Georgia companies interested in entering the booming markets of mainland China should first gain experience closer to home in Canada or Mexico and then test their products in Hong Kong, according to Sarah Kemp, a Hong Kong-based U.S. commercial officer.

“I would like anyone that has exported to Canada or Mexico to come knocking on our door,” Mrs. Kemp told GlobalAtlanta during an interview Nov. 18 at the American Consulate General in Hong Kong where she represents the U.S. Commercial Service.

While the extraordinary growth that is taking place on the mainland is difficult to ignore, Mrs. Kemp said Hong Kong’s attributes are more likely to provide long-term successes, most especially the legacy of British rule including a legal system capable of protecting U.S. companies inexperienced in doing business in Asia.

Foreign investment has been pouring into mainland China as incomes climb in Beijing and Shanghai. According to figures of its Ministry of Commerce, China attracted a record $53 billion last year and surpassed the United States as the world’s largest recipient of foreign investment. During the first 10 months of this year, foreign investment deals surged further to $119 billion, including announcements of more investment to come by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., the world’s biggest consumer-electronics maker.

According to Mrs, Kemp, however, companies operating out of Hong Kong have a better likelihood of receiving payment for services rendered or goods delivered than those operating on the mainland. She also cited the widespread use of English and the development of customer service skills that pervade all sectors of the economy.

With Hong Kong increasingly open to mainland tourists, she said that Georgia companies can use Hong Kong to see how their products are received locally and learn what they need to do to adapt them before setting up distributorships or representative offices on the mainland.

Meanwhile, she said, Hong Kong’s eight million residents also provide a challenging market in that they demand quality products and are always looking for innovations.

“’Made in America’ is regarded to mean quality,” she said, “and Hong Kong residents are willing to pay a premium for quality.”

The U.S. Commercial staff in Hong Kong is part of aglobal network located in over 80 countries and more than 100 U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEACs) in the U.S. including one in Atlanta. The director of the Atlanta USEAC is Tom Strauss. He can be contacted at (404) 897-6080.

Mrs. Kemp may be reached by calling in Hong Kong (852) 2521-1467 or by email at