The Hong Kong government said Friday it would start a dispute settlement at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in protest at new US regulations which dictate that all exports from the city should be labelled “Made in China.”

The change, due to go into force on November 10, means that exports to the US will no longer be labelled “Made in Hong Kong” and will be subject to the same restrictions and tariffs as goods from mainland China.

Photo: Pikrepo.

The US Customs and Border Protection Agency announced in mid-August that Hong Kong would no longer be treated as a separate customs territory. “Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous to justify differential treatment in relation to China,” a statement said.

The Trump administration stripped Hong Kong of its special trading status two weeks after Beijing passed a draconian national security law for the city on June 30, citing human rights concerns under the new legislation and the curtailing of Hong Kong’s promised autonomy.

Hong Kong officials confirmed they would bring the dispute to the WTO.

“The US’s unilateral and irresponsible attempt to weaken Hong Kong’s status as a separate customs territory is highly inappropriate,” said Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Edward Yau on Friday.

“The US’s unilateral and irresponsible attempt to weaken Hong Kong’s status as a separate customs territory is highly inappropriate, ” he said in a statement, adding they “confuse the market and undermine the rules-based multilateral trading system.”

Yau also vowed to “robustly advance our arguments to defend Hong Kong’s interests.”

Edward Yau. Photo: GovHK.

“The ‘Made in Hong Kong’ marking on Hong Kong products has been accepted internationally for many years. This 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,” the secretary added.

Under the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism, the US must respond to Hong Kong’s request within ten days and proceed with consultations within 30. If consultations do not successfully take place within 60 days, the WTO may form a panel to oversee discussions at the request of the government which made the complaint.

Rhoda Kwan

Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.