GENEVA (Reuters) – The United States blocked Hong Kong on Monday from escalating the Trump-era trade dispute at the World Trade Organization in its first meeting on disputes at the Geneva-based organization since the inauguration of US President Joe Biden.
Speaking at the WTO’s closed dispute settlement body, the US delegate opposed Hong Kong’s decision to escalate the dispute by forming a committee of the World Trade Organization to decide on it, according to a copy of the letter.
However, Washington can only block it once, and Hong Kong, a member of the 164-member body, can raise it again in the World Trade Organization next month.
The so-called “Made in China” dispute, which Hong Kong opened on November 3, concerns a US rule that states that goods from China’s Special Administrative Region are now marked as coming from China.
This requirement was announced by the US Customs and Border Protection Administration in August, in breach of a previous policy that allowed Hong Kong to designate it as a place of origin.
The closed meeting of the World Trade Organization’s Dispute Settlement Body on Monday was the first opportunity for Washington to influence long-running active trade disputes as well as stalled talks on renewing the WTO’s highest appellate body.
Under former President Donald Trump, Washington has blocked new judges’ appointments to the appeals panel in an effort to enforce reforms.
However, he did not indicate any change in his position on the commission at Monday’s meeting and declined to support a proposal to appoint new judges.
While the Biden administration has formally taken over trade policy, observers say they do not expect any major changes until after Biden’s trade candidate, Kathryn Tay, confirms.