(To watch the full media session with sign language interpretation, click here.)
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government today formally took issue with the United States Government over the new requirement in respect of the origin marking of Hong Kong products and requested that it be withdrawn immediately.
Speaking to the media this afternoon, Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau said he met Acting US Consul General to Hong Kong & Macau Paul Horowitz this morning and asked the US Consul General to Hong Kong to deliver his letter to the US Trade Representative, expressing the Hong Kong SAR Government’s position that it strongly objects to the new requirement which was announced by US Customs & Border Protection on August 11 and requested that the requirement be immediately withdrawn.
The Hong Kong Economic & Trade Offices in Washington, DC, and Geneva also forwarded copies of Mr Yau’s letter to the Office of the US Trade Representative and US Customs & Border Protection in Washington, DC, as well as to the Permanent Mission of the US to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva.
The Hong Kong Economic & Trade Offices will also arrange discussions with relevant US authorities.
Mr Yau said the new US requirement goes contrary to the WTO’s regulations and also infringes on Hong Kong’s status as a separate customs territory and the city’s rights under the WTO.
“The US’ unilateral and irresponsible attempt to weaken Hong Kong’s status as a separate customs territory is highly inappropriate.
“Such a move also confuses the market and undermines the rules-based multilateral trading system. We will robustly advance our arguments to defend Hong Kong’s interests.”
He added as a responsible WTO member, Hong Kong always abides by its rules.
Mr Yau said the action taken by the Hong Kong SAR Government is in accordance with the WTO’s spirit and practices, adding it is an important step before taking action against the US under the WTO framework with a view to resolving the matter first at a bilateral level.
He said the Hong Kong SAR Government will follow up on the matter depending on the US response.
“If the US refuses to withdraw the requirement and bilateral discussions fail to reach satisfactory outcomes, the Hong Kong SAR Government will take action against the US in accordance with the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism to safeguard Hong Kong’s interests under WTO rules.”
According to the WTO Understanding on Rules & Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes, if a member believes that another member has violated WTO rules, the affected party may request consultations with the other party according to the understanding to resolve the matter.
If the parties fail to reach consensus through consultations, the complaining party may request the WTO Dispute Settlement Body to establish a panel to consider the dispute.
Mr Yau stressed that under “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong is an inalienable part of the People’s Republic of China, and the motherland confers through the Basic Law a special status to the Hong Kong SAR.
Pursuant to Articles 116, 151 and 152 of the Basic Law, the Hong Kong SAR is a separate customs territory and may, using the name “Hong Kong, China”, participate in international organisations such as the WTO and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation as a separate member, and develop mutually beneficial economic and trade relations with economies around the world.
The special status of Hong Kong has been widely recognised and respected by the international community, and Hong Kong’s economic and trade status is on par with that of other WTO members, Mr Yau added.