Chamber of Commerce
in Hong Kong traces its roots to 1977, when a small and loosely
organized business association came into being. The following excerpts
from the January-February 1997 issue of Canada Hong Kong Business
magazine tell the story of our development.
Chamber Celebrates Its History
In 1977, the fledgling Canadian Businessmen's Association was running
along rather informal lines, conducting committee meetings in the
Hong Kong Club while its administrative presence comprised of two
desks, graciously provided by the Canadian Pacific Steamship. It
was also the year that China opened itself to the world, and Canada
realized that its future lay in joining the Pacific rim community.
That year, for the first time, more immigrants arrived in Canada
from Asia than from Europe, and more Canadian trade crossed the
Pacific than the Atlantic.
It was then
that Ed Rubin, one of the Chamber's founding members and its later
President (81/82 and 86/87), sent a circular to members asking what
activities they would like to see, and what direction their group
should take. "The response was pretty direct and no-nonsense," he
recalls. "It was time to shift the focus from a social club to a
trade and business group, the kernel of today's Chamber.
"For the founding
dozen of us, those were pretty exciting times. I came to Hong Kong
for the first time, expecting to spend three to four weeks here
setting up a branch of my law firm after living in Paris. A partner
there told me mournfully that once I'd tasted Hong Kong, I'd never
return, and he was right."
the days when the first pulses of drive, excitement and energy that
characterize our territory today were gathering momentum. The Euro-dollar
lending was beginning, huge mounds of petrodollars were demanding
recycling and many banks were setting up in Hong Kong as the entry
point for regional finance.
"At that time,
and very much today and tomorrow for that matter, there was no alternative
to this place as a base," says Rubin. "The British rule of law,
credible and sensible regulations governing finance and the movement
of money made the place irresistible. And the underlying infrastructure
was sound too. I had a personal interest in Hong Kong as I had worked
for then Prime Minister Trudeau in 1969/70 when Canada recognized
the PRC diplomatically.
"Yes, 20 years
ago I remember a water buffalo blocking the main road in Yuen Long,
Those days have gone, replaced by a greater professionalism, but
the energy, drive and potential will remain for the next 60 to 70
years, in my view," says Rubin. "While I look forward to immense
growth in China and the region as a whole, I cannot see that this
can be anything but positive for Hong Kong. A rising tide lifts
all boats, as they say."
Chamber supporter since its beginning, John Henderson is equally
proud of how far Canadian relations and the Chamber have come over
the past twenty years.
"It was in
1985 that we began a serious program of speakers, attracting visiting
dignitaries and politicians to address the Chamber," says Henderson.
"By the mid 1980s, we had some 500 members and we've continued to
grow at an acceptably rapid rate ever since. There are about 150,00
Canadian passport holders in Hong Kong today. The relations between
Hong Kong and Canada are excellent and our Chamber is an influential
voice in the community."