Hong Kong exporters to the United States will no longer be able to label their goods as “Made in Hong Kong” after Washington cancelled the city’s special trading status in protest at Beijing’s sweeping new security law.

The US Customs and Border Protection agency said in a notice on its website on Tuesday that all exports from Hong Kong must in future indicate their origin as China.

File photo: GovHK.

The notice read: “Pursuant to section 202 of the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, the President suspended the application of section 201(a) of the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, as amended… due to the determination that Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous to justify differential treatment in relation to China.”

The change was applicable as of July 29 but businesses in Hong Kong will be allowed a 45-day transition period after the order is published in the US federal register.

The US is Hong Kong’s second largest trading partner and is recognised by the World Trade Organisation as a separate customs territory. The city enjoyed special trade status in the United States under the US-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.

However, this ended when President Donald Trump signed into law the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, two weeks after China enacted the controversial national security law for Hong Kong which criminalises subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

As early as late May, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that “Hong Kong is no longer autonomous from China” following the announcement of Beijing’s plan to draft the legislation.

Tensions rose further in recent days when Washington imposed sanctions on 11 top officials including Chief Executive Carrie Lam who are accused of undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy. China retaliated by announcing plans to sanction 11 US politicians and officials including Pompeo and Senator Ted Cruz.

WTO rules

In response, a spokesperson for the Hong Kong government said the change was an affront to World Trade Organization rules, and they reserve the right to raise a complaint: “The rule may not be consistent with WTO rules, and it will also not help protect consumers’ interest. In fact, it will only cause confusion and affect the interests of all parties, including the US.”

HKFP has reached out to the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, Hong Kong Chinese Importers’ & Exporters’ Association and Hong Kong Exporters’ Association for comment.

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Rachel Wong

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.