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United States retracts critical comments about Hong Kong in 2019 National Trade Estimate report

United States retracts critical comments about Hong Kong in 2019 National Trade Estimate report

Washington has retracted critical comments about Hong Kong in a recent trade report over the city’s alleged failure to fulfil its obligations to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The move came a week after Hong Kong complained to the US government over the “inaccurate” statement in the US 2019 National Trade Estimate (NTE) report, released in late March.

The report, published by the Office of the United States Trade Representative on March 29, looks at the status of foreign trade and investment barriers to American exports around the world. In the 2019 report, it claimed Hong Kong had not fulfilled a WTO requirement that asks members to submit reports on the collection of customs duties.

The report has been revised and the entire part on the WTO obligations removed, according to the version available online.

A footnote was also added, admitting “the original version of this report erroneously stated that Hong Kong had not submitted” notifications to WTO, and noted that such arrangements were “not applicable for Hong Kong”.

In a statement on Monday, the Hong Kong government said: “[The government] has been notified that in response to its clarifications and follow-ups, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) has taken out an incorrect statement about Hong Kong from [the NTE report].”

After spotting the error, the Hong Kong government’s Economic and Trade Offices in Washington and Geneva followed up with the relevant US authorities on April 1 to convey its concerns and clarify that Hong Kong has, since 1996, fulfilled its notification obligation.

The Commerce and Economic Development Bureau also wrote to the US Consul General in Hong Kong to set the record straight and asked for urgent rectification by the USTR, the government spokesman said in the statement on Monday.

Hong Kong is a free port and there is no law, or administrative procedure, for valuing goods for customs duties purposes.

In accordance with the relevant WTO agreement, Hong Kong made the notifications to the WTO in 1996. As there has been no change to the policy since, there is no need for Hong Kong to submit further notifications to the WTO, according to the Hong Kong government.