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Thursday, August 23, 2001, updated at 15:00(GMT+8)

Shanghai Not a Threat to Hong Kong: US Business Executive

Shanghai will not be a threat to Hong Kong even after China's entry into the World Trade Organization, a Hong Kong-based US business executive said Thursday.

The American companies will continue doing business in Hong Kong whatever happens to the city in the future, Frank Martin, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong told Xinhua.

"Hong Kong is an international financial and trade center, while Shanghai a domestic one, and one can not replace the other," Martin insisted. "I don't think Hong Kong will lose its competitiveness."

Martin's confidence in Hong Kong's success in the future comes from his experiences in this city over the past 25 years. He witnessed the great changes in every aspect of this city, including the Hong Kong dollar crisis in 1983 and the historical event of Hong Kong's returning to its motherland.

"One of the most exciting experiences I have had in Hong Kong over the past 25 years was the collapse of the Hong Kong dollars in 1983, when I was the president of the Bank of Canton here," Martin told the reporter. It was all due to the perception of possible failure of Sino-British talks and the stipulation of Hong Kong dollar against the currencies worldwide.

He said he witnessed the whole processes that banks began to sell Hong Kong dollars overnight and within few days Hong Kong dollars dropped very sharply, causing panic in Hong Kong. People on the streets were concerned that Hong Kong dollars would have no value and they wanted their money back at counters to buy jewelry, Martin said.

"Those were very hard days but I did not lose my confidence, because I thought solutions would be found, and then the link with US dollars was born," Martin said. "I think it was the most exciting experiences on crisis I ever have had."

And the excitement otherwise over the past 25 years for him was the successful return of Hong Kong to the motherland on July 1, 1997, he said. "It was the most exciting experiences to be here and to be part of Hong Kong, and in the first six months I did at least 230 interviews with the media as the president of the bank, all about what's going to happen in Hong Kong after the handover."

"Of course, my answer is always positive," he said.

Martin was appointed president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong in December, 1990, following a 25-year career with Security Pacific National Bank. "Working with the chamber is more challenging, as you need to be diplomatic, you need to be knowledgeable on the US political systems, on the Chinese history, on every aspects about the Sino-US relationship, as well as the Hong Kong political processes," Martin said.

"I spend a lot of time everyday on reading newspapers and Internet so that I can keep informative of the political events that affect our businesses in Hong Kong," Martin said. According to the US Consulate General, an estimated 50,000 permanent or temporary US passport holders reside in Hong Kong, and there are over 1,100 US companies operating in the region, employing some 250,000 Hong Kong workers.

Martin said Hong Kong is the preferred location in Asia for multinational regional offices and headquarters. So far, the United States has had 212 regional headquarters and 358 regional offices in Hong Kong, the second largest number after Japan, according to Martin.

He also spends a great deal of time on meeting with officials of Hong Kong government and US politicians to talk about the Sino-US relations and trade issues. Every year since he was the Amcham president, he has visited Washington on the mission of lobbying for approval of China's PNTR and its entry into WTO, he said.

Martin's assignments included 15 years as president and chief executive officer of the Bank of Canton, which was merged with the Security Pacific. "I joined the Bank of Canton in 1976 and I thought it was a three-year assignment, but actually I had spent more than 15 years with the bank," he recalled.

"Of course, I was intended to go back to the United States, but every time I discussed it with my family, they wanted a stay and considered Hong Kong as their home," he said. Martin and his wife have been residents in Hong Kong since 1976. They have two children, a girl and boy who also prefer Hong Kong to the US as they had their whole education and now their businesses in Hong Kong.

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Shanghai will not be a threat to Hong Kong even after China's entry into the World Trade Organization, a Hong Kong-based US business executive said Thursday.

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