Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, Washington DC
Hong Kong

Remarks of Clement Leung, JP
Hong Kong Commissioner to the United States

Farewell Reception
Washington, D.C.
Tuesday May 22, 2018

Good evening everyone,

Thank you for joining our reception today. If you don’t know me already, this is probably your final opportunity because the reception is the last official function I will host as Hong Kong Commissioner.

Time flies and it has been nearly four-and-a-half years since I was appointed to head Hong Kong’s trade mission in the United States. I have mixed feelings going back home. While I definitely miss Hong Kong, my family and I enjoyed Washington, D.C. so much that I treat it as my home, too. So it feels really strange going back home from home.

I am extremely lucky to be able to represent Hong Kong in the United States. The two places have deep ties. In trade and commerce, the U.S. is our second largest trading partner. We are the ninth largest export market for American products. We do not have any tariff for your goods. For trade in services and investment, our market is probably the most open in the world for your companies. The U.S. runs a sizable trade surplus with Hong Kong that is the highest among all economies. I say this every time when I make a speech in the past one and a half years. There are more than 1,400 U.S. companies in Hong Kong, and more than 85,000 Americans living in our city. More Hong Kong students are coming here for their secondary and university education. Direct flights connect Hong Kong with eight U.S. cities and Cathay Pacific will operate a new direct service to Washington Dulles in September. Our law enforcement agencies work together to combat terrorism, money laundering, drug trafficking, corruption and other cross border crimes. Under “One Country, Two Systems,” Hong Kong is truly a unique partner of the United States.

One of the privileges of this job is the opportunity to travel extensively within the U.S. I covered 31 states over the past four years – I promised Hong Kong to cover the rest of the 19 if they let me stay on for another two years. They said good try but it looks that is not possible. The more places I go, the more I see the charm of this great country: its natural beauty, the diversity of its people, its prosperity and brain power. I talked extensively to state officials, business people, academics, media and ordinary folks. It is extremely difficult not to like this country. And I can feel the strong goodwill towards Hong Kong wherever I go.

One of the most difficult questions I get asked is how to measure success in my job. I get asked this question the last time I appeared before the Legislative Council which is the equivalent of Congress in Hong Kong. I do not remember what I said but as usual I gave them a non-answer. But seriously, a lot of things that happen in a bilateral relationship are not entirely up to me or up to Hong Kong for that matter. And recently, there are a lot of developments that cause us concern. If I can travel in a time machine going back to 2014 and tell my Secretary of Commerce that the United States will impose tariffs on our aluminum exports because these products threaten U.S. national security, he would probably send me to a psychiatric hospital rather than to Washington, D.C. The global trade environment is very turbulent and stormy. But I am genuinely worried. On the brighter side, I am glad to hand over my worries to the new Commissioner in a few weeks’ time.

My successor will be Eddie Mak who worked in Washington before as Director General of this office for four years from 2006 to 2010. Some of you may already know him. He will start in July. I was asked by a few guests a few moments ago what advice I would give him. I am sure that Eddie will be able to navigate around his town, with which he is very familiar. But I will tell him that I always find it important to keep Hong Kong informed of what is happening here and to file frequent reports to capital, as we call it. It would be best if you can report outcome and achievements. If you cannot report outcome and achievements, report progress. If there is no progress, report actions. If you did not take any action, report your plans for actions. It works for me, and I think it will work for anyone.

I am very grateful to all your support and friendship to me personally, to my colleagues in the Economic and Trade Office and to Hong Kong in general. I hope you will continue to treat us as your friend and do what you do to friends: keep an interest on what we are doing, tell us when you think that something is not quite right, listen to what we have to say, give us some benefit of doubt, judge us by our actions, and of course, like us on Facebook. One of my parting shots is to launch a revamp Facebook page called “Hong Kong Meets America.” Our yearend appraisal will depend on how many likes we have, so, be helpful to a friend.

So it is time to say goodbye. I will take up a new position in June as Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development responsible for Hong Kong’s broadcasting and telecommunication policies, as well as the promotion of creative industries, such as movies, design, fashion and digital entertainment. It is a new challenge for me and I am sure our paths will cross in the future. My son will go to the University of Maryland College Park in August. I will come back from time to time to check on him, now that we have a direct Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong. So you will probably see me again very soon.

Thank you and take care!

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