Hong Kong’s highest-ranking US diplomat said on Thursday that he was confident his country and China would find a win-win solution to the ongoing trade war.

Kurt Tong, the US Consul General, was speaking at the Hong Kong Maritime Museum at an opening of an exhibition on the history of American traders in China.

US Consul General Kurt Tong. Photo: Kris Cheng/HKFP.

Tong’s speech came after he met Beijing’s top-level official on Hong Kong affairs in the capital city last week, during a meeting in which recent developments were discussed.

Tong said on Thursday: “It’s a fact that trade not only contributes to the personal profit of those conducting the trade, it also contributes to stability, to regional peace and security. It increases person to person engagement, fosters economic growth, and of course, it also spreads prosperity around economies and within economies. It really benefits wide ranges of people.”

Tong said the US consulate was enthusiastic about fostering its trade relationships. The consulate was established in Hong Kong 175 years ago, and is the oldest US consulate in Asia.

He said the primary function of the consulate, since its beginning, was to promote trade, such as trying to get shipments of silk and porcelain to the US, and items like ginseng back from North America.

“We have a saying in English: the more things change, the more they stay the same. And trade is just a very vital, important part of Hong Kong’s lifeblood,” he said, adding that the relationship between the United States and China, and the entire Pacific region, worked in very fundamental sets.

US Consul General Kurt Tong (fourth from left). Photo: Citizen News.

Tong said the scope of work of the consulate had broadened, but that trade had always been a positive force driving societies closer together and creating opportunities.

“There is a strong debate over what some of the rules are, and should be, for fair trade. There is a very active engagement taking place between President Trump and President Xi looking at this question about what are the right rules for fair trade between our nations,” he said.

“But I am confident that given that the fundamental utility and benefit that flows from strong trade transactions across oceans, that there is and will be found a win-win solution to all these problems and this relationship will continue to grow and prosper in the future.”

Tong did not answer reporters’ further questions when he left the event.

US Consul General Kurt Tong and Director of Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office Zhang Xiaoming. Photo: Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office.

Last Friday Tong visited Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office and met with the office’s director Zhang Xiaoming. According to the office, Tong requested the meeting. The meeting was revealed on Monday by the office on its website.

A spokesperson for the consulate said that Tong and Zhang discussed recent developments in Hong Kong and Macau, alongside how the US had contributed to their success.

Responding to the event, accountancy sector lawmaker Kenneth Leung said on Wednesday that it was not rare for Tong and Zhang to meet. What was rare was that the meeting was made public.

He said what the office could be hinting at in revealing this meeting was its concerns about the current situation in Hong Kong.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.