Hong Kong launches WTO trade dispute against U.S. over labelling

FILE PHOTO: A delegate arrives before a meeting at the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Geneva, Switzerland, October 28, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

GENEVA (Reuters) - Hong Kong has launched a trade dispute against the United States over what it says is a U.S. requirement that goods from Hong Kong be marked as coming from China, a World Trade Organization (WTO) document showed on Tuesday.

Hong Kong had made a “request for consultations”, the first step in a WTO dispute on Oct. 30, the document showed.

The complaint pointed to a new U.S. rule announced by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in August that goods from Hong Kong would have to be marked as coming from China. The rule was to have taken effect in late September, but the requirement for compliance was then extended to Nov. 10.

The United States formerly allowed Hong Kong to be named as the place of origin. Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China, is a member in its own right at the 164-member WTO.

It has become a flash point between China and the United States, whose relations are strained over trade, China’s claims in the South China Sea and its treatment of its Muslim Uighur minority.

Hong Kong argues that the rule breaches WTO rules of non-discrimination because the United States generally allows goods originating from a territory of other WTO members to be marked as coming from that territory.

Under WTO rules, the two sides have 60 days to try to settle the dispute through consultations, after which time Hong Kong could ask the WTO to adjudicate.

Reporting by Emma Farge; editing by Philip Blenkinsop