Promoting sustainable global trade through digital engagement

Container ship passing under Golden Gate Bridge

International trade is one of those things few of us think about on a daily basis (headlines excepted), but now and again we’re reminded of its colossal scale. I remember crossing Belcher Bay in Hong Kong once and seeing a mammoth container ship nonchalantly pass by, like a floating skyscraper.  God knows what it was carrying. Ancient mummies? Japanese toilets?

Fact is, the importance of trade to the world is enormous., and any wobble is going to be felt. There’s the trade dispute between China and the US , for instance, and closer to home, the Brexit shenanigans. The impact of these events will affect us all to a greater degree than almost anything else.

So it’s exciting to be providing digital support to a philanthropic organisation that is influencing the international trade debate. The Hinrich Foundation was founded in 2012 by an entrepreneur with an incredible career in international trade of six decades – and counting – and a solid vision. The founder’s mission: to encourage peace between nations through promoting sustainable trade.

The organisation does this through education and trade research. Take for instance the Digital Trade Project, which sizes the value of the digital trade opportunity for economies in Asia, including Malaysia recently (yes, I need to rethink my hair, among other things):

The Digital Trade Project has shown that digitally enabled services in Indonesia, for example, could grow by 13 percent by 2030, driven by online video advertising, among other exports. In even more relatable terms, demand for Indonesian content is growing. Perhaps you have heard of YouTube personality Raditya Dika – the standup comic is hugely popular outside his home country. 

I’m confident that Hinrich Foundation content will also grow in appeal among relevant audiences. I’m less certain about other predictions – don’t ask me about how the trade war between the US and China will pan out, or even Brexit’s prospects…

Hong Kong aiming to woo post-Brexit businesses

Hong Kong Island skyline

It’s been a symbolic year for Hong Kong with the territory marking 20 years since the end of British rule. Much has happened in the two decades since the handover, a time when the likes of Hanson and Oasis dominated chart music and phones were dumb, with Asia – and China especially – now on the up.

With now clearly a good time to cash in on China, especially with whatever is happening with Brexit, Hong Kong is keen not to be overlooked by reminding people that it’s traditionally a way in.

Supported by more than 60 UK organisations, “Think Asia, Think Hong Kong” will be a trade event held in London on 21 September with the aim of attracting companies to use Hong Kong as the starting point for expansion to Asia.

Speakers will include political heavyweights Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam and Trade Secretary Liam Fox, among other bigwigs, and the main topics will include the things that have been buzzing in Asia in recent months, from Belt and Road to FinTech, as their press release  explains in more detail:

  • Doing Business in China and throughout Asia – the startup scene in Asia and the support available including fundraising;  middle-class consumers in Asia; the development of online shopping and cross-border ecommerce; and the new approach of marketing, branding and customer engagement using tech and new media
  • Hong Kong: Gateway to Belt and Road Opportunities – Infrastructure financing experts in this panel will share their insights on the Belt and Road Initiative means and how Hong Kong can help UK businesses connect with opportunities arising from this
  • FinTech –  Why global FinTech companies are attracted to Hong Kong, as well as sharing their vision for the future of Hong Kong

Registration is now closed for the main event (I know, I know, you’ve read this far), but you can register onsite for the seminars, apparently.

Hong Kong SAR: 20 years later, it’s time for 2.0

Hong Kong Island skyline

Has it been twenty years already? 1997 was a memorable year for people in Britain, for reasons good and bad. Among other events, Hong Kong was finally handed over to China, marking a new era for all concerned – Hong Kong especially.

Much has happened in the two decades since, and of the three territories, it’s China with the glowing school report. The nation is exerting its influence from Africa to Indonesia, while domestically cities such as Shanghai are luring top global talent, eager to have a stab at the world’s biggest market.

In contrast, Hong Kong and the UK have both seen relative decline (let’s be honest), becoming increasingly divided and unsure of themselves. The parallels between the two are obvious.

But life goes on, as they say, and Hong Kong is the ultimate embodiment of life. No matter who calls the shots; the territory remains a supreme machine, where 7 million people combine efficiently and tightly to keep its wheels turning.

This is hustle and bustle on steroids (if you’re looking for balance, you’ve come to the wrong place), with Hong Kong operating with an intensity and impatience that makes London feel like a country club in comparison.

Yet despite the blistering pace, Hong Kong feels remarkably risk-averse. If Silicon Valley’s mantra is “move fast and break things”, Hong Kong’s spirit can be better described as “move fast and keep things unchanged”. From tech to housing and public light shows, the city now trails behind Shanghai, Singapore and even neighbouring Shenzhen.

There is, mercifully, a growing appetite for disruption. Call it what you want: fintech, regtech, wealth tech, biotech, travel tech, the movements are out there, eager to cement Hong Kong’s “hub” status in the region, leveraging on the city’s strengths.

To get “there” – frankly there is no final destination, as this is a process of constant reiteration and reinvention – Hong Kong will need to overcome its biggest adversary. Not Singapore, not China, but itself. It won’t be easy.

As Hong Kong enters its third decade and adulthood since the handover, new opportunities (and challenges) await that will better serve the “intrapreneurs” and change makers among us. We could be witnessing the start of a new era altogether. And if anyone can help put an end to the city’s whopping cost of living, beers are on me…