China Business News: In its recently published white paper 2020 American Business in China, AmCham China expresses that it welcomes China’s commitment on equal treatment for foreign-invested enterprises (FIE) and incorporation of relevant principles into law through the Foreign Investment Law, but it is still worried that many provisions are general ones that fail to fully address the long-held concerns of FIEs in China. What is MOFCOM’s response?
Gao Feng: Commitment to equal treatment for domestic and foreign investors is an important principle that we adhered to in formulating the Foreign Investment Law. We responded actively to FIEs’ concerns by setting out clear provisions on the equal application of policies supporting business growth to FIEs, and their equal-footed engagement in standard-setting as well as government procurement.
The regulations for the implementation of the Foreign Investment Law further specify these provisions and enhance the operability of the law. To ensure full implementation, the regulations set out strict legal obligations for violators who do not treat domestic- and foreign-funded enterprises equally, illegally restrict FIEs’ equal-footed engagement in standard-setting, or accord differentiated or discriminatory treatment to FIEs in government procurement. These provisions will provide adequate legal safeguards for fair competition among domestic- and foreign-funded enterprises.
We will fully implement the Foreign Investment Law and the implementation regulations, and continue to refine supporting regulations. We will ensure that FIEs, on an equal footing and in accordance with law, enjoy all kinds of government supporting policies on funding arrangement, land use, tax and fee cuts and exemptions, qualification licensing, project reporting and human resources, and engage in standard-setting and government procurement. We will work to create an environment based on rule of law to enable fair competition among domestic- and foreign-funded enterprises. Thank you.
Xinhua News Agency: According to the recent reports of US media outlets, China had hoarded medical supplies in large quantity and restricted the export of medical supplies, which undermined the COVID-19 response in the US and around the world. Since new measures were introduced by three government departments on March 31, what progress has been made in standardizing the export of medical supplies? Could you give a general picture of China’s export of epidemic-response supplies?
Gao Feng: Life is above everything. The quality of epidemic-response supplies has a direct bearing on the life and health of people around the world. With a keen sense of responsibility for the life and health of people around the world, while trying to meet the international community’s growing demand for epidemic-response supplies, China keeps stepping up quality control and standardizing the market order for export to provide the international market with qualified supplies and support other countries’ fight against COVID-19.
To safeguard the quality of exports and more effectively support the international community’s fight against COVID-19, on March 31, MOFCOM, the GACC and the National Medical Products Administration jointly issued the Announcement on the Orderly Export of Medical Supplies (No.5 of 2020) to enhance export quality control on five categories of medical supplies including medical face masks; on April 25, MOFCOM, the GACC and the SAMR jointly issued the Announcement on Further Enhancing Quality Regulation of Exported Epidemic-response Supplies (No.12 of 2020) to strengthen quality control on non-medical masks export in particular. The implementation of these announcements have been widely supported by domestic businesses in relevant sectors and welcomed by foreign importers. Relevant departments have standardized the order of export with their coordinated enforcement. On the basis of meeting the demand in domestic epidemic response and resumption of work and production, China continues to expand its export of epidemic-response supplies, making its contribution to the global fight against the pandemic.
First, the export of epidemic prevention supplies continued to grow. According to statistics from the Ministry of Commerce, from March 1 to May 6, China exported epidemic prevention supplies to 194 countries and regions through market-oriented procurement. Among them, 77 national and regional governments and 6 international organizations have signed 216 groups of commercial procurement contracts on medical supplies with China through official channels. 71 national and regional governments and 8 international organizations are conducting negotiations on 128 groups of commercial procurement with Chinese enterprises. According to customs statistics, since April 1, the export of epidemic prevention supplies from China has shown a clear growth trend.
Second, the export channels for epidemic prevention supplies are very smooth. The Ministry of Commerce works closely with relevant departments and strictly regulates the work. A number of products whose quality fails to meet Chinese nor foreign standards are not allowed for export, while the export channels of epidemic prevention supplies whose quality meets Chinese or foreign standards are very smooth. As of May 6, the National Medical Products Administration has published a list of 3,773 manufacturing enterprises that have obtained registration certificates for medical device products in China. The Ministry of Commerce and the State Administration for Market Regulation guided the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Medicines and Health Products to examine, confirm and issue a list including 6 groups of 347 manufacturers that have obtained foreign standard certification or registration, including 279 manufacturers of medical materials (including surgical masks) and 68 manufacturers of non-surgical masks.
Third, efforts have been strengthened to investigate and handle violations of laws and regulations. The Ministry of Commerce has worked closely with relevant departments to vigorously crack down on fake or inferior products in accordance with law. In mid-to-late April, the Ministry of Commerce sent working groups to 10 provinces and cities, including Guangdong, to guide localities in taking on responsibilities within their jurisdictions and strengthen quality regulation. The export of epidemic prevention products from five enterprises in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and other regions has been suspended or stopped. The relevant departments and local governments conduct in-depth investigations on such cases and handle them according to law. The Ministry of Public Security, the General Administration of Customs, the State Administration for Market Regulation, the National Medical Products Administration and other law enforcement agencies have stepped up efforts to investigate and handle violations, and published a list of substandard products and producers of non-surgical masks involved in cases investigated and handled in the domestic market.
In the next step, the Ministry of Commerce will firmly implement the decisions and arrangements made by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. It will continue to work closely with member organizations of the medical supply export mechanism and localities to perform the duties and strictly supervise the work. It will effectively regulate the market and export quality of epidemic prevention supplies and contribute to and more effectively support the efforts of the international community in fighting the epidemic. Thank you!
21st Century Business Herald: According to the customs data today, how do you evaluate the import and export of foreign trade in April? A large number of foreign trade enterprises say that there is a sharp drop in new orders. Does this mean that China's foreign trade will face more severe challenges in the later period? What are the plans of the Ministry of Commerce in supporting foreign trade enterprises to obtain new orders and tide over the difficulties in the next step?
Since the beginning of this year, China’s foreign trade has been confronted with a very complicated and serious environment. In spite of the narrowing decline of foreign trade figures for this April, the development of foreign trade is still facing rather huge downward pressure. The continued expansion of the COVID-19 pandemic overseas has taken a serious toll on global economy and trade. With uncertainties and destabilizing factors rising markedly, foreign trade is facing unprecedented challenges. According to MOFCOM’s surveys on the major provinces, cities, business chambers of import and export, and key enterprises, foreign trade companies are still plagued by a number of challenges, including the cancellation or delay of orders, difficulties in signing new orders and impeded logistics.
We need to fully assess the difficulties, risks and uncertainties caused by the pandemic, enhance our sense of urgency and make further endeavors to stabilize foreign trade. Moving forward, guided by the instructions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, MOFCOM would leverage the coordination mechanism for foreign trade and foreign investment, focus on supporting enterprises in expanding global market, helping them complete the existing orders and secure new orders, and deal with the impacts of the global pandemic.
First, we would take a more targeted approach to assist enterprises. Multiple channels and ways would be used to keep abreast of the changes to the orders of foreign trade companies. Apart from the changes and problems faced by the leading foreign trade companies, more attention would be given to the difficulties of the micro, small and medium-sized companies so that more targeted supportive measures would be introduced in a timely manner.
Second, we would further utilize the online platforms. We would make utmost efforts in organizing the 127th Canton Fair online. We would guide local authorities to build online exhibition platforms, promote the integration between online and offline exhibitions, and foster brand exhibitions online.
Third, we would support enterprises in domestic sales of goods originally produced for export. More products sold domestically would be produced on the same production lines, meet the same standards, and be of the same quality as products for export. At the same time, we would move faster to improve relevant information services to enhance the influence and popularity of the public brands of such products. We would optimize government’s public services, help foreign trade companies tackle the difficulties in domestic sales, explore distribution channels and strengthen their capabilities of domestic sales, and offer diversified consumption choices for the domestic market.
Fourth, we would further stabilize and smooth the international logistics supply chain. We would fully leverage the role of the task force for international logistics, offer timely assistance to foreign trade companies to resolve their specific difficulties in transport. We would build information-based platforms, ensure effective connection between the supply and demand of international logistics, and make continuous efforts in improving the capacity of international air transport of goods.
Fifth, we would strengthen the trade promotion services. We would support local authorities, industry organizations and trade promotion agencies to make good use of the public service platforms to provide enterprises with services relating to information, law, policy interpretation, etc., and facilitate businesses’ participation in the trade promotion events both at home and abroad. Thank you!
CRI: Slow and sales of agricultural products have been witnessed in many places since the COVID-19 epidemic broke out. How has MOFCOM responded to it?
Gao Feng: Sales of certain agricultural products have been draggy in Hainan, Guangxi and Hubei since the outset of the COVID-19 epidemic. MOFCOM’s Party leading group attaches great attention to this issue. Following the decisions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, MOFCOM has been working with other State Council departments to address slow sales of agricultural products and, in particular, to respond to impeded sales of farming and animal husbandry products in poverty-stricken areas. First, we have tracked the updates of sluggish sales. Since February, we have collected more than 5,300 reports indicating impeded sales and analyzed conscientiously the causes and elements of obstacles to sales, based on which we have introduced targeted measures for different types of products to expand their sales channels. Second, we have enhanced policy support. We have pushed for the inclusion of vegetables and other agricultural products as daily necessities that enjoy emergency transportation safeguards, and stop-free, inspection-free, toll-free and transit priority policies. In coordination with the Ministry of Finance, we have distributed working documents addressing difficulties faced by agricultural products from Hubei to facilitate purchases of their slow-selling products. Third, we have promoted production-sales matching. Since January 23, eight provinces and autonomous regions including Henan and Anhui have sent over 100,000 tons of fruit and vegetables to Hubei under the nine-province joint mechanism to ensure supply; Yunnan has offered 15,000 tons of agricultural products to Hubei and Wuhan in particular, boosting the sales of its agricultural products while supporting market supply in areas severely hit by the epidemic. Fourth, we have cleared obstacles in major logistical channels. We have prioritized work resumption of agricultural wholesale markets to enable their role as an effective “regulator” to ensure supply and stabilize prices. For instance, nearly 1.8 million tons of Guangxi citruses were in stock without any buyer on February 22. After emergent mobilization and coordination, 500,000 tons were sold in only four days in 28 large agricultural wholesale markets, reducing the excess inventory swiftly. Five, we have expanded sales channels. For example, Shandong mobilized main vegetable growers like Shouguang for targeted cross-regional allocation and transportation. At this unusual moment of epidemic prevention and control, Hubei, Gansu, Guangdong and other regions have created purchase and supply channels directly connecting production bases for targeted sales. Centralized delivery of online orders, shared workers, contactless delivery and roadside markets and other modes have been promoted to boost impeded sales of local seasonal products. Six, we have emphasized support for Hubei. Measures like increasing purchases in local and adjacent areas, designating other provinces as buyers, selling products through industry associations as well as online and offline promotion have been used, resulting in total sales of 20,000 tons of Hubei agricultural products, underpinning work resumption in the province. Thank you.
Gao Feng: This is the end of today’s press conference. Thank you.