The 2018 September Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair had to contend with a super typhoon that closed the massive jewelry trade show for a day for the first time in its 36-year history. Its sister show, the recently concluded 2019 June Hong Kong Jewellery & Gem Fair, had to deal with two different storms that were both man-made.
The first was the threat by U.S. President Donald Trump to impose 25% tariffs on an additional $300 billion in Chinese imports, which would almost certainly include jewels, gems and jewellery making equipment from China. This would have not only disrupted the fair but had the potential to adversely impact the entire jewellery industry in China.
The second storm came in the form of ongoing mass protests in the city against the Chinese government that wants to impose a highly controversial plan to allow extraditions to mainland China. On June 16, before the fair began, an estimated two million people joined a demonstration against the proposed law, an unprecedented number in a city of seven million people. It turned out that both potential storms did not interfere with the jewellery trade show, held June 20 – 23. There was a protest on June 22 but it was smaller and more targeted taking place about two miles away from the Hong Kong Convention and Exposition Centre. Outside of a few street closures, there was no disruption to the fair. About a week after the fair, Trump announced that he agreed to indefinitely suspend his tariff threat (for now). Leaders of Hong Kong and China trade organizations had a lot to say about the first issue and had nothing to say about the second, during the opening day press conference. Lawrence Ma, president of the Diamond Federation of Hong Kong, says U.S.-China trade tensions are putting pressure on the world economy.
“Trade uncertainty is what we don’t like,” he said at the time. “If they agree to something everything would change in a moment. But I think we have to live with this uncertainty for the next few months.” Sze Ho Yin, president of the Hong Kong Pearl Association said the increased infrastructure improvements (which includes new train service and a new bridge) between Hong Kong and China have made it easy for Hong Kong wholesalers and retailers to do business with those from the mainland. “About 40% of our buyers are from Mainland China because it is very convenient for buyers from China to come to Hong Kong,” he said. “They are pretty much supporting the jewelry industry (in Hong Kong). It’s very convenient to sell directly to China. Because of this, the trade war between the U.S. and China hasn’t had a dramatic effect.” Ken Lo, chairman of the Hong Kong Jade & Jewellery Manufacturers, says Hong Kong’s strength as a trading center will mitigate much of the detrimental impact of the trade war (which is still ongoing as the U.S. has not removed $250 million in tariffs for certain goods made in China).
“Hong Kong is the number one city in the world in terms of ease when it comes to setting up a business,” he said. “And it has an advantage because of its proximity to China and its ease of trade between the two markets. I think because of this Hong Kong will remain a very important trading centre for the entire world.”
The June fair is smaller than the September fair, which is arguably the largest jewelry trade fair in the world. However, it is still quite large, as the 2019 edition occupied 753,473 square feet of exhibition space at the Hong Kong Convention & Exposition Centre and attracted 1,900 exhibitors from 40 countries and regions of the world. Both trade shows are owned and operated by London-based Informa Markets, a trade show and publications company that acquired UBM Asia (the previous owner) in 2018.