23rd February 2021 – (Hong Kong) The United States has restricted Hong Kong’s exports of local products and the “Made in Hong Kong” label is banned. The Hong Kong government initiated relevant procedures in accordance with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute settlement mechanism. At the request of Hong Kong, the WTO on Monday (22nd) set up a dispute settlement group to examine whether the new regulations on the origin labelling of Hong Kong goods implemented by the United States violated WTO rules. On the 25th of last month, the Hong Kong government requested the WTO Dispute Settlement Body to establish an expert review group to hear the dispute in accordance with the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism.
However, the US representative blocked Hong Kong’s request at the meeting. Until this Monday, Hong Kong once again made relevant requests at the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) meeting, which was automatically accepted in accordance with WTO rules. Former U.S. President Trump cancelled Hong Kong’s special treatment status in response to Hong Kong’s implementation of the National Security Law in July last year and announced that imports from Hong Kong must be marked as “Made in China” to clearly show its origin in China. The measures were originally scheduled to be implemented on 25th September last year before being postponed to November, and finally will took effect on 10th November.
The Permanent Representative of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) of China to the WTO, Mr Laurie Lo, spoke at the DSB meeting. He reiterated Hong Kong’s strong objection against the US’ unilateral and irresponsible imposition of the new requirement on origin marking for Hong Kong products, and pointed out that the new requirement is not only unjustifiable, but is also inconsistent with a number of WTO rules, and it damages Hong Kong’s interests as a WTO member. It is therefore necessary to set up a panel to follow up on the matter.
A spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said that so far 13 WTO members have indicated an interest to join meetings of the “panel” as third parties, and this shows their concern with the issue which involves the multilateral trading system and the equal rights of WTO members.
The HKSAR Government made the first request to the DSB at its meeting on 25th January to establish a panel to consider the dispute in accordance with the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism. According to the mechanism, after the complaining party has made a request, a panel shall be established at the latest at the DSB meeting following the meeting at which the request first appears as an item on the DSB’s agenda.
The spokesman reiterated that pursuant to Articles 116, 151 and 152 of the Basic Law, the HKSAR is a separate customs territory and may, using the name “Hong Kong, China”, participate in international organisations such as the WTO and the 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. The “Made in Hong Kong” marking on Hong Kong products has been accepted internationally for many years. The marking not only conforms to Hong Kong’s status as a separate customs territory and complies with WTO rules, but also provides consumers with clear and accurate information on product origin.