HK puts up fight over products' origin labeling

Top News | Maisy Mok 17 Sep 2020

Withdraw the requirement for Hong Kong manufacturers to relabel products "made in China" immediately was the demand that went to the United States via its consulate in the SAR.

That came with Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau Tang-wah going to the mission yesterday to hand over a letter with the message it should be forwarded to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

The letter voices strong objection to the new labeling requirement announced by Washington on August 11, among action taken by the United States in response to the new security law.

Under the new rule, Hong Kong manufacturers can no longer label products as "made in Hong Kong" on the packaging but use "made in China" instead.

The change was to go into effect on September 25 but has been postponed to November 9.

The wording change will not affect the tariffs to be paid by Hong Kong exporters.

"Such requirement on origin marking is contrary to the World Trade Organization's regulations and it also infringes Hong Kong's right as a separate customs territory and our rights under WTO," Yau said.

He has also asked Hong Kong's trade offices in the United States and representatives at the WTO in Geneva to convey the same message to US counterparts.

That included the line Hong Kong has been respecting the rules laid by the WHO, and the United States should fulfill its responsibility as well.

On why it has taken weeks for the SAR administration to send a letter to Washington, Yau replied that the formal raising of an objection is part of a process that officials have been following since the US announcement in August.

"The Hong Kong government has made it crystal clear we strongly object to this practice and we have issued statements and conveyed strong objections through various channels," Yau said. "At the same time we need to prepare ourselves to find out more about the requirement."

He added: "Our research confirms our understanding that the new US requirement on labeling is contrary to WTO regulations, and therefore we see a case for us to take to the United States and if necessary to the WTO."

Yau said he will wait for a US response before deciding on the next step.

The Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong said it supports the formal raising of an objection to defend the SAR's rights as an independent customs territory.

The association also welcomed the WTO ruling that US tariffs imposed on Chinese goods were illegal, saying that was a positive example for Hong Kong to take action through the WTO dispute mechanism.

Trade with the United States aside, Yau said officials have met representatives from Japan, Thailand, Germany, Switzerland, France and the European Union this week.

They were updated about the current epidemic situation in Hong Kong in the hopes of developing travel bubbles.

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