SLOW MOTION: The Hong Kong Trade Development Council revised downward its forecast for export growth. The TDC’s chief economist Edward Leung said that he expects only 3.3 percent growth in the last quarter of the year, down from the 4 percent growth previously forecast. Leung said, “Resumption of traveling by overseas buyers, coupled with the renewed marketing efforts of Hong Kong suppliers, should bode well for Hong Kong exports. But the repercussion of SARS is expected to linger on for a while, and exports will likely pick up strongly only towards the last quarter of 2003.”

While the clothing industry appears to be the least hard hit, Hong Kong’s jewelry and watchmakers were dealt a serious blow by SARS as the outbreak coincided with the industry’s buying season. To recoup some of the losses, the TDC announced last week that it was suing the Swiss organizers of the Basel Watch and Jewelry Fair for $9 million in damages. The money would compensate the TDC and the 313 Hong Kong companies that were not allowed to participate in the April show. The TDC alone spent $3.7 million on Baselworld. Analysts say that so far this year, the industry has lost orders worth an estimated $1.3 million. An official of the Basel fair in New York said, “The Basel show is in discussions with the Swiss government on how to approach the next step and resolve this important issue. There’s a meeting this week and there is no new development until this meeting.” — Constance Haisma-Kwok

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