HONG KONG - Hong Kong on Wednesday officially protested new US labeling rules for Hong Kong-made products, in a bid to resolve the row without recourse to the World Trade Organization.
Commerce and Economic Development Secretary Edward Yau said he lodged the complaint over the "made in China" labeling requirement in a meeting with acting US Consul General Paul Horowitz, requesting that it be withdrawn immediately.
"The US' unilateral and irresponsible attempt to weaken Hong Kong's status as a separate customs territory is highly inappropriate," Yau told reporters.
"Such a move also confuses the market and undermines the rules-based multilateral trading system. We will robustly advance our arguments to defend Hong Kong's interests."
As part of the sanctions issued under an executive order by US President Donald Trump in response to China imposing a sweeping national security law in the territory, Hong Kong-made products for export to the United States will have to bear an origin marking of "made in China" rather than "made in Hong Kong," which according to Yau would damage trade of Hong Kong-made products.
The original effective date set for Sept. 25 was postponed to Nov. 9.
Yau said a protest letter handed to Horowitz was also forwarded to the Office of the US Trade Representative, to US Customs and Border Protection, and to the Permanent Mission of the United States to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, with a view to solving the matter first at a bilateral level.
"If the US refuses to withdraw the requirement and bilateral discussions fail to reach satisfactory outcomes, the (Hong Kong) government will take action against the US in accordance with the WTO dispute settlement mechanism to safeguard Hong Kong's interests under WTO rules," he said.
No deadline for the United States to respond was set.
Since the former British colony's return to Chinese rule in 1997, Hong Kong has been treated in the WTO as a separate customs territory from the rest of China that enjoys different tariff arrangements when it comes to international trade.
The United States has decided to revoke the special trade status it offered Hong Kong in response to the suppression of a pro-democracy movement that started in 2019 and China's adamant decision to install an anti-subversion law in the territory.