between Hong Kong and mainland China, cars with longer battery ranges are needed.

“Hopefully, somewhere down the road, there will be further innovation in terms of technology,” Tong said. “Then we would be able to look at the same issue again.”

When asked why he chose the University of Michigan as his forum to speak, Tong said it was because the University is a good school.

“It has a very good reputation, especially the Ross School of Business,” Tong said. “It’s a good opportunity to reach out to graduates and undergraduates while they’re still in college.

Tong expressed his desire to attract students to Hong Kong, hoping that by coming to the University, he would help “put Hong Kong on (students’) radar screens.”

Some members of the audience, most of whom were graduate students from the Ross School of Business or the Ford School of Public Policy, thought Tong had good things to say.

MBA student Ramana Atluri said he thought the presentation was fantastic.

“It was a wonderful window into Hong Kong’s economy,” Atluri said.

Public Policy graduate student Simon Tam agreed.

“I’m originally from Hong Kong,” Tam said. “Being there you’re sort of desensitized with the competitive advantage Hong Kong has.”