GENEVA — Trading partners in a global forum lauded Hong Kong for maintaining one of the most business-friendly, open-trade regimes in the world, despite its status as a special administrative district of China.
During a two-day World Trade Organization review of its trade regime that ended Friday, Hong Kong, in response to questions related to its textiles control system for imports and exports to sensitive markets — mainland China for exports and imports and the U.S. for exports — revealed “the cessation” of textiles import and export licensing requirements.
Since May 2011, imports and exports — as well as transshipments from non-sensitive markets — have not been subject to a textiles license or notification, according to a WTO report on Hong Kong’s trade regime used as a reference for the session. Textile imports and exports to sensitive markets, however, were required to be covered either by “consignment specific” licenses or notifications by traders registered under the textiles trader registration scheme administered by the department of trade and industry. In 2013, almost all textile imports from mainland China were under the system.
The WTO report said from 2010 to 2013, Hong Kong’s textile and apparel industry “continued to contract” while moving up the value chain toward original brand manufacturing. But given its gateway proximity to China and its location as a major and highly efficient transport and logistics hub, textiles still accounted for a 6.9 percent share of Hong Kong’s re-exports. In 2013, these shipments were valued at $31.1 billion, or 6.9 percent share of Hong Kong’s total re-exports of goods of $451.9 billion, of which China was the destination for nearly a 55 percent share, the U.S. for 9.3 percent, and the European Union for 9.5 percent.
This included shipments of knitted and crocheted apparel worth $10.8 billion, and shipments of woven apparel valued at nearly $9.5 billion, according to the WTO report.
Hong Kong’s domestic exports of goods, however, last year totaled only $7 billion and accounted for less than 2 percent of total goods exports.
Trading partners praised Hong Kong’s overall track record.
“As one of the most market-oriented and open economies, Hong Kong continues to be a proponent of free-market principles and its liberalized policies serve as a model trade and investment regime,” said Christopher Wilson, deputy chief of the U.S. mission to the WTO.
Wilson said two-way goods trade between the U.S. and Hong Kong totaled $48 billion in 2013, up almost 12 percent from the year before, and noted U.S. foreign direct investment was $58.8 billion.
Carol Yuen, Hong Kong’s deputy secretary for commerce and economic development, told delegates that Hong Kong is “well-positioned to leverage on Asia’s, especially mainland China’s, economic strength in moving toward a high value-added, knowledge-based economy.”
Yuen said Hong Kong has been served well by its free and open market, low and simple tax system, and a level playing field for business.
“These remain the bedrock of our prosperity,” she said.
But a number of delegations, including the EU and the U.S., called on Hong Kong to do more on enforcement of intellectual property rights. Wilson said the U.S. appreciated Hong Kong’s “continued efforts to seize cross-border infringing products, including…luxury goods and other products.”