Report on the work of the overseas Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices and the Offices of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region in the Mainland and Taiwan in 2017-2018
ETO’s work in the ASEAN countries
Mr CHAN Chun-ying welcomed Hong Kong’s signing of an FTA and an Investment Agreement with ASEAN. He enquired whether the Administration would, apart from attracting investment from ASEAN member states in Hong Kong, assist Hong Kong enterprises in investing in the ASEAN region.
SCED advised that the Administration attached great importance to encouraging and assisting Hong Kong enterprises to invest in the ASEAN region. In this regard, the Financial Secretary had introduced a number of enhancement measures to funding schemes to assist small and medium enterprises (“SMEs”), including: (a) injecting HK$1.5 billion into the Dedicated Fund on Branding, Upgrading and Domestic Sales (“BUD Fund”); (b) injecting HK$1 billion into the SME Export Marketing and Development Funds; and (c) extending the geographical coverage of the Enterprise Support Programme under the BUD Fund from the Mainland to include the ASEAN countries. The respective cumulative funding ceiling for enterprises undertaking projects in the Mainland and ASEAN markets had been raised to HK$1 million. In view of the US-China trade conflicts, the Administration envisaged that more local SMEs might be attracted to invest in the ASEAN markets. In the coming year, the Administration would organize more trade visits to the ASEAN region in collaboration with the HKTDC. Participation in such visits by traditional enterprises as well as I&T start-ups would be encouraged.
In response to Mr CHAN Chun-ying’s enquiry about the division of work among the three ETOs in ASEAN after the setting up of the Bangkok ETO, Permanent Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development (Commerce, Industry and Tourism (“PSCIT”) advised that currently the Singapore ETO and the Jakarta ETO covered six and four ASEAN member states respectively, while the Jakarta ETO also represented HKSARG in matters between Hong Kong and ASEAN as a whole. The Bangkok ETO, once set up, would take over the work associated with three ASEAN member states (i.e. Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar) from the Singapore ETO. In other words, the three ETOs in ASEAN would each cover a similar number of countries in ASEAN.
Proposed amendments to the Trade Marks Ordinance (Cap. 559)
Enforcement of criminal provisions under the Trade Marks Ordinance
Expressing no objection to the Administration’s proposed legislative amendments to TMO to confer powers on C&ED to enforce the criminal provisions after the implementation of the Madrid Protocol in Hong Kong, Mr CHAN Chun-ying was concerned about its implications on C&ED’s workload as the number of suspected cases of contravention might dramatically increase after the application of the Madrid Protocol to Hong Kong. He enquired whether C&ED would be provided with sufficient manpower to carry out the necessary enforcement duties. Noting that the Administration planned to regularize the existing arrangement by putting the enforcement of the criminal provisions under TMO under one roof, viz. on C&ED, Mr CHAN further enquired whether the manpower currently responsible for enforcing the criminal provisions under TMO by the Hong Kong Police Force would be transferred to C&ED.
USCED advised that, since over the years there were only a handful of suspected cases of contravention, C&ED should be able to cope with any increase in workload with its existing manpower and resources. The Administration would nevertheless keep in view the manpower requirements of C&ED having regard to the actual workload after the application of the Madrid Protocol to Hong Kong.
Mr CHAN Chun-ying sought clarifications on whether the Administration had to introduce a new piece of legislation in order to provide for the legal framework in implementing the Madrid Protocol in Hong Kong. If so, he was concerned whether it would be premature to table the subject legislative proposal to provide for the amendments relating to operational issues when the new legislation had yet to be introduced.
DS(C&I)2 responded that the implementation of the Madrid Protocol in Hong Kong did not involve any fundamental changes to the basic tenets of Hong Kong’s trade marks regime as set out in TMO. The Administration nevertheless had to introduce new processes and modify the existing application and registration procedures in the subsidiary legislation (i.e. the Trade Marks Rules). As such, enabling provisions were needed in TMO to empower the Registrar of Trade Marks to make the essential procedural rules on such matters to give effect to the provisions of the Madrid Protocol in Hong Kong. The approach of including only enabling provisions in the principal legislation to empower the authorities to make relevant rules while leaving the substantive content of such rules in the subsidiary legislation was in line with the approach consistently adopted by many other common law jurisdictions in their legislative exercises for implementing the Madrid Protocol. Such enabling provisions would pave the way for the enactment of the necessary subsidiary legislation as the Administration took forward the exercise of implementing the Madrid Protocol in Hong Kong.
USCED added that the amendments to the Trade Marks Rules would be made under the overall legal framework in accordance with the enabling provisions under TMO and would be subject to negative vetting by the Legislative Council.