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Commissioner Donald Tong (HK's top official in US) speaks in Huntsman about economic opportunities in HK and the impact of the financial crisis. Credit: Arthur Xu

Wednesday evening, the Wharton Asia Club hosted a presentation by the highest ranking government representative from Hong Kong based in the United States, Commissioner Donald Tong.

Tong started off the presentation titled “Turning Economic Doldrums into Opportunities” by giving background information on Hong Kong regarding its relationship with China, the principle of “One Country, Two Systems” and “What Makes Hong Kong Tick.”

He then addressed a popular audience question — how has the recent global economic crisis affected one of the world’s leading financial centers?

Tong admitted that “Hong Kong was not immune to the effects of the economic crisis.”

The International Monetary Fund forecasts that Hong Kong experienced a contraction of 3.3 percent in 2009. However, it is expected to grow by 4 to 5 percent in 2010, according to Tong.

On being asked why Hong Kong’s economy contracted when China’s experienced a positive growth in 2009, Tong answered that Hong Kong’s economy depends on the U.S. more.

He outlined the four economic pillars — financial services, tourism, trading and logistics and professional services — that are being strengthened to combat the effects of the crisis, but said, “It was too early to say we are out of the woods, but we are showing more signs of stability than other markets.”

Another change Tong addressed is the Task Force on Economic Challenges, set up in 2008 to respond to the economic downturn. This new policy along with China’s stimulus package of $586 billion at the end of 2008, has played a major role in softening the effects of the economic crisis, Tong said.

The Commissioner also highlighted strong economic ties between Pennsylvania and Hong Kong since “we [Hong Kong] imported $536-million worth of goods in 2008, making Hong Kong Pennsylvania’s fourteenth largest export destination.”

Several attendees said they felt that the presentation was informative and useful.

According to Charles Hedden, a Wharton graduate student, the event was helpful and he “got a few business ideas that he would like to pursue” after graduation.

Following the presentation, Tong said he was pleased to speak at Penn and mentioned that he welcomes the return of many of the Wharton students from Hong Kong.

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