MAY 25 - JUN 1, 2021
Hong Kong stance on trade dispute explained
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government filed (May 28) its first submission to a World Trade Organization (WTO) panel to consider the dispute raised by the city in respect to the violation of WTO rules by the US’s requirement on origin marking for Hong Kong products. Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau stated that Hong Kong is a founding member of the WTO. Under the Basic Law, Hong Kong is a separate customs territory, and may, using the name “Hong Kong, China”, participate in relevant international organizations and international trade agreements. The special status of Hong Kong has been widely recognized by the international community, and Hong Kong’s economic and trade status is on par with that of other WTO members. Mr Yau said the US improperly interjects political considerations into a purely technical exercise to determine a product's origin under WTO rules, undermining the critical role that accurate origin determination plays within the rules-based multilateral trading system. It has also increased the cost and complexity of exportation for Hong Kong enterprises, putting them at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis other WTO members.
Campaign to boost vaccination starts
The HKSAR Government and different sectors in the community will roll out various measures and reward programs to encourage members of the public to receive COVID-19 vaccination. Announcing the launch of the three-month Early Vaccination for All program, Chief Executive Carrie Lam noted that the most important way for Hong Kong to get through the epidemic is large-scale vaccination of the public to build an immune barrier for the entire community. She said this will allow Hong Kong to get out of the epidemic situation and enable businesses to go back to normal and for travel to resume. Under the campaign, government employees will be entitled to a day of vaccination leave for each vaccination dose received, while social distancing restrictions will be relaxed for fully vaccinated diners. The government also welcomes incentives provided by the commercial sector to encourage citizens to get vaccinated. To date (Jun 1), over 2.4 million doses of vaccines have been administered under the vaccination program, with over 1 million people fully vaccinated.
Quarantine exemption crucial
Fully vaccinated senior executives in the financial services sector could be exempted from the compulsory quarantine arrangements to facilitate their essential business activities in Hong Kong. Chief Executive Carrie Lam (Jun 1) said the government needs to consider the revival of Hong Kong’s economy as the situation has stabilized since the fourth wave of the local epidemic hit the city. Pointing out that Hong Kong is an international financial center, Mrs Lam stated that the alternative arrangement for senior financial executives can help revive Hong Kong’s economy. She said that these senior executives must be recognized by regulatory bodies like the Securities & Futures Commission, Insurance Authority and Monetary Authority. They should also have a genuine business purpose to come to Hong Kong. While they are given that exemption to come to Hong Kong without being subject to the usual prevailing quarantine arrangements, they are subject to another set of quarantine rules which restrict their behaviors and activities, she added.
Cruise may resume end-July
Cruise lines are expected to resume the “cruise-to-nowhere” for Hong Kong residents, which does not involve ports outside Hong Kong, at the end of July at the earliest. Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau said (May 26) the cruise lines have to strictly comply with a set of health precautionary measures specifically designed for cruise travel. “All these requirements are premised on (the need for) a safe and secure environment, including vaccination for all, repeated (COVID-19) tests, strictly adhering to all quarantine requirements imposed on whoever coming from wherever based on the existing arrangement," he said. Cruise lines interested in resuming cruises are only allowed to operate below 50% of the passenger capacity. They will have to introduce measures for tracking and tracing and ensure social distancing.
New telecoms law approved
Following a seven-week public consultation, Hong Kong will enact a new regulation to implement the Real-name Registration Program for Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Cards. Secretary for Commerce & Economic Development Edward Yau said the regulation seeks to facilitate the prevention and detection of crimes related to the use of pre-paid SIM cards, thereby safeguarding the integrity of telecommunications services and the security of communications network. Under the program, SIM card users are required to provide personal information including their names, identity document numbers and date of birth, as well as a copy of the identity document for registration. Corporate users should provide a copy of their business registration certificate as well as the personal information of a responsible person for registration. The registration program will be implemented in phases for longer transitional periods for various parties.
Hong Kong sees no major capital outflow
Hong Kong is performing well in finance and banking and has not witnessed any significant outflow of capital, said Chief Executive Carrie Lam (May 25). “We have 9,000 Mainland and overseas companies based in Hong Kong, including many of them which are using Hong Kong as a regional headquarters or regional office," she said. "We have not seen any significant outflow of capital. The securities market is doing very well. The banking sector is very stable. And generally, life goes on." Pointing out that the initial concerns and anxieties about the national security legislation have subsided, Mrs Lam said the business community’s current focus is on capitalizing on the opportunities brought about by the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.
Hong Kong offers resilient solution
Looking for insights from stakeholders in the fintech ecosystem in Hong Kong and elsewhere on practical applications of new technologies? Harvard Business Review, in partnership with the Information Services Department of the HKSAR Government, has produced a survey report to examine best practices for building resilience in the face of global disruption and how organizations could address some of the challenges by leveraging the business resources available in the places where they chose to operate, such as Hong Kong.
  • The value of Hong Kong’s total goods exports increased to US$49.3 billion in April, up 24.4% year-on-year. The value of imports of goods increased 25.2% to US$53.4 billion for the same period, resulting in a trade deficit of US$4 billion, or 7.6% of the value of imports.

  • The value of total retail sales in April rose 12.1% year-on-year to a provisionally estimated at US$3.4 billion. Retail sales continued to grow visibly on a year-on-year basis in April due to a low base of comparison. However, retail sales volume was still far below its pre-pandemic level as inbound tourism remained frozen.

  • The HKSAR Government recorded a US$1.3 billion deficit for the first month of the current financial year. Expenditure was at US$6.2 billion and revenue was US$4.8 billion. Fiscal reserves stood at U$117.5 billion as at the end of April.
Hong Kong and its Basic Law
The Basic Law (BL) is the constitutional document of the HKSAR. Put into effect on July 1, 1997, it enshrines within a legal document the important concept of “One Country, Two Systems”.

Q: Has there been any interference in the independence of the Judiciary?
A: No. Hong Kong's robust and respected court system exercises judicial power independently, free from any interference. The power of final adjudication is vested in the Court of Final Appeal of the HKSAR, which may as required invite judges from other common law jurisdictions to sit on the Court of Final Appeal. The principle of trial by jury previously practiced in Hong Kong is maintained. (BL Articles 2; 19; 81; 82; 85; 86)

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