Hu Kaihong: Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Welcome to the press conference of the State Council Information Office. Starting today, we will host a series of press conferences and invite chief officials of relevant ministries to brief you on China’s economic and social development. This morning we are happy to have with us Mr. Zhong Shan, Minister of Commerce and Secretary of the Party Leadership Group of MOFCOM, Mr. Wang Shouwen, Vice Minister of Commerce and Deputy China International Trade Representative, and Mr. Wang Bingnan, Vice Minister of Commerce to brief you on stabilizing the fundamentals of foreign trade and investment and pursuing the quality development of commerce and take your questions. Now, I’d like to give the floor to Minister Zhong for opening remarks.
Zhong Shan: Thank you. I see you all wear masks. It shows you are committed to your work. On behalf of the Ministry of Commerce, I’d like to thank friends from the press for your interest in, help and support for our work over the past year. In 2019, under very complex and severe circumstances at home and abroad, China hit a record high in consumption, foreign trade and investment with good progress in reform of commerce. Given the serious disruptions to Chinese economic and social development by COVID-19, the reform and development of commerce will face even more serious, complicated and daunting challenges. Under the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, we will balance the prevention and control of COVID-19 with reform and development of commerce. We will expand domestic demand, boost consumption, stabilize the fundamentals of foreign trade and investment, and push for quality development of commerce. We will minimize the negative impact of COVID-19 and contribute more to the completion of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Now, my colleagues and I are ready to take your questions.
CCTV: As we know, it is a great challenge to ensure the supply of daily necessities for people during the COVID-19 outbreak. Many countries have seen supplies running out and people stocking up on products. However, China did an excellent job in ensuring the supply of daily necessities. What measures has MOFCOM taken in this regard? Thank you.
Zhong Shan: Ensuring the supply of daily necessities nationwide is critical both to people’s livelihood and to winning the fight over the disease. It is a tall order. Overall speaking, Chinese market supply was sufficient during the outbreak. Supply and sales were basically not disrupted. Prices remained generally stable. Under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee, we focused on three areas.
First, we secured supply to priority regions. By priority regions I mean Wuhan, Hubei and Beijing. MOFCOM established a joint secure supply mechanism across nine provinces on January 23 in order to keep informed of the situation of supply and demand and ensure efficient supply and distribution of daily necessities to priority regions in a timely manner. MOFCOM dispatched three working groups to Wuhan to coordinate and supervise the supply delivery on site. During the outbreak, the joint secure supply mechanism played its part in meeting the needs of Wuhan. For example, when Wuhan ran short of vegetables during the outbreak, Chongqing delivered 400 tons of vegetables to Wuhan in two days. When the disposable meal boxes were in short supply, Hunan filled the gap in 10 hours. Guangxi, Shandong and Yunnan, the big vegetable producing provinces, sent special trains carrying vegetables and other daily necessities to Wuhan. Since the joint supply mechanism was up and running, the supply of daily necessities in Wuhan and Hubei has been stable and sufficient during the outbreak. The other eight provinces under the joint supply mechanism gave priority to the supply to Wuhan and Hubei despite their own difficulties. Especially when the city was locked down, the level of supply in Wuhan was higher than the national average. The inventory of rice, flour, edible oil, meat, eggs, milk, fruits and vegetables, among other daily necessities, was sufficient for more than one week or one month at most. Thus, the situation was way above the average in China.
Second, we stepped up national market coordination. We set up a national daily report mechanism to strengthen market monitoring of eight key categories of daily necessities. We were constantly updated on what kind of inventory was low and how much the gap was. In the meantime, in order to ensure secure supply nationwide, we designated 500 key enterprises engaged in production, wholesaling, retailing, e-commerce, and transport to ensure the supplies could be replenished swiftly. For example, when the inventory of instant noodles ran low in Beijing, we organized the delivery of 2 million bowls of instant noodles to the market. It was the same case with distribution of meat during the outbreak. We also ensured the supply nationwide. Any product in shortage in any place, transportation and delivery can be arranged immediately. In general, the national market supply was guaranteed in an effective and efficient way.
Third, new business models and distribution patterns were applied. Since the outbreak, especially after the lockdown of Wuhan, some supplies had been unable to enter the city and households for some time. People had difficulty in accessing goods. To address the issue, various parties, not just MOFCOM, but also Wuhan Municipality, Hubei Province, and ministries under the State Council, joined forces to organize group purchasing. Maybe you are familiar with group purchasing. People buy several products at one go to avoid going out frequently. We also offered vegetable packs. These supplies were meant to be delivered to the city and the residential communities by vehicles. However, the traffic was restricted in the city. Thanks to the support from various parties, we organized 1,100 vehicles to carry these supplies from suburbs to urban areas, then to local communities and people’s home. We also organized over 20,000 volunteers to bring the vegetable packs and group-purchased goods to the local communities and staff working there to ensure people’s needs for daily necessities were met.
These results are attributable to the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping as its core and the concerted efforts of the whole country. It fully demonstrates the strengths of Chinese socialist system and its great capacity of organization and mobilization. Thank you.
International market news: The foreign trade industry creates 180 million jobs. Foreign demand is weak under the influence of the outbreak. Many enterprises had to suspend production due to a lack of orders. What measures will be taken by the Ministry of Commerce to reduce the bankruptcy of companies and keep foreign trade orders stable?
Zhong Shan: Thanks for your question. The epidemic is spreading globally and the demand in the international market has dropped sharply. This year, China's foreign trade is facing unprecedented challenges. The Ministry of Commerce will do its best to keep foreign trade stable in accordance with the CPC Central Committee’s requirements of keeping employment, the financial sector, foreign trade, foreign and domestic investments, and expectations stable and making employment, basic livelihood, market entities, food and energy, industrial and supply chains, and local government operation secure.
First, helping enterprises overcome difficulties. As you said just now, affected by the epidemic, our enterprises face many difficulties, such as shortage of funds, declining orders, and rising risks in the industrial chains and supply chains. In the early stage, these foreign trade enterprises had orders, but the goods could not be transported because the logistics was not smooth; in the later stage, they had the production capacity, but there were no orders, causing great difficulties to these enterprises. We also analyzed these difficulties, some of which enterprises can solve through their own efforts, and some of which would need government help. For example, fiscal and taxation policies, finance, insurance and other aspects would all need government support and help. Since the outbreak, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council have studied many times on how to solve practical difficulties and problems and help enterprises tide over difficulties. The recent situation shows that some policies and measures have also played a positive role. For example, the timeframe of export tax rebate has been shortened from more than ten days in the past to about a week now. This is conducive to the capital turnover of enterprises. Another is to expand the scale of enterprise credit and help enterprises in financing. The coverage of credit insurance is also expanded as Sinosure has helped 110,000 enterprises. Most foreign trade enterprises used to export only. Now, after the export faces difficulties, the government supports them to sell goods intended for export on the domestic market. This has already paid off. The domestic sales of export enterprises increased by 17% in April, showing that quality foreign trade products are also popular with domestic consumers.
Second, optimizing the distribution for the international market. Due to the outbreak, the demand in the international market has declined, but that does not mean there is no demand or no market. We need to consolidate traditional markets and develop emerging markets. “When it is dark in the west, it is light in the east.” The current demand in some countries has dropped sharply, but we still have other markets. For example, in the first four months, China's total import and export volume dropped by 4.9%, but trade with “Belt and Road” countries has risen against the trend, with substantially increased shares. ASEAN has now become China's largest trading partner. We should actively expand imports while expanding exports and make good preparations for the third China International Import Expo to meet the domestic needs of production and living. At the same time, China will further promote global open cooperation.
Third, cultivating new types of businesses and new models for trade. Over the past few years, cross-border e-commerce and market procurement have developed rapidly. Since the outset of this year, we have stepped up the pilot projects, especially the comprehensive pilot areas for cross-border e-commerce, whose number increased from 59 to 105. We need to support the development of these new types of businesses, foster new momentum in foreign trade, and make these new models and types of businesses new highlights in foreign trade development. Thank you.
China Daily: You talked about countries along the Belt and Road. Last year, President Xi Jinping, at the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, said that China needs to continue to pursue high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. Has the COVID-19 pandemic posed challenges for Belt and Road trade and economic cooperation, in particular for major BRI projects? What are MOFCOM’s plans to advance the BRI this year? Thank you.
Zhong Shan: Thank you for your question. I’ll give the floor to Vice Minister Wang Bingnan.
Wang Bingnan: Thank you for your question. Since the Belt and Road initiative was put forward over six years ago, China and countries along the Belt and Road have been upholding the principle of pursuing shared benefits through discussion and collaboration, deepening practical cooperation, and pushing for high-quality Belt and Road cooperation with remarkable results. According to statistics, from 2013 to 2019, China’s total trade in goods with BRI countries in cumulative terms exceeded USD7.8 trillion, China’s direct investment in BRI countries exceeded USD110 billion, and the total contractual value of newly signed engineering projects was close to USD800 billion. A number of major projects were implemented and industrial parks built, which yielded mutual benefits, win-win results and contributed to common development. The influence and attractiveness of the BRI are continuously rising
As our journalist friend just said, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world economy has suffered major blows. International trade and investment are going further down. Trade and economic cooperation under the BRI has also been affected. For example, some overseas projects are facing difficulties in the movement of people and the supply of materials, as well as huge pressure in terms of COVID-19 response.
Facing the complex situation, China and BRI countries are supporting and helping each other out, and have tried their best to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. All in all, the overall Belt and Road trade and economic cooperation has been stable. In the first four months of this year, trade in goods with BRI countries in RMB grew by 0.9% year on year. China’s direct non-financial investment in BRI countries in US dollar grew by 13.4% year on year. Going forward, MOFCOM will continue to resolutely implement the decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council to coordinate the prevention and control of the pandemic and the Belt and Road trade and economic cooperation so as to advance high-quality Belt and Road cooperation and make new contribution to the building of the community with shared future for mankind. We are going to focus our work on the following four areas.
First, stepping up COVID-19 response. We will continue to closely follow the evolving global pandemic, follow the problems and difficulties facing overseas companies and projects and timely study and introduce targeted policy measures. At the same time, we will strengthen communication and coordination with BRI countries to create synergy in safeguarding the security and stability of international industrial and supply chains.
Second, deepening trade cooperation. We will give full play to such opening-up platforms as the China International Import Expo and online Canton Fair, develop silk road e-commerce, facilitate the development of the China-Europe block trains service and the building of the new international land-sea trade corridor and other major trade corridors, and build high-standard free trade areas with more countries to achieve higher-standard trade liberalization and facilitation.
Third, improving investment cooperation. Following the requirements of pursuing high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, we will implement a number of major projects that have good comprehensive effects and are popular with various parties, work on a number of assistance projects that can promote local economic development and improve people’s livelihood, develop overseas trade and economic cooperation zones, and carry out third-market cooperation with more countries to keep pushing investment cooperation onto higher levels.
Fourth, better communicating the success story of the BRI to the world. Last year, we looked into exemplary cases of the BRI, organized Chinese and foreign experts to write stories about the BRI and published the book series A Bright Shared Future: Stories along the Belt and Road in six languages. With synchronized online and offline promotion, the book has been very well received. This year, we will continue to compile and publish the book series to communicate better to the world the success story of the BRI and international cooperation on COVID-19 response. We hope, with these efforts, people around the world could understand better the significance of the concept of a community with shared future for mankind and the BRI, and jointly work for the solid, steady and sustained development of the BRI. Thank you.
Phoenix TV: My question is about consumption. The consumption market has picked up recently. What will MOFCOM do to stimulate consumption going forward? Thank you.
Zhong Shan: Thank you for your question. China is the world’s second largest consumer market. Consumption has been the biggest driver of economic growth for six consecutive years. The CPC Central Committee has identified the expansion of domestic demand as a major strategy, and MOFCOM needs to make an effort to expand domestic demand and promote consumption in the following areas.
First, we will build“fifteen-minute convenience circles”. As you can see, there are a lot of convenience stores in China. However, the overall standards are not high. In total, we have 130,000 franchised convenience stores, which is far from enough to meet the needs of the people. Moving forward, we will optimize the distribution of these stores and push for their franchised development. It’s the same case with grocery markets. Near communities there are grocery markets with various sizes and patchy quality. Overall the standards are not very high. We would push for their standardization with improved environment, richer choices and improved quality.
Second, we will promote the upgrade and makeover of pedestrian streets. Pedestrian streets have big influence on urban consumption with a strong demonstrative effect. At the end of 2018, MOFCOM launched the pilot of 11 pedestrian streets for upgrade and makeover with very positive results. Last year, the total footfall of these pedestrian streets exceeded 900 million, up by 22.6%. The sales revenue totaled RMB125 billion, up 17%. Moving forward, we are going to launch the second batch of pilots to build pedestrian streets into platforms for consumption trade-up, vehicles of high-quality development and windows of opening-up.
Third, we will develop living services. In recent years, living services have grown very rapidly. The epidemic has struck a heavy blow to catering and housekeeping, among other services. In the first four month of this year, catering revenues fell 41%, and housekeeping services also suffered greatly. We want to help these businesses through the difficulties and push for the stable development of the service sector. Catering is a traditional industry as well as an emerging sector. “Food is the prime want of the people”. In China, catering has great potentials for further development. Catering accounts for 11% of China’s total social retail sales of consumer goods, contributing over 21 million jobs. We would vigorously support the development of catering across the country, and push for greener, healthier and safer development of the sector. Another focus is the housekeeping sector which connects rural areas with cities. China abounds with housekeeping resources. There are rich labor resources in rural areas with a robust demand in cities. Last year, the revenues of China’s housekeeping services exceeded RMB690 billion. Moving ahead, we will make continuous efforts in developing the housekeeping sector. MOFCOM has established a housekeeping service credit platform, the purpose of which is to regulate the operations of housekeeping agencies, better ensure the rights of housekeeping practitioners, and better serve urban households. Thank you.
CGTN: We know that the pandemic is spreading across the world. To a large extent, it has impacted global industrial and supply chains that benefit a lot from free trade and cross-border investment enabled by the multilateral trading system with the WTO at its center. A few days ago, however, Director General Roberto Azevedo announced his early departure. How will this impact the multilateral trading system and the WTO? Will this further impact the security of global industrial and supply chains? Thank you.
Wang Shouwen: Thank you for your question. As you rightly said, the pandemic has struck a severe blow to world economy and trade, with a severe impact on global industrial and supply chains. After the epidemic broke out, the WTO worked proactively and took a series of measures, including calling upon all its members to refrain from protectionist steps, ensure unimpeded trade, and, should they need to take measures in response to COVID-19, notify such responses to the WTO to ensure openness and transparency. The WTO has also established a special task force with a dedicated website, both of which have played an important role.
Key WTO members recognize that a greater role of the WTO is essential for effective response to the pandemic. Last Thursday, Minister Zhong Shan attended the second Extraordinary Trade and Investment Ministers Virtual Meeting of the G20, where ministers endorsed the Actions to Support World Trade and Investment in Response to COVID-19, an action plan calling for strengthening the role of the WTO in ensuring the stability and predictability of international trade, and for exploring WTO initiatives relating to COVID-19, so as to make relevant supply chains more open and resilient, and expand the production and trade of pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and other health-related products.
You just mentioned that Director General Azevedo has announced his early departure. We respect his decision. China will work with other WTO members to ensure the normal functioning and roles of the Organization. Against the background of this global pandemic, we believe that it is in the interests of all sides to ensure openness, security and stability of global industrial and supply chains. We call on the rest of the WTO members to oppose unilateralism, reject protectionism, keep their markets open, and underpin stability of international trade, industrial chains and supply chains. Members should enhance coordination in economic and trade policies to unblock international transport and logistics, and make trade links, industrial chains and supply chains secure, stable, open and unimpeded. Thank you.
Hong Kong Commercial Daily: After the outbreak, the production and operation of some foreign invested enterprises have been affected. According to media reports, some FIEs are considering moving out of China, causing concerns over China’s prospect of FDI utilization. Minister Zhong Shan, what’s your view on that and what measures will MOFCOM take to stabilize foreign investment? Thank you.
Zhong Shan: Thank you for your question. The spread of the pandemic has affected global FDI. China’s FDI utilization also faces a huge challenge. Under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee, we will focus on the three priority areas.
First, we will further expand opening up. The greater the difficulty, the more necessary it is to expand opening up. We want to continuously relax market access, reduce the negative list, and expand liberalization of services. Some of the work is already done and others will proceed soon. We will also increase regional coordinated opening up. We have three major initiatives and strategies, including the coordinated development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, the Yangtze River Economic Belt and the Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau Greater Bay Area. We will actively push forward opening up of these regions to drive nationwide opening up. We will also step up the opening up in central and western China and the northeast rustbelt. The development environment in these areas is getting better and better. The government has also offered many supportive policies. We encourage more foreign investors to invest there.
Second, we will build platforms for opening up. The pilot free trade zones and free trade port are new high grounds of reform and opening up in a new era. We want to develop these platforms and tap into their leading and demonstrative roles. Since 2013, China has established 18 pilot FTZs, which contribute 15% of China’s FDI utilization with a batch of replicable and scalable outcomes. We will also expand the scope of the pilot FTZs, assign them a greater reform autonomy and put forth new opening up measures. We will also accelerate the development of Hainan free trade port.
Third, we will optimize the business environment. Chinese business environment is getting better and better these years. In 2019, China rose from 46th to 31st in the world’s ranking of ease of doing business, a great step forward. We will focus on the enforcement of the Foreign Investment Law, build a level playing field, protect the lawful rights and interests of foreign investors, protect intellectual property, and increase foreign investors’ confidence in long-term investment in China so that they are willing to come, stay and develop.
I want to emphasize that the advantages of China’s FDI utilization are very obvious. We have very rich and quality labor resources, strong and sound industrial supporting capabilities and a market of 1.4 billion people. I believe smart businesspeople will not give up the huge Chinese market.
CNBC：As the epidemic spreads around the world, all countries are paying more attention to this year's CIIE. How about the preparations for the third China International Import Expo? Will it be affected by the outbreak? In your opinion, how will this year's expo be different from those of previous years? Thank you.
Wang Bingnan: Thank you for your question. President Xi Jinping was personally involved in the establishment, preparation and marketing of the CIIE. It is an important measure for China to continue reform and opening up and open its market to the world. The CIIE has been successfully held twice and its functions as an international procurement platform, investment promotion platform, people-to-people exchange platform and open cooperation platform have become increasingly prominent. As its comprehensive benefits continue to expand, the CIIE is very influential at home and abroad and has been widely praised.
With regard to the third CIIE, we will host it in Shanghai, China from November 5 to 10 this year. The overall framework is basically the same as those of the previous two expos, including the country pavilion, the business pavilion and the Hongqiao International Economic Forum.
At present, the preparatory work has been carried out in an orderly manner and is progressing smoothly. Generally speaking, compared with the previous two expos, it has the following features:
First, the scale of the exhibition will be further expanded. The CIIE is very popular among enterprises from all over the world. Many enterprises believe that the third CIIE is one of the most important expos in the world this year. We plan to further expand the exhibition area on the basis of the second expo. At present, the contracted exhibition area has exceeded the level of the same period last year.
Second, the quality of the exhibition will be further improved. More first-class enterprises and products will participate in the exhibition. The Fortune 500 companies and industry leaders will continue to participate with new products, new technologies and new services. This year's new exhibitors and "small and beautiful" invisible champions will also bring their own "special products" to participate.
Third, the exhibition structure will be further optimized. According to the new development and demand of the global economy, this year we have also offered exhibition areas for public health and epidemic prevention, energy conservation and environmental protection, and smart travel. At present, more than 30 Fortune 500 companies and industry leaders in the field of public health have signed up for the expo, with an exhibition area of over 5,000 square meters. The relevant major work, such as the country pavilion, Hongqiao International Economic Forum and supporting urban services, are now progressing steadily as planned.
This year, under the economic and trade impact of the epidemic, we will hold the third CIIE, continuing to expand imports and open up the Chinese market. This fully reflects that China is a responsible major country and plays an important role in accelerating the recovery of global economic growth and building an open world economy.
We have drawn up a detailed work plan and strictly implemented measures to prevent and control the epidemic. We are confident to work with all parties to hold an international first-class expo with larger scale, better quality, stronger innovation, higher level and better results.
The first two expos received strong support from friends of the media. Every year, more than 4,000 Chinese and foreign reporters would attend and report on the expo, making important contributions to the success of the expo. I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to you and extend an invitation to friends from the press to continue to participate in the third Expo. Thank you.
China Review News Agency of Hong Kong: As we have seen, the spread of COVID-19 has dealt a heavy blow to the world economy and international trade and investment. Will the pandemic affect the signature of the RCEP agreement as planned? How is the negotiation progressing? And how do you view the withdrawal of India from RCEP? Thank you.
Wang Shouwen: Thank you for your question. The third RCEP summit was held in November last year. You might remember that the summit released a joint statement that the 15 RCEP Participating Countries have concluded all text-based negotiations and essentially all their market access issues, and tasked legal scrubbing to commence for signing in 2020. According to the statement, India has some outstanding issues which remain unresolved and all RCEP Participating Countries will work together to resolve these outstanding issues in a mutually satisfactory way.
The COVID-19 pandemic this year has indeed affected the negotiations and the organization of the meetings. But the participating countries have improved their working plans. At the beginning, we held face-to-face meetings. Now we have shifted to virtual meetings and we are holding virtual meetings more frequently. The RCEP negotiations are orderly under way. All parties are working intensively on a small number of remaining issues. 80% of the legal scrubbing of the text has been finished. Our goal is to finish legal scrubbing by the end of June.
ASEAN is at the center of RCEP negotiations. China has always been supporting ASEAN centrality. We continue to support ASEAN centrality in advancing legal scrubbing to prepare for the signing of the agreement so that the agreement can be signed at the leaders’ summit to be held within this year. We believe that, in the context of the pandemic, if we could sign the RCEP agreement within this year, it would be critical to the mitigation of the negative impact of the pandemic on trade and investment in this region. More importantly, the signature of the RCEP agreement will be significant for the rapid and robust economic recovery in this region.
You asked about India. As required by the leaders’ summit last year, RCEP Participating Countries took a close look at India’s concerns and explored mutually satisfactory ways to address these concerns. Not long ago, the Chair of the RCEP negotiating committee, on behalf of the 15 RCEP Participating Countries, invited India back to the negotiating table. China welcomes India to return to the negotiating table at a proper time. Thank you.
Economic Daily: 2020 is a critical year for building a moderately prosperous society in all respects and winning the battle against poverty. During his inspection in Zhashui county, Shaanxi province, President Xi Jinping emphasized the important role and immense potential of e-commerce in promoting sales of agricultural products. Minster Zhong, what has MOFCOM done to respond to the epidemic and advance targeted poverty alleviation, especially through e-commerce? What progress has been made? Thank you.
Zhong Shan: Thank you for your question. Over the past five years, MOFCOM has been advancing a five-point poverty reduction project, which has yielded positive outcomes.
The first point is poverty alleviation through e-commerce which, through our work with relevant departments, has covered all state-level poverty-stricken counties since last year – that is to say, all poverty-stricken counties now have access to e-commerce. This initiative has received great commitment from local governments as well as appreciation from people in those areas. In 2019, e-commerce retail sales in poverty-stricken counties reached RMB239.2 billion, up 33% year-on-year. Bringing e-commerce to rural areas has indeed benefitted local residents: China has a large population and covers a vast area, in which the mountainous regions, in particular, have been rather inaccessible. Their agricultural products and local specialties have been out of the reach of urban consumers despite a strong demand, owing to poor transportation connections and ineffective communication. This is exactly where e-commerce could fit in. For example, there is a strong demand in cities for fruit, vegetables and eggs from rural areas.
Just now, you mentioned that President Xi Jinping acknowledged the role of e-commerce during his inspection. There are actually many examples of farmers shaking off poverty through e-commerce. A family in Huan county, Gansu province makes a living by raising sheep. In the past, the father could only sell sheep to sheep dealers. His son returned to his hometown after graduation and started an e-commerce business to sell the sheep. Last year, he was able to sell all his father’s sheep, and helped sell sheep from neighboring villages. Together, they sold 13,000 sheep, making over RMB20 million in revenue. This is a brilliant example. This year, we will step up effort to boost e-commerce development in poverty-stricken areas, so as to help five million farmers find jobs with a higher income.
The second point is poverty alleviation through household services. We have launched an initiative to connect service providers in more than 100 cities with tens of thousands of villages, creating jobs for above 500,000 people in rural and poverty-stricken areas. Last year, I visited a family that has shaken off poverty during my inspection in Guangan, Sichuan. The lady of the house, who provides household services, said that her job in the city, which she got with the help of the local government, has led to an increased income and lifted her whole family out of poverty. In addition, she motivated eight other women from her village to work in the same trade in cities, and everyone was happy and satisfied. This year, we will invest more in this regard to offer another 700,000 jobs to the rural and poverty-stricken population.
Besides, we are pushing forward poverty alleviation initiatives through labor services export, industrial development and border trade. In terms of labor services export, there were 992,000 Chinese workers working overseas in 2019, over 50,000 of whom came from poverty-stricken counties. In industrial development, farmers are connected with supermarkets and wholesale markets to reduce obstacles in selling their agricultural produce. As for border trade, the trade volume registered US$51.5 billion, and support was provided to border economic cooperation zones, which has created more than 180,000 jobs, creating a more prosperous life for border regions and people there.
Facing the urgent and huge task of poverty alleviation, MOFCOM will follow through the important instructions of President Xi Jinping. We will make firm progress with the five-point poverty reduction project, so as to make a greater contribution to winning the critical war against poverty and building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Thank you.
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