Hong Kong is home to the worlds largest pool of educated garment professionals

Hong Kong is home to the world's largest pool of educated garment professionals

Hong Kong has been the centre of the global garment industry for the past 40 years. But rising uncertainty now means the new place to go is Singapore, says David Birnbaum.

Great change comes from a push/pull experience.

Hong Kong has been the centre of the global garment industry since day 1. First as the factory centre, later as the commercial centre, Hong Kong was the place to be. On the supplier side, it was home for many of the world's largest transnational factory groups, while on the customer side Hong Kong was the place to set up your global buying office.

The city offered everything:
• A global banking centre
• A solid currency
• A business-friendly government
• The world's greatest free market economy
• The rule of law
• Professionals of every sort
• First class travel

Most importantly, Hong Kong offered stability. In our global garment world, stability trumps everything. Hong Kong was of China, but not exactly part of China. For example, in the world of international trade, Hong Kong was treated as a separate entity.

For companies wanting to invest in China, set up companies in China, or work in China, the easiest and safest route was through Hong Kong. Why go anywhere else, when Hong Kong was already offering everything you need?

The 1997 handover made things even better. Let's face it, to operate in the global garment industry, you had to work in China because China was the world's great garment factory. Hong Kong became the first city in China.

Everything has changed. There is no single reason:
• The demonstrations 
• The crackdown
• Xinjiang and the sanctions
• Hong Kong's loss of its special place in world trade

Things are falling apart. Our industry's great fear is that Hong Kong's rule of law might transmogrify into China's rule of policy. We in the industry are being pushed out.

Nobody wants to leave. Hong Kong is a great place. However, the place has moved from stability to uncertainty. The problem is that if you are working in China, YOU DO NOT WALK AWAY.

We in the global garment industry are masters of crisis management. How to square the circle by moving-in while at the same time moving-out? 

The answer is simple: 

For your China work, move from Hong Kong to Shanghai or Guangdong. This shows your loyalty to China. Also, operating out of China is the same system as working in Hong Kong, minus the stress and uncertainties.

For your other work, move elsewhere. We all know the place to go is Singapore.

The city offers everything:
• A global banking centre
• A solid currency
• A business-friendly government
• Now the world's greatest free market economy
• The rule of law
• Professionals of every sort
• First class travel
• And most of all, stability.

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About the author: David Birnbaum is an internationally renowned garment industry specialist working for major importers, retailers, suppliers, governments and institutions. His latest book The Guide to Cost to Value Analysis is available at Amazon. Click here to see the other articles he has written for just-style.