People view the scenery in Hong Kong, China, June 11, 2020. (Xinhua/Li Gang)

HKSAR launches dispute settlement procedures in accordance with WTO mechanism on U.S. new requirement on origin marking

The government of China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) on Friday formally launched procedures in accordance with the World Trade Organization (WTO) Dispute Settlement Mechanism with respect to the new requirement on origin marking for Hong Kong products announced by the United States Customs and Border Protection on Aug. 11.

The permanent representative of the HKSAR to the WTO sent to the permanent representative of the United States to the WTO Hong Kong’s request for consultations with the U.S. government in respect of the new U.S. requirement in accordance with the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism.

Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development of the HKSAR government Edward Yau also wrote to the United States Trade Representative to inform the U.S. that the HKSAR has officially taken action against the United States under the WTO mechanism.

The United States required the origin of Hong Kong products exported to the United States be labeled “Made in China” instead of Hong Kong. Currently, the origin of Hong Kong export products is marked as “Hong Kong” as Hong Kong is a separate member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and enjoys the special status as a separate customs territory under “one country, two systems.”

“The U.S. unilateral and irresponsible attempt to weaken Hong Kong’s status as a separate customs territory is highly inappropriate. Such a move also confuses the market and undermines the rules-based multilateral trading system,” Yau said.

According to the WTO Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes, the United States shall respond to Hong Kong’s request for consultations within 10 days, and conduct consultations with the HKSAR within 30 days.

If the two parties fail to resolve the dispute through consultations within 60 days, the HKSAR government has the right to take further action and request the Dispute Settlement Body to establish a panel to consider the dispute.

Yau reiterated that the special status of Hong Kong has been widely recognized 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. 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, he said.

The HKSAR government formally took issue with the U.S. government on Sept. 16, strongly objecting to the U.S. new requirement and requesting that the requirement be withdrawn immediately. However, in the past six weeks, the United States has not made any substantive response.