Leung Kwan Ho, Director of Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC). Photo by Raditya Fadilla/NOW!JAKARTA

As the region becomes more aware of Indonesia’s economic potential, power houses like Hong Kong have established offices to facilitate increased partnerships. NOW! Jakarta spoke to Leung Kwan Ho, Director of Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) to find out about the growing link between the two countries.

How has the relationship between Indonesia and Hong Kong been enhanced since the opening of this office around five years ago?

HKTDC Jakarta opened in 2014. Before that there was no office but we had an agent to promote Hong Kong’s activities on a project basis. We started it because Hong Kong has a close business relationship with South East Asia. There isn’t much knowledge about Hong Kong here either except maybe as a holiday destination or for Jackie Chan. For Hong Kong, Indonesia was not on the priority list. But we’re working on changing that. We hope to do match businesses in both countries. This is a crucial step and one we can collaborate with. Within these few years, HKTDC Jakarta office has helped to setup the “Indonesia-Hong Kong Business Association”, which gathers together Hong Kong companies in Indonesia and/or companies having business interest in or with Hong Kong. This creates a good platform for companies to network and share experience, and also foster business between members.

What are some of the achievements that you can tell us about?

Hong Kong trade events. One of the major events in 2015 was by In Style Hong Kong. There was a mega promotion—the largest scale promotion in South East Asia. We brought over 200 Hong Kong companies and it also included product merchandise and household goods. We also had services like legal services, interior designers, IT companies, household goods, lots of different sectors. We also have consumer promotions. Not just in trade, but also B2C. Indonesians place more emphasis on infrastructure and it's a genuine need for the country. From 2013 President Xi Jinping started the Belt and Road Initiative. China plays a huge role to help materialise the goals of the project. Hong Kong is a part of China. Of course, it is international and is a major centre of global brands but the Beijing government has high hopes for the development of trade – service, merchandise and investment as well.

We invite investors and arrange meetings with the ministries etc so that the Hong Kong side knows what infrastructure investment opportunities are available. Last April our Chairman brought a delegation from Hong Kong and China. Chief Executive Carrie Lam was also here and met Chairman of the Indonesia Investment Board, Thomas Lembong. They signed an MoU. So, there’s a good start in terms of investment. On the China side, the Belt and Road initiative benefits both sides. we have yet to see any concrete results but talking about infrastructure, we will see it but not in a year or two. it takes time.

What industries are you cooperating with?

For Indonesia we are talking about traditional merchandise trade. I notice in Indonesia, there is a growing middle class and demand for high quality items. Most of these products are imported – and Hong Kong is famous for this. We're one of the largest watch exporters in the world, home electronics, fashion, etc. These are the consumer products have good potential for trade. Another area is services. Indonesia traditionally trade in commodities and raw materials. But some areas are good enough for the international market but what they need is more international exposure like branding and merchandising. Indonesia makes coffee beans but what is needed is better packaging and sales and distribution network and Hong Kong can help with that. For some value-added service it benefits the coffee makers too. That's one-way Hong Kong can work with Indonesia. Another is infrastructure development.

You have offices in key ASEAN capitals. How has this helped Hong Kong’s relationship with the ASEAN?

My colleagues in our offices—in Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City and Kuala Lumpur—and I work on connecting these countries with Hong Kong. We are an event- based promotion agency. We organise delegations and fairs, we take business people from here to Hong Kong too.  We still value the human to human connection. That's why we organise activities so we can build the trust between the economies and people.

HKTDC in Hong Kong is a semi-government agency set up in 1966. We also have the Economic and Trade Office. It is almost like a consular office but it doesn't handle diplomatic issues. The ASEAN secretariat is based in Jakarta and we also facilitate meetings and relationship building. The ASEAN-Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement was agreed last year, which will lead to lower tariffs and provide easier access for Hong Kong businesses here. so that's good news. There are many preconceived ideas about doing business in this region and our role is to help place countries like Indonesia on the priority list.

How can Indonesia benefit from China’s Belt and Road Initiative and how can the HKTDC facilitate that relationship?

Indonesia is a close partner. Recently there were 70-80 delegates taken to Hong Kong to meet potential partners from other Belt & Road countries. It was to help them meet each other and see if they could connect based on mutual need. The world needs to know more about Indonesia and its products, destinations, etc. It’s time. One more thing I’d like to add is that education is another area of cooperation. We’re seeing more Indonesian students travelling to Hong Kong. It’s a good investment for Indonesians and will help Hong Kong understand the country better too.

Ranjit Jose

Ranjit Jose

Ranjit is a previous Editor of NOW! Jakarta. A cultural journalist and anthropologist by training, he has reported on arts and culture for a variety of publications in the USA and Indonesia.