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AmCham plots fresh course

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As a new administration launches in Washington, a fresh leader of the US business community in Hong Kong considers the year ahead.


Jessica Bartlett

The United States and its relations with the world, especially with Mainland China and Hong Kong, have been very much in the news recently. At the same time, as a new administration takes over in Washington, the American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong (AmCham) also has a new leader.

Jessica Bartlett, newly appointed Chairman of the AmCham, discusses the chamber’s priorities for 2021, noting Hong Kong’s strengths and investors’ confidence in the city.

Where do you see the role of AmCham in 2021?

After the last few years, Hong Kong is at an inflection point, but there is a choice about what the future looks like. I believe that there is a significant and constructive role that the chamber, private enterprises and American and multinational businesses can play in shaping that future as one that cements Hong Kong’s unique role in the global economy, in the Asia region, in respect of Greater China, and locally, for each of the individuals who call this city home.

How to achieve that?

Let values be our guide. The most important thing we can do is to act and move forward constructively in a way that reflects our chamber values, which are just as relevant today – the values of private enterprise, free trade, rule of law, ethical and responsible business practices and transparency, and free flow of information.

What are the chamber’s key priorities?

AmCham’s focus will be on building a Hong Kong for the future and enabling private enterprises to be a constructive voice and source of support. We have to recognise the challenges that do exist and will monitor the political and legal environment closely. 

Situated in a hub of legal and business intelligence, AmCham will leverage its members’ expertise to identify resources and awareness for risk management. We will also address the new world of work. As COVID has pushed businesses to adopt new approaches to work dynamically and remotely, AmCham will provide thought leadership on dealing with workplace challenges and building a sustainable employment environment. There are lots of opportunities here to advocate for positive, long-term change.

What’s your view of businesses’ intent?

What struck me about our member survey for 2021 was cautious optimism. This felt like a very different attitude coming into 2021 than we’ve seen in the last few years. That was really refreshing. And I’m glad that it was cautious – not ill-informed, or ill-advised. In thinking about their business here, many were looking at their plans in the medium to long term.

Each business is evaluating – they’re constantly evaluating – their Hong Kong and Asia strategies. So far, we haven’t seen mass exits. Investors remain very keen to be in Asia, with a lot of confidence in the Hong Kong market. They see this region as a growth region. Those fundaments aren’t changing. Americans will go where there’s opportunity: that is part of who we are, and I think we will still do that.

How confident are you about Hong Kong’s economy and outlook?

It’s a challenging time for Hong Kong. In some ways many businesses feel they’re at an inflection point but one thing I also know about Hong Kong is this is a very resilient place. The attitude of Hong Kong is can. Can do. Can. I think we need to leverage that and find ways that the chamber and the American businesses can support Hong Kong for the future.

What is your personal goal as chairman?

The chamber has the opportunity this year to strengthen relationships in Washington and build new relationships with the new administration who will be overseeing and setting US policy toward Mainland China. But this is only one side of the relationship. The chamber should seek out dialogue with mainland and Hong Kong officials, to act as a bridge between the US and the mainland, and create space for American businesses to thrive in the mainland, Hong Kong and the Asian region.Related link

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