Hong Kong will not be a ‘voiceless victim’ in U.S.-China trade war, top U.S. envoy to city says

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Photo: U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong & Macau

The top U.S. envoy to Hong Kong has sought to ease fears that the city could become a “voiceless victim” in the looming trade war between the U.S. and China, in which Washington has already shown a “yellow card” to Beijing.

U.S. Consul General Kurt Tong described Hong Kong as “visible proof” that an economy could stay competitive while keeping its market open and free, saying the city had a positive role to play by using its “demonstration power” to show China how this worked.

Tong’s comments were made in a lunch speech on Tuesday at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club, where he talked about the recent trade friction between the U.S. and China.

The two countries have issued warnings about an escalation of hostilities.

In his speech, Tong stressed that the U.S. valued free, fair, and open trade but accused China of adopting “market-distorting policies and practices”.

He expressed worry that “China’s recent policies may be based on the false premise that it was central control of the economy that got China to this point”. 

“Americans believe that it was not central planning, but rather China’s emerging pro-market and pro-investment policies, supplemented by access to the largest free markets in the world, that helped to write China’s impressive growth story,” Tong said.

Tong was posted to Hong Kong in 2016. He had served as the principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs at the U.S. State Department, and also the U.S. ambassador for Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec).

He said Washington’s recent moves to press Beijing to “raise its game on reform and opening” were “well-grounded” and “overdue”.

“China has drawn a deserved yellow card. Yellow cards are an opportunity for a player to change their style of play before someone gets hurt

“We do not want the Chinese economy to fail. That would be terrible for the United States.”

He said he appreciated the emergence of “a degree of nervousness” in Hong Kong.

The city’s commerce minister Edward Yau Tang-wah had expressed fears of collateral damage to the Hong Kong economy and said Hong Kong would “fight for its rights” in the event of discriminatory trade practices being implemented against it.

Read more at SCMP

Read the full speech of U.S. Consul General Kurt Tong here