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Regular Press Conference of the Ministry of Commerce (December 6, 2018)

Gao Feng: Members of the press, good afternoon. Welcome to MOFCOM’s routine press conference. With no announcements to make today, I’d like to take your questions. The floor is open.

Xinhua News Agency: This noon President Xi Jinping wrapped up his visits and returned to Beijing. It is known that Portugal is the last stop of his visits. Could you please brief us on the outcomes of China-Portugal cooperation during his visit on trade and economic fronts?

Gao Feng: President Xi Jinping’s paid a state visit to Portugal, the first state visit by a Chinese President to the country. His visit presents new historic opportunities for trade and economic cooperation between China and Portugal.

During his state visit, China and Portugal signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative. As a vital hub connecting the Silk Road Economic Belt and the Maritime Silk Road, Portugal is among the first European countries to sign cooperation documents under the Belt and Road Initiative with China. China and Portugal are natural partners in jointly building the Belt and Road. China is willing to work with Portugal to push the initiative forward and support business cooperation on infrastructure, energy, automobiles, and others.

Regarding trade, China and Portugal signed a memorandum of understanding on trade in services. The two sides will set up a regular agenda within the mechanism of the mixed committee on economy to create more cooperation opportunities for bilateral trade in services by strengthening cooperation and dialogues on transportation, tourism, finance, technology, culture and other key services sectors, and sharing best practices in such areas as laws and regulations, public policy, services trade statistics, services industry standards and accreditation. In addition, China and Portugal signed intergovernmental cooperation documents including the protocol on importing Portuguese fresh grapes.

With respect to business cooperation, six commercial contracts were signed by companies from the two countries during President Xi’s visit, covering energy, finance, telecommunications, agricultural produces and food.

China stands ready to work with Portugal to implement in earnest the trade and economic outcomes, tighten commercial ties, strengthen policy communication, and push for more cooperation between businesses. We will deepen practical cooperation on all fronts to inject new impetus into China-Portugal comprehensive strategic partnership. Thank you.

China Daily: China’s total foreign trade value in the first 11 months this year has surpassed the value for the whole year in 2017. Could you explain the reason for steady growth in China’s foreign trade? Some people argue that next year will be challenging for China’s foreign trade. What does MOFCOM make of the situation next year? What measures will MOFCOM take to help Chinese companies to deal with the difficulties?

Gao Feng: Since the beginning of this year, China’s import and export have registered a relatively fast growth, still maintaining a good momentum. The growth can be attributed to several factors, including accelerated shift of growth drivers to innovation, recovery of international market demand, stable growth in domestic economy, increased imports, and effects of polices, etc.

As for foreign trade next year, China is still able to provide strong support for growth. Along with the supply side structural reform in the field, import and export structure will still be improved, innovative drivers of high quality development built up, and import potential unlocked. While uncertainties and destabilizing factors such as protectionism and unilateralism pose challenges, the prevailing trend of economic globalization remains unchanged and demands of major markets are on the rise. According to the latest report in October, the IMF cuts its 2019 growth projection in goods and services to 4%, higher than the forecast for global economic growth rate of 3.7%.

We will closely follow the situation, including those uncertainties and destabilizing factors as well as potential challenges facing Chinese companies. We will continue to enhance the level of trade facilitation, reduce the cost of importers and exporters, cultivate new business models, and diversify the market via deregulation and better services so that China’s foreign trade can achieve high quality development. Thank you.

CNR: Some experts attribute the growth in foreign trade this year to the psychology that some companies are rushing to export more before the end of the year. Next year, when such phenomenon disappears, will the foreign trade be impacted?

Gao Feng: Just now I gave an overview about the prospect of China’s foreign trade next year. The so-called “export rush” might have something to do with the protectionist and unilateralist markets. But generally speaking, this is not a decisive factor to the rapid growth of import and export this year. In the first ten months of this year, trade with the EU, the US, ASEAN, Japan, and BRICS took up 14.7%, 13.7%, 12.7%, 7.1%, 7.7% of China’s total foreign trade in dollar terms. These markets grew by 12.9%, 12%, 18.5%, 10.6%, and 22.7% respectively. For most of the markets, export to China grew by a larger margin than import from China, with export to China growing by 14.1%, 8.5%, 20.3%, 12.4%, and 29.9%. These figures prove the overall trend that China’s foreign trade markets are diversifying at a faster pace. The impact of fluctuations in individual markets on trade as a whole is limited. The import potential of China is further tapped. Next year, China will accelerate its pace in pursuing high-quality development of foreign trade with a strong foundation. Thank you.

CBN: When and where will China make its proposal on WTO reform? What will it be about? Will it be related to the joint proposal to the WTO made by China, the EU and other related Members on November 22nd?

Gao Feng: We have already made China’s propositions on WTO reform. On November 23rd, China officially released the three principles and five-point propositions on WTO reform. China remains resolute in safeguarding the multilateral trading system and supports the necessary reform of the WTO.

The joint proposal of China and the EU can be viewed as part of China’s propositions on WTO reform. It represents a concrete proposal on the reform of the appellate body. We are willing to work with related Members to advance the WTO reform in a constructive and responsible manner.

China is working closely on the overall plan of the reform. China is willing to work with other Members to make the WTO more relevant in global economic governance. Thank you.

China News Agency: We noted that the US announced it will raise the tariff on USD200 billion worth of Chinese goods to 25% as originally planned unless a concrete agreement is reached within the next 90 days. What is your comment? Is China ready to deal with both scenarios?

Gao Feng: The China-US leaders meeting was a success and delivered important consensus on trade and economic matters. China and the US have enormous common interests and naturally complementary demand for each other in trade and economy. The two teams are having smooth communication and sound cooperation. We have full confidence in reaching a deal within the next 90 days. Thank you.

Phoenix TV: In the 90-day negotiation period, what concrete matters will be discussed?

Gao Feng: We will start with agricultural produce, energy, and automobile and immediately act on the concrete matters that the two sides already agreed upon. In the next 90 days, we will follow a clear timetable and road map to hold consultations on IPR protection, technology cooperation, market access and trade balance, where we have common interests and needs. It takes efforts from both sides to reach an agreement. Thank you.

21st Century Business Herald: Also about the China-US summit, the two presidents agreed to intensify talks between China and the US towards eliminating all additional tariffs. What is the consulting basis for such elimination? China indicates its willingness to expand imports from the US according to domestic and people’s demand. Does China have a detailed list of additional imports from the US?

Gao Feng: In the next 90 days, China and the US will hold consultations on issues of key concern aimed at eliminating all additional tariffs in the principle of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, and accommodation of each other’s concerns in a bid a reach an agreement.

In view of the people’s aspirations for a good life and the requirements of quality development, China has been expanding imports in recent years. China and the US reached preliminary consensuses on agricultural trade and energy, among other trade issues, in previous consultations. Moving forward, consultations will continue on agricultural trade, energy, industrial goods and services. Thank you.

AFP: Lately, US President Trump has tweeted a lot on China-US trade agreement. Does China intend to buy quantities of US soybean immediately? Is China ready to cut or remove tariffs on US-made cars? US Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said that China is going to buy US goods worth US$1.2 trillion. What’s China’s comment?

Gao Feng: Regarding the specific products, I’ve already answered that. As for cars and certain specifics, China will follow through on the agreed specifics in agricultural trade, energy and automobile immediately. Regarding auto tariffs, I suggest you follow the notices of the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council. I’ll update you on further details if there are any. Thank you.

Reuters: Huawei CFO is in detention in Canada and might be extradited to the US as part of the investigation. What’s MOFCOM’s comment? How will this impact China-US trade talks?

Gao Feng: I don’t have information regarding the specific circumstances of your questions. I suggest you talk to related departments. Thank you.

CGTN: It is reported that China’s reply to US structured list of questions shows major concessions on China’s part. Is it true?

Gao Feng: Regarding your question, this is not a zero sum game of one-way taking and giving, and still less a matter of one-way advance and retreat. In IP protection, promoting fair competition and widened market access, Chinese and US companies have shared requests that are well aligned with China’s consistent push for deepened reform and expanded opening up. For the next steps, China will have consultations based on mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit with the US on these issues to create a better business environment for companies of both countries. Thank you.

Bloomberg: China’s statement after the trade talks referenced potential widened market access on both sides whereas the US statement focused on what China will do. Why’s the difference? What does China expect the US to do?

Gao Feng: I mentioned partially that China and the US have highly converged interests on trade and economic issues with naturally complementary structural needs. In the next 90 days, we’ll follow the identified timetable and roadmap and hold consultations on IP protection, technical cooperation, market access and trade balance, among other issues of mutual need. The two sides should work together for a deal. Thank you.

This concludes the press conference. Thank you.

(All information published on this website is authentic in Chinese. English is provided for reference only.)