After months of speculation, international banks based in Hong Kong have reason to heave a sigh of relief. The relationship between America and China has never been simple, and the latest stand-off leaves many wondering what might be in the coming months. However, for those global financial institutions who operate in Hong Kong, the climate seems a little less strenuous.
U.S. sanctions threaten financial institutions
After a new national-security law was implemented in Hong Kong, by the Chinese government, the entire fabric of democracy came under threat. In response to these developments, the White House imposed sanctions on those that were proponents of the new bill. The sanctions target almost a dozen individuals who pose the biggest danger to the autonomy of Hong Kong. In the interim, it has been noted that businesses could find themselves out in the dark, completely disconnected from the U.S. financial system.
These concerns have been met with promising news. The White House has not added to their initial blacklist of sanctioned individuals. In addition to which, U.S. officials have stated that they will engage with financial institutions in an act of good faith – instead of automatically blacklisting any institution that has been marked for suspicious financial transactions. However, by no stretch of the imagination does this mean that global financial banks are in the clear.
Implications for those operating in Hong Kong
The current sentiment held by a number of these banks may change over the next six to eight weeks. The US Treasury Department might yet include more individuals and/or entities onto their blacklist. They have until the middle of December to conclude their investigation into whether or not institutions played a role in the demise of an independent Hong Kong. If financial institutions are found to have aided advocates of anti-demcrocratic changes, they will be blacklisted and their U.S. assets will be frozen.
It is only recently that corporate entities have come under the spotlight, as the U.S. broadens its coverage of sanctions. Thus, a lot hangs in the balance for those based in Hong Kong. Not only do these entities have to consider the impact that increased Chinese influence will have on their operations, it’s important to consider the U.S.-China relationship. If America wishes to impose themselves and apply pressure on either China or Hong Kong, there could be massive implications for global banks.
Financial institutions may have reason to sit back and breathe freely for now. However, as the upcoming U.S. election is around the corner, many will be holding their collective breath. For many, a Republican victory will mean increased scrutiny – especially for Chinese banks. As these implications weigh heavy on the global financial giants, one thing is for sure – it’s time to clamp down and increase financial compliance and regulatory oversight.