It’s official. Hong Kong will return to Switzerland’s BaselWorld trade show, as reported in July by JCK. The Swiss government also has apologized for banning Hong Kong exhibitors this year from the show.
Officials of the Swiss and Hong Kong governments, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), and fair organizer MCH Basel Exhibition Ltd. took part in a high-profile public signing ceremony in Hong Kong on Sept. 3. The new six-year agreement represents “a new partnership between HKTDC and BaselWorld and secures Hong Kong’s participation for years to come on far more favorable terms,” said Frederick Lam, HKTDC deputy executive director.
In April 2003, Hong Kong’s exhibitors—312 companies, the largest foreign delegation in the Basel show—were barred by the Swiss government from doing business at BaselWorld. The ban was aimed at preventing the possible spread of the SARS virus, which began in China. Many angry Hong Kong exhibitors and some HKTDC officials threatened to withdraw completely from future Basel shows.
Lam and MCH chief executive officer Réne Kamm co-signed the new agreement. Franz von Däniken, state secretary of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, and Henry Tang, financial secretary for the Hong Kong government, formally witnessed the signing. HKTDC executive director Michael Sze also attended the ceremony, along with watch and jewelry industry association representatives.
Neither side commented on the new pact’s effect on possible lawsuits that the HKTDC, MCH and individual exhibitors were considering against the Swiss government because of the April incident. However, von Däniken’s presence indicated how seriously the April incident had affected relations between Hong Kong (a Special Administrative Territory of China) and Switzerland.
“Hong Kong is one of our most important trading partners in watches and jewelry,” said von Däniken, and the Swiss government “deeply regrets” that its April decision caused resentment and harmed the interests of Hong Kong exhibitors.