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Regular Press Conference of the Ministry of Commerce (November 19, 2020)

Gao Feng: Friends from the press, good afternoon, welcome to MOFCOM’s regular press conference. Since I don’t have any announcement to make today, we can proceed directly to the Q&A. The floor is open.

Market News International: The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, or RCEP, was signed successfully last week. Is the China-EU investment agreement expected to be signed within this year? How are the negotiations going and where are the challenges? Is China considering joining the CPTPP?

Gao Feng: China and the EU are speeding up the negotiation process in accordance with the leaders’ consensus on concluding the negotiations within this year. Continued intensive negotiations have produced positive results. This week, the 34th round of negotiations between the two sides is underway. This is already the ninth round of formal negotiations this year. The two sides focus on the remaining issues and move deeper with the consultations, which are expected to achieve positive progress. 

Our attitude towards joining the CPTPP is positive and open. China advocates an open, transparent, mutually beneficial and win-win regional free trade arrangement, and welcomes any regional free trade agreement that is WTO-consistent, open, inclusive and transparent, and conducive to promoting economic globalization and regional economic integration. China will intensify its institutional liberalization, and hopes that all parties can work together to promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation in a spirit of building a community with a shared future, so as to achieve mutual benefit and common development. Thank you!

Shanghai Securities News: After the signing of RCEP, the EU-China Chamber of Commerce recently expressed its expectation that China and Europe will sign the investment treaty as soon as possible, and put the negotiations of the EU-China FTA on the bilateral agenda as soon as possible. What’s MOFCOM’s response? What is the recent progress of the China-EU investment agreement negotiations?

Gao Feng: I have already introduced the progress of the negotiations on the China-EU investment agreement. Both China and the EU are major economies in the world, and are important trading partners of each other. The negotiation of a free trade agreement is helpful to further deepen the bilateral economic and trade cooperation between China and Europe. It is of great significance for promoting the liberalization and facilitation of global trade and investment and the sustainable development of the world economy against the background of increasing downward pressure on the world economy. China is willing to maintain communication with the European side and strive to set in motion relevant negotiations at an early date on the basis of the conclusion of the bilateral investment treaty. Thank you!

National Business Daily: With the signing of RCEP, China and Japan reach their first bilateral tariff concession arrangement. Does the Ministry of Commerce have any update on the progress of the follow-up negotiations of the China-Japan-Korea Free Trade Area?

Gao Feng: There have been 16 rounds of CJK FTA negotiation so far since it started in November 2012. China, Japan and ROK have exchanged in-depth views on trade in goods and services, investment and rules with positive progress being made. The signing of RCEP has created good conditions for accelerating the negotiation of China-Japan-Korea FTA. China is willing to work with Japan and Korea to overcome the impact of the epidemic, make full use of existing resources, and maintain consultation and communication through video conferences and teleconferences to accelerate the negotiation of the China-Japan-Korea FTA, and strive to achieve substantive results as soon as possible, further enhance market access and the level of rules, and build an "RCEP+" FTA. Thank you!

Hong Kong Commercial Daily: What is the impact of RCEP on Hong Kong? Can Hong Kong join RCEP?

Gao Feng: The signing of RCEP will create new drivers for regional development and prosperity, and contribute to the recovery of world economy. We will support Hong Kong in participating in international and regional economic cooperation and in joining RCEP at an early date in accordance with the provisions of RCEP for accession of new members and the actual needs of Hong Kong's development.

South China Morning Post: RCEP was formally signed on November 15. Australian Trade Minister Birmingham recently expressed the hope that the agreement will help improve trade relations between China and Australia. What is MOFCOM’s response? After the signing of RCEP, will China's import tariffs and restrictions on some Australian goods be adjusted?

Gao Feng: RCEP is a regional free trade agreement among the 15 members who have made systematic arrangements for tariff concessions on trade in goods. After RCEP takes effect, China will work together with other members to do a good job in implementing and enforcing the agreement. Thank you.

Yicai TV: The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) was signed on November 15. How will its signing influence China’s foreign trade? What opportunities does it mean for China’s foreign trade and relevant enterprises?

Gao Feng: RCEP will help foster a fair, transparent, stable and predictable policy environment for Chinese foreign trade companies and other relevant enterprises. As RCEP parties exercise tariff concessions, unblock market access, remove barriers to trade, and streamline customs procedures, trade costs within the RCEP region will be further lowered, and trade facilitation advanced, further boosting regional trade and investment growth.

For China, RCEP will diversify and optimize our import structure, unleash import potential, and increase the import of advanced technologies, equipment and components, as well as resource commodities with a strong domestic demand. In the meantime, it will help stabilize China’s export to other countries in the region. Besides, RCEP will help enterprises better operating in the region and allocating factors and resources, which will make regional industrial and supply chains more resilient. Thank you.

CNBC: What changes will take place in China’s import and export mix with other Asian countries after the signing of RCEP?

Gao Feng: The signing of RCEP will accelerate East Asia economic integration and lead to deep integration among contracting parties in the Asia Pacific region. Regional trade is thus expected to expand, and demand further unleashed. As nearly 90% of the tariffs will be reduced between all parties, the prospect of regional trade and investment growth is ever brighter. 

The signing of RCEP will effectively balance China’s import and export due to its mutually beneficial nature. For one thing, RCEP will diversify our import and increase the import of advanced technologies, equipment and components; for another, it will stabilize our export to other countries in the region and uphold the security and stability of regional industrial and supply chains. Thank you.

Economic Daily: After the signing of RCEP, 90% of the tariffs between the parties will be eliminated. What supportive measures will MOFCOM introduce to lower the cost of division of labor for enterprises along the international industrial chain?

Gao Feng: For enterprises, RCEP itself if a preferential policy. We will work with relevant authorities to complete the ratification process expeditiously and work together with other contracting parties to bring it into effect as soon as possible. Meanwhile, we will better explain and enhance people’s awareness of RCEP, so that Chinese enterprises will have a deeper understanding of it, make more effective use of relevant preferential terms, which will make our businesses and consumers benefit more from it. Thank you.

Phoenix TV: Recently, MOFCOM and the General Administration of Customs jointly published adjustments to the Catalogue of Commodities Prohibited in Processing Trade. What’s the rationale behind this decision? How will China upgrade processing trade in the next step?

Gao Feng: The Catalogue is adjusted under the directives of the State Council to enhance support for processing trade, create larger market space for enterprises, and stabilize the industrial and supply chains of this sector.

In the next step, MOFCOM will work with relevant local governments and authorities to push for innovation-driven development of processing trade. First, we will continuously encourage the transformation and upgrading of processing trade to increase its technology intensity and value added by helping businesses move into research and development, design, marketing services, branding, and other areas. Second, we will support new business models such as repairs in bonded areas to promote the integrated development of processing trade and new business modes and trade models. Third, we will leverage key junctures to facilitate the cascaded relocation of processing trade to central, western, and northeastern China. Fourth, we will make use of platforms including China Processing Trade Products Fair to improve long-term matchmaking of relevant industries across eastern, central, and western China. Fifth, we will support processing trade companies to explode the domestic market and bring more products which are produced on the same production lines, meet the same standards, and be of the same quality as products for export to Chinese consumers, so as to accelerate domestic-foreign trade integration and the creation of the new development paradigm. Thank you.

Gao Feng: This is the end of today’s press conference. Thank you.

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