“SARS has seriously damaged Israel’s trade relations with Hong Kong,” Head of Commercial Department Consulate General of Israel Hong Kong Ornit Avidar said today.
Israel Consul General to Hong Kong Eli Avidar and the conuslate’s security officer are the only Israeli diplomats to have stayed in the territory. “Completely closing the consulate would have very serious economic and diplomatic repercussions, which is why the consul is staying on for now,” said Ornit Avidar.
Ornit Avidar said Hong Kong was still very dangerous. 12 more people died of SARS in Hong Kong on Saturday, and the territory has had the highest number of fatalities - 81 - with new cases occurring daily.
Hong Kong is Israel’s largest trade partner in the Far East. Ornit Avidar said Israeli trade with Hong Kong totals $2 billion a year, 80% of which is diamonds. Telecommunications, software, optical products, machinery, and electronic equipment accounts for $300 million in imports and $300 million in exports.
Even excluding diamonds, Israel trade with Hong Kong is larger than with any other Far Eastern country. Ornit Avidar said Israeli-Hong Kong trade grew by 13% in 2002, while exports to the rest of the world declined.
Nine Israeli companies opened offices in Hong Kong in 2002, including Check Point (Nasdaq: CHKP), TTI Team Telecom International (Nasdaq: TTIL), Celltrex, and telemedicine company Second Opinion (Israel). Other Israeli companies contacted the consulate in the first quarter of 2003 to enquire about opening offices in the region. “That will certainly not happen now, and all plans will be put on hold until the situation is clarified,” she said.
As for the damage to Israel-Hong Kong trade, Ornit Avidar said, “It’s hard to predict the damage to Israel-Hong Kong trade relations, but it’s clear the impact will be severe.”
Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il - on April 20, 2003