Operation of HKSAR’s trade offices in US mutually beneficial: FM
Published: Feb 21, 2023 09:09 PM
Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin Photo: Chinese Foreign Ministry

Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin Photo: Chinese Foreign Ministry

Successful operation of the trade offices of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) in the US is conducive to bilateral trade exchanges, and is in the interest of both sides, a spokesperson of China's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

Given that Hong Kong is the source of the US' largest economic and trade surplus, closure of its trade offices will only mean "shooting itself in the foot," Wang Wenbin, a ministry spokesperson, told a regular press conference in Beijing.

The response come as two US senators named Marco Rubio and Jeff Merkley, demanded a reevaluation of a series of privileges enjoyed by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices (HKETOs) in the US.

The legislation would require the US president to certify whether HKETOs in the US should "retain or lose their diplomatic privileges". HKETOs would have to terminate their operations in the US within six months if the US president decided they did not "merit their diplomatic immunity", according to a press release published by Marco Rubio's office on February 16.

"The two senators who proposed the bill have always been anti-China," Wang said.

The official noted that trade offices are overseas economic and trade institutions established by the Hong Kong SAR, their successful and smooth operation is conducive to the expansion of practical economic and trade cooperation between Hong Kong and relevant countries and regions. It is a matter of mutual benefit and win-win.

The three HKETOs in the US - located in Washington, New York and San Francisco - are representatives of the government of the HKSAR, according to an introduction on the HKETO website.

The Washington office maintains working relationships with the US Administration and Congress in addressing areas of mutual interest, including trade promotion, intellectual property rights, strategic trade control, investment protection, and financial services, among others. The offices in New York and San Francisco are primarily tasked with investment promotion, such as assisting American companies in establishing or expanding a presence in Hong Kong, read an introduction.

Asked how the Hong Kong representative offices in the US would respond to the legislative challenge, a representative for the Washington HKETO said in a report by the South China Morning Post: "The mission of the [HKETO outposts in the US] has always been to enrich economic, trade, investment, and arts and cultural ties between the US and Hong Kong.

"We will also keep track of any matters concerning the US-Hong Kong relations," he said.

It is hard to say whether the legislation would pass or not, He Weiwen, a former senior trade official and an executive council member of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies, told the Global Times.

The US has a lot of corporate and commercial interests in Hong Kong. If the US revokes the privileges enjoyed by the HKETOs in the US, it too will also bear the subsequent losses," He said.