The city of Los Angeles and the trade council of Hong Kong launched a program Monday that will match Southern California exporters with the Asian city's buyers.
The program, believed to be the first such project between a U.S. city and a foreign trade council, is aimed at easing a $1-billion trade gap between Los Angeles and Hong Kong, officials said.
Mayor Tom Bradley and Jack So, executive director of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, announced the one-year pilot program at a press conference where they signed an agreement and laid out the goals of the trade project, which is aimed primarily at small and medium-sized businesses in Los Angeles.
"We do very well in going to Hong Kong and buying products there, but it does lead to an imbalance, a deficit of sorts," Bradley said. "We think we've come up with a plan that will enhance our ability to encourage small and medium-sized businesses to export to Hong Kong."
As of 1988, Hong Kong exported $2.48 billion in goods to Los Angeles--nearly twice the amount exported from Los Angeles to Hong Kong.
But So said Hong Kong, the 14th-largest market in the world, wants balance in the trade relationship as much as Los Angeles.
"Hong Kong is known as a great exporter," So said. "But we are an equally great importer. What we export we have to import since we have no resources except for 5 1/2 million pairs of hands."
The trade council will use its computer network to match buyers and needed goods in Hong Kong with small and medium-sized firms in Los Angeles. The council will work with Los Angeles to promote such business relationships, and those who need assistance in financing the transactions will be able to secure loans from the city through the L.A. Xport program, established last January to help smaller businesses participate in the global market.
Officials believe the program may mark the first time a foreign country has taken such an active role in increasing its imports from a United States city and added that they hope it will become a model for agreements with other foreign markets in the future.
'A Marvelous Model'
"We have a more significant deficit with Japan, Taiwan, South Korea," said Damon Lawrence, consultant for international trade with the mayor's office. "If it works in this case, it could be a marvelous model . . . so Los Angeles manufacturers could be assisted in getting into their markets."