Hong Kong Commissioner: Entrepreneurs in Arizona need to branch out

Hong Kong Commissioner to the U.S. Clement Leung said there were many similarities between Arizona and Hong Kong, and he wants local entrepreneurs to meet face-to-face with their Asian counterparts more often.

Leung on Monday spoke to members of the business community gathered at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix downtown at an event sponsored by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Arizona Commerce Authority.

“It is not just the big companies we are looking after,” Leung said. “We understand the anxiety and nervousness for younger companies to operate on foreign soil. We want to provide a more familiar environment closer to the western system and the U.S. system.”

U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., said he was impressed with Leung’s ideas, and Salmon sees an alignment of business ideologies between Hong Kong and Arizona.

“We need to look at both our opportunities for doing business in Hong Kong and investment from Hong Kong entrepreneurs in Arizona,” Salmon said, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific. “I think that they’d like to look at doing business in places that are more tax friendly and more regulatory friendly, and Arizona is definitely a plus on both of those areas.”

Hong Kong’s economy is 93 percent service based, and Leung said that makes it an ideal place to match buyers and sellers.

It is the 10th largest export market for the U.S., with exports totaling $41 billion in 2014. In addition, Leung said that 1,400 U.S.-based companies have operational facilities in Hong Kong. He pointed to Warner Bros., which established a new film production company in the city, as validation that western culture is taking hold.

Leung said the trade relations between Hong Kong and Arizona remain strong when it comes to electronics and integrated circuits – an industry expected to grow in Arizona. The state’s semiconductor market in 2014 generated $3 billion in the U.S. market, out of $370 billion globally, and provided 23,000 jobs, according to the Arizona Commerce Authority’s website.

Aerospace is also something to consider, Leung said, and Hong Kong is second-largest customer of Boeing 777 airliners.

“There’s a lot of demand from us in respect to products like this,” Leung said. “We know that Arizona has a very pro-business environment. That is one of the conducive factors for the number of startups that are springing up in this state. We hope to connect the entrepreneurs and investment opportunities in these two places.”

Leung said he encourages entrepreneurs to go to Hong Kong as a way to explore the Asian market in a way that still feels familiar to home.

“For states like Arizona, I think it would be necessary for government, the private sector and entrepreneurs to take the extra steps to reach out even though we could connect with each other virtually,” Leung said. “There’s nothing like a person-to-person interface.”