The head of Hong Kong’s New York City-based Economic & Trade Office visited Raleigh and Charlotte with a message for economic and political leaders in North Carolina: We’re not that different, economy-wise.
Steve Barclay, a Brit who has spent 36 years in Hong Kong, pointed out some of the similarities Tuesday in Charlotte. The economies of North Carolina and Hong Kong both had strong manufacturing bases that saw those jobs disappear starting in the 1980s, as China opened up and became a factory to the world. Both have a heavy reliance on financial services now, with a focus on logistics as well.
And Barclay also had another message: Despite the pro-democracy protests that rocked Hong Kong and dominated cable news last year, the island, a semi-autonomous region of China, is open for business.
“Hong Kong continues to thrive and prosper,” said Barclay. “Despite what you hear on the news, we’re not on the verge of collapse.”
In his first trip to North Carolina, Barclay met with N.C. Commerce Secretary John Skvarla, Economic Development Partnership CEO Chris Chung, the World Affairs Council of Charlotte and other local leaders in Charlotte and Raleigh.
Although there are no nonstop flights from Charlotte to Hong Kong or elsewhere in Asia, Barclay touted the advantages of doing business in Hong Kong. Those include an English-speaking climate and the rule of law, Barclay said.
“You’re going to get a fair deal, which may not always be the case if you do your contract in mainland China,” he said.
Barclay said last year’s democracy protests, in which Hong Kong citizens demonstrated for the right to nominate and elect the island’s chief executive directly, have been a positive for Hong Kong, drawing more attention.
“It’s a good thing. Prior to that, Hong Kong had dropped off the radar,” said Barclay. He said he supports the mainland Chinese government’s proposal to allow the election of Hong Kong’s chief executive from a slate of candidates chosen by a nominating committee.
“Is it perfect? No, but where is?” said Barclay. “We all have problems.”