Negotiations are under way to secure semi-diplomatic privileges and immunities for Hong Kong Government offices around the world after the handover. The territory has nine missions in the United States, Asia and Europe carrying out trade and economic duties, and an office in London which liaises with the British Government. Britain is expected to grant new powers to the territory's office after the handover. The Hong Kong Government Office in Mayfair will have to drop its political functions, which include lobbying members of parliament over general Hong Kong affairs, and change its title to an economic and trade office. The new privileges and immunities, which required China's agreement through the Joint Liaison Group, will prevent authorities from raiding the office or searching correspondence, as well as providing it with tax-free status. A senior official from Hong Kong's Trade and Industry Branch, which has responsibility for the overseas offices, said that diplomatic status was not being sought for the missions, just the necessary privileges needed for handling trade issues. 'If it is a trade and economic office we may conduct negotiations, so we may need some protection,' he said. The immunities and privileges of the offices in Brussels, serving the European Union, and Geneva, handling the World Trade Organisation, have already been agreed. Agreement was reached with the Canadian Government regarding the Toronto office late last year. Hong Kong's top two officials in the United States will lose their diplomatic licence plates under legislation which is being passed through the US Congress. The changes have to be made because the three offices in Washington, New York and San Francisco will no longer be officially considered part of the British presence in America. After the handover they will not come under the auspices of the Chinese Embassy but will have a semi-autonomous status. A senior US official told the South China Morning Post a new law was needed to give separate immunities to Hong Kong officials - lesser than those of envoys of full nations but similar to those enjoyed by United Nations officials. Negotiations are still being conducted in Singapore, Japan and Australia over the status of Hong Kong's offices there.