MEA­SUR­ING ASEAN

The As­so­ci­a­tion of South East Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) was founded in in 1967, with In­done­sia, Malaysia, The Philip­pines, Sin­ga­pore and Thai­land as orig­i­nal mem­bers. As a sin­gle eco­nomic en­tity, it would be the sixth largest econ­omy in the world. Hong Kong h

The Peak (Hong Kong) - - The Brief -

have to beat down num­ber two, be­cause the num­ber two is never happy.” And so Choi talks re­peat­edly about the need and im­por­tance of friend­ships in busi­ness.

For the sake of main­tain­ing friend­ships, be­ing a few ranks down from the top has its ad­van­tages. Choi reck­ons by be­ing happy at num­ber three or four, he can bet­ter nav­i­gate the web of re­la­tion­ships he has cre­ated for him­self, in Hong Kong, China and in South­east Asia. It is part of the dual na­ture of Choi him­self, on the one hand, ea­ger to be the nexus be­tween busi­nesses and gov­ern­ments, and to keep a low pro­life on the other.

When Choi talks about Hong Kong’s busi­ness fu­ture, he slips back and forth be­tween Hong Kong’s in­ter­ests and his own. With re­gard to China, Choi talks about Hong Kong’s role of su­per con­nec­tor, us­ing lan­guage sim­i­lar to the gov­ern­ment’s. It quickly morphs into a dis­cus­sion about how he likes to help busi­nesses in Hong Kong work in South­east Asia.

Ac­cord­ing to his own com­pany pro­file, Choi cur­rently holds po­si­tions on 14 gov­ern­ment and in­ter-gov­ern­men­tal bod­ies aimed at boost­ing trade re­la­tion­ships. He has been the chair­man of the Chi­nese Gen­eral Cham­ber of Com­merce for years.

Sunwah Group is much like the Hong Kong con­glom­er­ates of old. There is still the fish busi­ness, though now it’s mor­phed into a food busi­ness. There are also prop­erty hold­ings, pri­mar­ily in Tier-2 cities in China, as well as some science park projects listed un­der “Tech­nol­ogy” and me­dia hold­ings as well. These di­vi­sions, Choi says, are kept quite sep­a­rate and run by dif­fer­ent CEOS as in­de­pen­dent profit cen­tres.

T H E P E A R L S TO RY

But it is in Viet­nam, and pos­si­bly other places and spa­ces around ASEAN, that Choi sees long term po­ten­tial. Sunwah en­tered Viet­nam for the fish busi­ness in the 1960s, un­der Choi’s fa­ther. They stayed through the Viet­nam War, which fi­nally ended in 1975. At about the time that a young Choi was as­sess­ing fish catches in Kennedy Town, the el­der Choi de­cided to let the new com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment take over his

0.9% 2.29% 52.9 MIL­LION 35.2%

$67.4 BIL­LION $60 BIL­LION US$273 MIL­LION 0.4% 1.5% 4.13% 6.7 MIL­LION 40.7%

$15.9 BIL­LION $8.3 BIL­LION US$24.6 MIL­LION 0.1%

• POP­U­LA­TION • POP­U­LA­TION GROWTH

RATE • UR­BAN­I­SA­TION • UR­BAN­I­SA­TION GROWTH

RATE • GDP IN 2016 • GDP IN 2011 • TO­TAL VALUE OF TRADE

WITH HONG KONG (2016) • HONG KONG TRADE VALUE AGAINST GDP • POP­U­LA­TION • POP­U­LA­TION GROWTH

RATE • UR­BAN­I­SA­TION • UR­BAN­I­SA­TION GROWTH

RATE • GDP IN 2016 • GDP IN 2011 • TO­TAL VALUE OF TRADE

WITH HONG KONG (2016) • HONG KONG TRADE VALUE AGAINST GDP

0.3% 2.2% 1.5% 2.73% 0.9% 2.6% 1.4% 2.19% 68.8 MIL­LION 52.7%

$406.8 BIL­LION $370.8 BIL­LION US$16.74 BIL­LION 4.1% 15.7 MIL­LION 21.2%

$20 BIL­LION $12.8 BIL­LION US$1.17 BIL­LION 5.8% 92.7 MIL­LION 34.9%

$202.6 BIL­LION $135.5 BIL­LION US$16.21 BIL­LION 8% 31.2 MIL­LION 76%

$296.3 BIL­LION $297.9 BIL­LION US$15.11 BIL­LION 5% 1.8% 1.5% 0.9% 2.3% 1.6% 1.57% 1.6% 1.52% 5.7 MIL­LION US$24 MIL­LION 100%

$296.9 BIL­LION $275.6 BIL­LION US$41.1 BIL­LION 13.8% 261.1 MIL­LION 55.2%

$932.3 BIL­LION $892.9 BIL­LION US$4.96 BIL­LION 0.5% 103.3 MIL­LION 44.2%

$304.9 BIL­LION $224.1 BIL­LION US$10.9 BIL­LION 3.5% 423,000 77.8%

US$11.4 BIL­LION $18.5 BIL­LION 0.02%

fam­ily firm’s trou­bles dur­ing the cri­sis and its lessons at the 2017 Boao Fo­rum. John­son now heads up Sunwah Group’s pri­vate eq­uity/ven­ture cap­i­tal JV en­ter­prise out of Ho Chi Minh City. In Novem­ber 2016, Sunwah Kingsway Viet­nam an­nounced a US$100 mil­lion in­vest­ment fund, and John­son noted that Sunwah had over US$1 bil­lion in­vested in Viet­nam over the last 40 years.

GET­TING INTO ASEAN

For Choi, the key ben­e­fit of a free trade deal with ASEAN is the ac­cess to mar­kets, par­tic­u­larly for Hong Kong’s fi­nan­cial ser­vices, as well as in­vest­ment that it pro­vides. Ob­servers have noted that Hong Kong has missed out dra­mat­i­cally as it has em­braced China while ig­nor­ing South­east Asia for so long. The tone has changed dra­mat­i­cally since ne­go­ti­a­tions on a deal be­gan in 2014. Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Car­rie Lam has vis­ited sev­eral ASEAN heads of state ahead of the sign­ing of a treaty, un­der­scor­ing her gov­ern­ment’s in­ter­est in the re­gion.

Choi in­vited Lam to be a key­note speaker at events or­gan­ised by the Chi­nese Gen­eral Cham­ber of Com­merce in Myan­mar, Viet­nam, Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore, us­ing his po­si­tion as chair­man to keep up a di­a­logue with the Hong Kong gov­ern­ment.

In Septem­ber, the Hong Kong gov­ern­ment an­nounced that ne­go­ti­a­tions on a free trade deal had been reached, and also terms had been agreed on a re­lated deal cov­er­ing investments. Whether the deal sat­is­fies ev­ery­one’s con­cerns is an­other mat­ter. The de­tails are to be re­leased in Novem­ber.

Choi reck­ons ASEAN holds tremen­dous prom­ise for Hong Kong busi­nesses, some­thing that’s been over­looked for too long, in his view.

But for Choi, there is no worry about be­ing a life­time chair­man of the Chi­nese Gen­eral Cham­ber of Com­merce and

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