|Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office|
Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, London, formerly at 6 Grafton Street
|Tongyong Pinyin||Si?ngg?ng J?ngjì Wúnhùa Bànshìhchù|
The Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices (HKETOs) (Chinese: ) are the trade offices of Hong Kong outside the territory. There are 12 HKETOs outside the Greater China Region, and eight in the Greater China Region (one in Taiwan, four offices and three liaison units in Mainland China).
In addition to HKETOs, the Hong Kong Government has an office in Beijing, the capital of China called the Office of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in Beijing.
Hong Kong has full autonomy in the conduct of its external commercial relations. The Basic Law of the Hong Kong provides that it shall be a separate customs territory and may, using the name 'Hong Kong, China', participate in relevant international organisations and international trade agreements, such as the World Trade Organization.
The HKETOs concentrate most of their work on promoting Hong Kong's economic and trade interests. The major function of HKETOs include:
In countries or territories where no HKETO is present, diplomatic missions of China have the duty to represent Hong Kong's interests. Visa applications at these missions are, nevertheless, sent to and processed by the Immigration Department of Hong Kong.
Overseas HKETOs were placed under the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau of the Hong Kong Government. Office of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in Beijing and other parts of Mainland China placed under the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau. The head of the HKETOs are usually called Director.
The privileges and immunities granted to the HKETOs are the result of negotiations with the host governments and these vary from one office to another. In some cases, the host governments (such as the United Kingdom, Australia and Germany) have granted certain privileges and immunities to the HKETOs through dedicated domestic legislation.
At present, all eleven overseas HKETOs have been granted certain privileges and immunities by respective host governments to facilitate the HKETOs to discharge their duties without intervention. Broadly speaking, the privileges and immunities enjoyed by the HKETOs mainly include the inviolability of premises, official correspondence, archives and documents as well as the exemption of premises and representatives from taxation.
HKETO Berlin is the only regional representative office in Germany that has a quasi-diplomatic status.
The HKETOs outside the Mainland China Region, particularly those in Europe and Asia, have responsibilities for several countries. Those in the mainland similarly have responsibilities across several provinces.
Prior to the transfer of sovereignty in 1997, Hong Kong's commercial interests in its major trade markets were represented by Hong Kong Government Offices - consular matters were handled by the relevant British embassy or high commission. By 1982, the Hong Kong Government Offices, with locations in London, Brussels, Washington and Geneva, were placed under the then Councils and Administration Branch (Chinese: ) of the Hong Kong Government.
HKETO Brussels is the second among all HKETOs, marking its 50th anniversary in 2015.
In preparation for the handover, the British and Chinese governments agreed that these offices should be renamed "Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices", to make clear that they did not have diplomatic or consular functions. In the United Kingdom, the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office Act 1996 conferred a number of personal immunity and tax privileges on the HKETO in London.
Similar arrangements were negotiated with other host countries of HKETOs. For instance, the HKETO in Toronto is accredited by Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada under the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office Privileges and Immunities Order, and HKETO in Sydney by the Overseas Missions (Privileges and Immunities) Act 1995.