China statements on WHO, Hong Kong raise questions
President Donald Trump’s announcements Friday that the United States will withdraw from the World Health Organization and no longer recognize Hong Kong have raised questions about the future of U.S. international health efforts and U.S. agricultural exports to Hong Kong and mainland China.
“China has total control over the World Health Organization, despite only paying $40 million per year compared to what the United States has been paying, which is approximately $450 million a year,” Trump said, announcing the U.S. withdrawal.
WHO has no direct jurisdiction over food and agriculture by itself but the WHO and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization are the organizers of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which maintain the Codex Alimentarius, or “Food Code,” a collection of standards, guidelines and codes of practice by FAO and WHO in 1963 to protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade. If the United States is no longer a member of the WHO, it is unclear how U.S. positions would be articulated in discussions that update the Codex.
Trump’s announcement that the United States “will take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment as a separate customs and travel territory from the rest of China” also raises questions about how that will affect the U.S. agricultural and food relationship with Hong Kong.
The Agriculture Department’s Foreign Agricultural Service maintains an office in Hong Kong.
In a February report, FAS said, “Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China with its basic law (mini-constitution) reflecting the ‘one country, two systems’ concept.”
“Hong Kong maintains distinct social, economic, judicial, and political systems, and food and agricultural import regulations that are separate from those of mainland China (until 2047) with the exception of foreign affairs and defense.”
In a December report, FAS noted that “Hong Kong remains the fifth largest export market for U.S. consumer-oriented agricultural products, by value; importing more than mainland China and Taiwan.”
The report noted that Hong Kong has a population of 7.48 million with a per capita GDP was close to $49,000 in 2018, one of the highest in Asia.
The report also said, “Due to uncertainties from the external environment and dampening domestic consumption, downward adjustment is expected for Hong Kong food imports. However, with a dynamic food culture, sophisticated and affluent buyers, and a world-class logistical infrastructure, Hong Kong would remain an attractive market for innovative U.S. food and beverage products as well as a gateway to the region.”
Trump’s decision not to include economic sanctions against China in his announcement reassured the stock market, which rose on the news, but analysts told AgWeb that rising tensions between the United States and China would still not be good for U.S. farm exports.