President Donald Trump spoke from the White House Rose Garden on May 29, against the erroneous measures taken by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) amid the pandemic, questioning in particular a recent bill imposed on Hong Kong, which ‘suffocates its freedom’ and autonomy.
With the bill the CCP allegedly wants to prohibit secession, terrorism, and foreign intervention, directly harming the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region’s ability to administer itself. According to some experts, such a measure could jeopardize the state of Hong Kong as a financial center.
So far, the United States has treated Hong Kong independently in trade, investment, and immigration matters, which has brought a large benefit that has been summarized in the U.S.-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992.
But now, after the new bill for Hong Kong was pushed through the National People’s Congress by Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, Trump decided to revoke the administrative region’s special status as an independent business entity from China.
While the president’s announcement on Friday did not elaborate on the long-term impact of the new provisions for Hong Kong, the Trump administration may have several options for dealing with the administrative region from now on.
As Middleton Press noted, under the act, President Trump has the power to suspend the territory’s special trade privileges at any time through an executive order.
The law covers everything from trade to passport recognition and rules affecting air travel, shipping and investment, and even allows U.S. dollars to be freely exchanged with Hong Kong dollars, if revoked it would lead to what some analysts consider to be a “nuclear option.”
Trump could apply the same tariffs to imports from Hong Kong as those used for the mainland, although the effect could be minimal. Last year Hong Kong exported $4.8 billion to the United States, about 1% of what China exported.
With the elimination of tariff privileges for Hong Kong, the ports, shipping services, and logistics industries would be mainly affected, wrote Iris Pang, chief economist for Greater China at ING Bank NV, in an article.
Another possible effect would be export controls, as the United States allows Hong Kong to export certain sensitive goods that are banned from China, including dual-use technology with military and consumer applications.
Therefore, if the privileges are terminated, Hong Kong would be subject to the same export controls including those placed on China following a deadly military assault on protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989, the Middletown Press reported.
The export bans could also have a direct impact on the technology race in which China and the United States appear to be engaged, according to economists at Natixis SA.
The United States would have greater freedom to punish people responsible for undermining freedoms and autonomy in Hong Kong, according to an amendment to the policy law that was agreed to last year.
A bill is currently being implemented in the Congress that would penalize banks that conduct “significant transactions” with Chinese entities that are involved in the repression of Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Due to the tensions now looming between the United States and the CCP, Sen. Pat Toomey, (R-Pa.), and Sen. Chris Van Hollen, (D-Md.), are contesting the bill this week.
As Middleton Press pointed out, any action on this front could seriously damage the CCP and Hong Kong’s role as an international financial center.
Likewise, President Trump could use the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act to establish even more extensive sanctions against the CCP.
The law cited in last year’s U.S.-Hong Kong policy amendment gives the president special powers to deal with any “unusual and extraordinary threat” involving a national emergency.
Trump could also carry out a measure that would end an existing provision allowing the free exchange of the U.S. dollar with the Hong Kong dollar, which could have significant implications.