The United States should respect the World Trade Organization’s ruling that Washington should not label domestically produced goods from Hong Kong as “Made in China” even though only a modest quantity of the SAR’s exports are affected, says Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Algernon Yau Ying-wah.
Speaking yesterday hours after the WTO ruling, Yau revealed that Hong Kong had already written to Washington on the situation, and before taking further action SAR officials will be looking for signs on whether the Americans will be lodging an appeal against the decision. That must be within two months.
On the relatively modest amount of the SAR’s domestic exports to the United States. Yau said their combined worth amounted to about HK$7.4 billion, or just 0.1 percent of the total figure for last year.
Still, he remarked, it is necessary to maintain the Made in Hong Kong label.
The whole spirit is to uphold the status and position of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the WTO as a separate customs territory,” he said.
Yau added that stating SAR-made goods as manufactured in China would “cause a lot of confusion” for customers.
He said he has sent a letter to US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, while the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in Washington willalso be contacting the Office of the US Trade Representative and the US Customs and Border Protection about them withdrawing the requirements.
Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said Hong Kong’s exports are mostly in transit from the mainland while the SAR’s economy relies on the tertiary sector, so the US labeling requirement had little impact.
“But we think [the relabeling issue] is a matter of principle and is unreasonable,” Chan said. “Therefore we filed a complaint to the WTO.”
A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry office in Hong Kong welcomed the WTO ruling, declaring that the American relabeling “is just an attempt to slander the one country, two systems principle, which is also typical power politics and hegemonic logic.”
The SAR’s complaints, he added, were aimed at upholding the basic principles of international law and the multilateral trading system.
He said WTO security exceptions are not “amulets” that overlie US unilateralism and hegemonism and that the United States does not enjoy “exceptions” under the order based on international law.
But Washington has rejected the WTO’s ruling.
Adam Hodge, an assistant US trade representative, said the United States does not intend to change the “made in” system now in place, which had been in response to the “erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy, human rights and democracy.”
He added: “The United States has not and will not cede its judgment or decision-making over essential security matters.”
The Federation of Hong Kong Industry said factories had been forced to make separate Made in China labels specifically for products exported to the United States.
“The separate labels has caused great inconvenience to Hong Kong manufacturers,” federation executive deputy chairman Steve Chuang Tzu Hsiung said.
Allen Shi Lop-tak, president of the Chinese Manufacturers Association, said local food products and medicine are popular exports and the Made in Hong Kong label is a brand itself while pointing to the action as bullying SAR manufacturers.
Legislator Priscilla Leung Mei-fun of the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong said the United States used national security as an excuse and hopes Washington will review its the labeling action.
“The WTO was established under the initiative of the United States to encourage fair international trade, competition and a multilateral economy,” she noted.
Leung also said on her Facebook page that “this time the United States has broken the rules, which disappointed other member states.”