Hong Kong Protests Could Impact Trade Talks: US Commerce Secretary

October 2, 2019 Updated: October 2, 2019

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross on Oct. 1 indicated that the Hong Kong protests could impact U.S.-China trade talks set for next week in Washington.

Now in their 17th consecutive week, protests against the Chinese regime’s erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy have intensified, with widespread violence flaring on Oct. 1, the anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party’s rule over China. During a demonstration, a Hong Kong police officer shot a teenage protester in the chest at close range. It was the first time a demonstrator had been shot during the protests. The 18-year-old is now in critical condition.

“It probably will have some impact on the Chinese side, even despite whatever it has on ours, because this is a sign of domestic dissent within their community and Hong Kong is quite important to the international trading activities of China,” Ross told Fox Business on Oct. 1. Hong Kong, a former British colony, reverted to Chinese rule in 1997 under terms set out in the Sino-British Joint Declaration, which guaranteed that the city retain its autonomy and freedoms not enjoyed in the mainland.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He is set to travel to Washington for talks with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, set for Oct. 10 and 11.

For more than a year, the world’s two largest economies have been embroiled in a trade dispute that has seen the imposition of tit-for-tat tariffs.

Last month, President Donald Trump delayed a tariff increase on $250 billion of Chinese goods to Oct. 15 in a gesture of goodwill taking into account China’s Oct. 1 holiday. The regime then exempted U.S. pork and soybeans from additional tariffs, and has recently made two big purchases of U.S. soybeans.

“The president has indicated he wants a complete deal,” Ross said.

“If all we wanted was to sell just a few more products to them, we could’ve had that deal two and a half years ago. The president wants that, but he most importantly wants to resolve the structural issues. The issues of forced intellectual property transfers, the issue of subsidy of SOEs [state-owned enterprises], the disrespect for intellectual property, the whole panoply of equal market access complaints that we’ve had over the years.

Without those, it isn’t really a very satisfactory arrangement.”

The Commerce Secretary said the U.S. administrations hopes that the crisis in Hong Kong can come to a peaceful resolution.

“We certainly don’t like the use of violence against peaceful citizens,” Ross said.

“We really hope that this whole crisis can be resolved, and resolved in an amicable way that honors the original treaty that China made with Great Britain quite some years ago.”

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