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Hong Kong Exporters May Not Be Ready for Strict New Security Measures - 2003-01-27

Measures under the new U.S. Container Security Initiative, or CSI, go into effect February 2 in Hong Kong and there could be a slow down in exports.

The new rules, which require shippers to register all U.S. bound goods at least 24 hours before sailing, aim to cut the chances terrorists can use cargo containers to transport biological weapons or explosives into American ports.

The United States has concluded similar agreements with governments around the globe. But Hong Kong is a key port as it handles the highest volume of U.S. bound cargo in the world, an average of 6,200 containers a day.

Deputy Commissioner of U.S. Customs Gordon Browning acknowledged that as many as a quarter of Hong Kong exporters might not be prepared to comply with stricter rules. "I hear varying numbers as to the total perception from the carrier side as to who's ready to comply with the rule," he said. "Those numbers have gone anywhere from 25 percent, up to as high as 50 percent. But the good news is we hear that people are starting to, in fact, begin to put themselves into the position were they can begin to comply with the requirements of the rule."

Mr. Browning said shippers have had a 60-day grace period to make procedural adjustments, so those not ready will face fines or be barred from loading goods.

In mainland China, Beijing has renewed its pledge to crack down on illegal piracy of Internet games. The government is stepping up a crackdown on Internet cafés, where state media report pirated versions of games outnumber legitimate versions 10-1. The move is part of China's efforts to comply with international copyright laws.

The Internet is strictly controlled in China, but there are thousands of illegal or underground cafés that aim to circumvent government censorship.

A survey of Australian manufacturers shows an optimistic outlook for the year ahead, despite worries over economic impact of the country's worst drought in a century and the looming threat of conflict in the Middle East.

An Australian Industry Group survey reports that manufacturers are upbeat after strong growth in the second half of 2002 and that the momentum is expected to continue. The survey also estimates that, based on sales figures, the manufacturing sector would grow by more than four percent in 2003.