December 23, 2022
HONG KONG – A World Trade Organization panel ruled on Wednesday that the origin marking requirement imposed on Hong Kong products by the United States is inconsistent with the global trade body’s rules.
Since Nov 10, 2020, the US has required that all products exported from Hong Kong to the US may no longer be marked as originating in “Hong Kong”, but must be marked to indicate “China”. Following a swift and robust objection from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government, the WTO’s Dispute Settlement Body (DSB) agreed on Feb 22, 2021 to establish a panel to handle the dispute.
In its report submitted to the DSB, the panel clearly ruled that the US’ origin marking requirement imposed upon Hong Kong products is inconsistent with the most-favored-nation treatment requirement in respect of origin marking under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 1994.
The panel also completely refuted the US’ invocation of security exceptions and recommended the US to bring the measure into conformity.
“We welcome that the Panel has fully affirmed the status of Hong Kong, China as a separate customs territory,” said Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development Algernon Yau Ying-wah.
The revised origin marking requirement is politically motivated and a vain attempt to interfere with Hong Kong’s internal affairs through weaponizing trade.
Algernon Yau, Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, HKSAR
He pointed out that the ruling has once again confirmed that the US has disregarded international trade rules, attempted to impose discriminatory and unfair requirements unilaterally, unreasonably suppressed Hong Kong products and enterprises, and politicized economic and trade issues.
The revised origin marking requirement is politically motivated and a vain attempt to interfere with Hong Kong’s internal affairs through weaponizing trade, he said.
“The US’ despicable intent and ulterior motives will neither stand nor be accepted by the international community. Not only is the requirement imposed on Hong Kong products by the US unwarranted, it also seriously violates WTO rules. It completely disregards the rules-based multilateral trading system and irresponsibly infringes on Hong Kong’s rights as a member of the WTO,” the commerce chief said.
The HKSAR government strongly condemns such a measure, he stressed.
He also stressed that the panel has in its report categorically refuted the erroneous and groundless views of the US, and gave a clear ruling that the US has violated WTO rules.
Speaking at a press conference in the city on Thursday, the commerce chief said he had written to the US Trade Representative, urging the US side to respect the panel’s ruling and recommendations, immediately withdraw the illegal provisions and stop violating WTO rules.
The US would have 60 days to lodge an appeal if it disagrees with the report’s ruling, and the SAR government would closely monitor developments before deciding on its next action, he added.
Under “one country, two systems”, the HKSAR’s special status is conferred by the motherland through the Basic Law. Pursuant to the Basic Law, Hong Kong is a separate customs territory and may, using the name “Hong Kong, China”, participate in international organizations such as the WTO, and develop mutually beneficial economic and trade relations with economies around the world, said the government said in a statement.
The city’s special status has been widely recognized and respected by the international community. The rights and obligations of Hong Kong in the WTO are on par with that of other WTO members, it said.
The “Made in Hong Kong” marking on Hong Kong products has been accepted internationally for many years. This not only shows factually that Hong Kong is a separate customs territory and complies with relevant WTO rules, but also provides consumers with clear and accurate information on product origin, added the statement.
Welcoming the WTO panel’s ruling, a spokesperson for the Commissioner’s Office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in the HKSAR pointed out in a statement on Wednesday that the US, disregarding Hong Kong’s status as a separate customs territory, has put its domestic laws above international rules and laws of other countries since 2020 and unilaterally asked to change the origin marking of products imported from Hong Kong.
In the global order underpinned by international law, might doesn’t always make right, and the United States is no exception.
Spokesperson, Commissioner’s Office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry in the HKSAR
Pointing out that the SAR remains one of the most competitive economies in the world, and has made irreplaceable contributions to economic globalization, it said Hong Kong’s status as a free port and a separate customs territory is confirmed and protected by its Basic Law and WTO agreements and has long been recognized and respected worldwide. The status is not granted by the US, and cannot be revoked by the US at its will, it added.
“The WTO ruling fully proves that security exceptions are not an excuse for unilateral hegemonic acts. In the global order underpinned by international law, might doesn’t always make right, and the United States is no exception.”
The US side must stop undermining the multilateral trading system with unilateral bullying acts, and stop abusing the concept of national security with double standards, it adds.
“We urge the US side to earnestly abide by the WTO rules it participated in making, respect the WTO ruling, immediately correct its illegal acts, and return to true multilateralism at an early date.”