The article of the day comes from the International Herald Tribune:
PARIS: Victor Fung has a simple message to the global leaders who will soon try to set a new path for the economy: “Please deliver.”
As chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce, or I.C.C., since last year, Mr. Fung, a Hong Kong businessman, is eager to restart global trade, which has been hobbled by the crisis.
He also has personal interest in the march of globalization, having transformed, with his brother, the family business Li & Fung into a power in the sourcing and export of Chinese textiles and manufactured goods.
In Paris recently to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the I.C.C., which represents businesses and helps arbitrate disputes, Mr. Fung was at pains to warn leaders before they met in London April 2 representing the Group of 20 industrialized and emerging economies against a drift toward protectionism.
“If we take away what we’ve nurtured all these years in the multilateral trading system, then we do so at our peril,” he said during an interview at the I.C.C. offices.
Mr. Fung has been concerned by recent messages sent by Western leaders, like President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, who has called for auto jobs to stay in France, and the notorious “Buy America” provisions introduced, and later modified, in the U.S. stimulus bill.
He says the current crop of leaders need to reflect on the past before reacting in haste. “Go back to the 1920s,” he said. “They, too, had a financial bubble that burst and the problem was after the busting of the bubble.”
Then, as protectionism spread, jobs were lost across the world, he said. Now, given the interdependence of economies globally, the ramifications could be even more acute. “Protectionism, actually serves to destroy jobs in the economy,” he said. “Things are so interconnected, you lose jobs immediately.”
Mr. Fung noted that the Chinese word for crisis was a compound of the characters “danger” and “opportunity,” and said economies and businesses should be positioning themselves for the rebound, whenever that comes.
Ever the optimist, Mr. Fung also found reasons to be positive about the outlook for the so-called Doha round of trade talks at the World Trade Organization, which have all but collapsed amid disagreements over agriculture subsidies. “I won’t write off Doha,” he said. But if it is declared dead, “think of the knock on confidence that would have. I don’t think the world could stand it.”
Mr. Fung is encouraging I.C.C. members to lobby governments to bolster export credit insurance programs to make up for the collapse in the trade financing in recent months. “There’s some talk now about countries pooling the risk,” he said, citing a pilot program to share the burden of backing trade financing among Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. He hopes that idea will spread.
Mr. Fung, 63, is married with three children. An avuncular figure who intersperses his conversation with hearty chuckles, he now ranks 12th on the Forbes magazine list of wealthiest Hong Kongers, one place behind his younger brother William, who as managing director of Li & Fung, takes a more hands-on role in the business.
Mervyn Davies, the British trade minister, knows Fung from his time in Hong Kong as chief of the bank Standard Chartered. “He is an outstanding Asian business leader and as chief of the International Chambers of Commerce can make a real difference,” he said.
Li & Fung was founded in Canton in 1906 by Fung Pak-liu, Victor’s grandfather, and Li To-ming. It was one of the first companies to export from China financed solely by Chinese capital, competing with the British-backed trading houses known as hongs.
Today, the group is a combination of listed and privately held companies. It has three core businesses export sourcing, distribution and retailing. It has set a revenue target of $20 billion by 2010; Mr. Fung thinks that is still attainable.
As well as his work with the I.C.C. and the company, Mr. Fung has worn a number of other hats, including running an education foundation and heading the Hong Kong Airport Authority and the Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council. Crucially in Hong Kong, he is trusted by Beijing.
What, then, about entering politics, as is sometimes rumored in Hong Kong? “It’s absolutely furthest from my mind,” Fung said, a smile lighting up his face.