US firms awake to ‘sad day’ in Hong Kong as Trump cuts ties

US President Donald Trump accused Beijing of breaking its word over Hong Kong’s autonomy, and described China’s national security legislation as a ‘tragedy for the world.’ (Shutterstock)
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Updated 31 May 2020

US firms awake to ‘sad day’ in Hong Kong as Trump cuts ties

  • President moves to strip finance hub of economic privileges in wake of tough new Chinese security laws

HONG KONG: The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong said on Saturday it was a sad day for the global financial center, hours after US President Donald Trump moved toward stripping the city of its special treatment in a bid to punish China.

In some of his toughest rhetoric yet, Trump said Beijing had broken its word over Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy by proposing new national security legislation and the territory no longer warranted US economic privileges.

“We will take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China,” Trump said, adding that Washington would also impose sanctions on individuals seen as responsible for “smothering — absolutely smothering — Hong Kong’s freedom.”

Speaking at the White House, Trump said China’s move on Hong Kong was a tragedy for the world.

But Trump gave no timetable for the moves, leaving Hong Kong residents, businesses and officials to ponder just how far his administration will go. “This is an emotional moment for Americans in Hong Kong and it will take companies and families a while to digest the ramifications,” AmCham President Tara Joseph said in a statement.

“Many of us have deep ties to this city and with Hong Kong people. We love Hong Kong and it’s a sad day,” she said, adding the chamber would continue to work with its members to maintain Hong Kong’s status as a vital business center.

China’s parliament this week approved a decision to create laws for Hong Kong to curb sedition, secession, terrorism and foreign interference. Mainland security and intelligence agents may be stationed in the city for the first time — moves critics say puts the city’s extensive freedoms at risk.

Trump did not name any sanctions targets but said the announcement would “affect the full range of agreements we have with Hong Kong,” including the US-Hong Kong extradition treaty to export controls on dual-use technologies and more “with few exceptions.”

China’s Global Times, which is published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, said Trump’s decision was a “recklessly arbitrary” step.

The Hong Kong government, which has a long history of working ties with US counterparts distinct from Beijing, has yet to respond, although it warned on Thursday the move could be a double edged sword.

More than 1,300 US firms have offices in Hong Kong and provide about 100,000 jobs. In the past decade, the US trade surplus with Hong Kong has been the biggest among all its trading partners, totaling $297 billion from 2009 to 2018.

Britain, meanwhile, is prepared to offer extended visa rights and a pathway to citizenship for almost 3 million Hong Kong residents in response to China’s push to impose national security legislation in the former British colony.


EU will ‘stand firm’ against Washington over trade disputes

Updated 32 min 37 sec ago

EU will ‘stand firm’ against Washington over trade disputes

  • Issues dating back to 2004 over subsidies for Airbus and Boeing are drawing to a conclusion at WTO

BRUSSELS: The EU will take decisive action against the US if it is unwilling to settle a long-running row over aircraft subsidies and presses ahead with a series of new trade investigations, Europe’s trade commissioner said on  Monday.

A trade dispute dating back to 2004 over subsidies for Europe’s Airbus and US planemaker Boeing is drawing to a conclusion at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

It has already awarded Washington the right to impose duties on $7.5 billion of European goods related to subsidies given to Airbus but is only expected to rule in September what retaliation Europe can take over support for Boeing. European Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan told the European Parliament’s trade committee that Washington had twice rejected EU proposals to settle the dispute and he hoped the WTO would issue its findings as soon as possible in September.

EU officials said they did not expect the United States to want to settle the dispute before then.

“I want to reassure people that we are ready to act decisively and strongly on the EU side if we don’t get the type of outcome that we expect from the US in relationship to finalizing this 15-year-old dispute,” he said.

Since US President Donald Trump took office, he has repeatedly criticized the EU over its trade surplus in goods and imposed tariffs on metal imports from the EU and threatened to do the same for cars made in the bloc.

Hogan said Washington’s recent launch of several “Section 232” investigations, which assess the impact of imports on US national security, was unacceptable.

The investigations cover mobile cranes and transformers and have been expanded to include steel products, such as nails. The US is also looking into whether planned EU digital services taxes impede US commerce.

“It’s not appreciated the number of 232 investigations that have been launched in recent weeks, perhaps this is political, perhaps it’s more real,” Hogan said.

“This is totally unacceptable ... and if these investigations go further the EU will have to stand together and act as well,” he said.