Hong Kong offers optimistic economic outlook

Hong Kong offers optimistic economic outlook

NEW YORK -- Hong Kong is forecasting modest economic growth this year in contrast to the turmoil wrought by SARS in 2003.

Jacqueline Willis, Hong Kong's commissioner for economic and trade affairs in the U.S., said the government expects the economy to grow 3 percent this year. That's a more cautious estimate than the 4 percent to 5 percent projected by the International Monetary Fund.

Overall growth last year was about 3 percent, marked by a 4.5 percent gain in the first quarter, followed by a 0.5 percent dip in the second quarter due to the SARS scare, and then 4 percent growth in the third quarter. Fourth-quarter figures are not yet available.

"We are in a V-shape recovery since SARS," she told attendees at a reception Wednesday evening marking the Chinese New Year.

Willis said there has double-digit real growth in exports and a sharp upturn in the service sector. "The rebound in tourism is particularly impressive," she added.

Last year's trade deal with China, called the Closer Economic Partnership Agreement, will put Hong Kong in a stronger position to capitalize on China's rapid growth, while enabling Hong Kong to contribute to China's overall development, Willis said.