Two weeks after a free trade agreement between Switzerland and Hong Kong came into force, the Swiss business network Osec has opened a hub in the Chinese metropolis to take advantage of its newly opened door to Swiss markets.
At the opening of the organisation's 19th such business centre on Monday, Osec president Daniel Küng called Hong Kong the “gate to China” and noted its importance as a regional melting pot for exports from Switzerland and the European Union. Hong Kong is Switzerland’s third-largest Asian trading partner, after China and Japan.
While exports to mainland China from Switzerland dropped by 15 per cent over the last year, Swiss exports to Hong Kong rose by 19 per cent last year to SFr6.3 million ($6.75 million) and have seen a nearly 20 per cent jump in the first eight months of 2012.
Roughly half of those exports are watches, which are bought up by some 25 million Chinese tourists in Hong Kong every year.
About 190 Swiss businesses are currently operating in Hong Kong, many of them banks, producers of luxury goods and trading companies, according to Osec. However, other export markets have had a harder time establishing themselves in the onetime British colony: chemical and pharmaceutical products make up barely six per cent of Swiss exports to Hong Kong, machinery products just five per cent.
The hub, which will be based out of the Swiss consulate in Hong Kong, will especially cater to small and medium-sized businesses in the biomedical engineering, electronics, information technology, multimedia and environmental arenas. It will help businesses establish contacts in the region and will serve as a liaison between markets in Switzerland and Hong Kong.
The new Swiss business centre will also be responsible for improving exports from Hong Kong to Switzerland, according to State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) director Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch who spoke at the grand opening. Over the past year, exports from Hong Kong to Switzerland increased rougly 3.1 per cent to SFr1.15 billion.
The free trade agreement with Hong Kong was signed by Switzerland and European Free Trade Association (Efta) member states Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland in June of 2011. It went into effect about two weeks ago.
Osec operates business hubs in some 18 countries around the world; the first was opened in Italy in 2001.
swissinfo.ch and agencies