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MOFCOM Regular Press Conference (January 20, 2022)

Shu Jueting: Members of the press, good afternoon, welcome to MOFCOM regular press conference. First of all, let me share with you the following information.

First, China’s outward investment and cooperation in 2021.

In 2021, China's outward investment and cooperation developed steadily. The industry-wide outbound direct investment was RMB936.69 billion, up 2.2% year on year (equivalent to USD145.19 billion, up 9.2% year on year). The turnover of foreign contracted projects was RMB 999.62 billion, down 7.1% (equivalent to 154.94 billion, down 0.6% year-on-year). The value of newly signed contracts amounted to RMB1,667.68 billion, down 5.4% year on year (equivalent to 258.49 billion, up 1.2% year on year). China's outward investment and cooperation presented the following features this year:

First, investment in BRI countries increased rapidly. Non-financial direct investment in BRI countries reached USD20.3 billion, a year-on-year increase of 14.1%, which made positive contribution to the economic development of the host countries.

Second, large foreign contracted projects grew in number. 560 new contracts worth over USD100 million were signed, an increase of 46 over the previous year, mainly in infrastructure sectors, such as transportation, further promoting connectivity.

Third, overseas economic and trade cooperation zones achieved remarkable development results. By the end of 2021, the overseas economic and trade cooperation zones covered by MOFCOM statistics were found in 46 countries, with a cumulative investment of USD50.7 billion and taxes paid to host countries of USD6.6 billion, creating 392,000 local jobs and effectively promoted mutual benefit and common development.

So much for the briefing. Now I’d like to take your questions. The floor is open.

The Paper: Recently, the Ministry of Commerce held the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Central Asia and adopted the Joint Initiative on High-quality and Sustainable Development of Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Central Asia with five Central Asian countries. How do you evaluate economic cooperation and trade between China and Central Asia? What's the focus in the next step?

Shu Jueting: At the beginning of the New Year, President Xi Jinping exchanged congratulatory messages with the heads of state of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties, which pointed out the direction for the development of China's relations with Central Asian countries and pragmatic cooperation in various fields. The Ministry of Commerce has earnestly implemented the guiding principles of congratulatory messages exchanged by heads of state, held the Forum for Economic and Trade Cooperation between China and Central Asia, and jointly adopted the joint initiative with the parties to further sum up cooperation experience, forge cooperation consensus and promote high-quality and sustainable economic and trade cooperation between China and Central Asia.

Since the establishment of diplomatic ties 30 years ago, under the strategic guidance of leaders of the countries, China and Central Asian countries have forged ahead together to build vibrant and mutually beneficial economic and trade relations of multiple dimensions, and achieved solid and significant cooperation outcomes. First, policy communication continues to deepen. China and the five Central Asian countries have further aligned Belt and Road cooperation with the development strategies of Central Asian countries, and established an all-round alignment mechanism for economic and trade cooperation. Second, higher connectivity of infrastructure facilitates exchanges. China and the five Central Asian countries have actively promoted infrastructure connectivity, and formed four-dimensional connectivity of highway, railway, air and Internet. Projects such as China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan Highway, China-Tajikistan Highway, China-Central Asia natural gas pipelines and China-Kazakhstan crude oil pipelines have been running securely and stably. Third, unimpeded trade brings mutual benefit. The trade volume between China and five Central Asian countries jumped from less than USD500 million at the beginning of the establishment of diplomatic ties to USD50.1 billion, an increase of more than 100 times. Fourth, financial integration helps development. China has jointly implemented a number of oil and gas, mining, agriculture, textile, processing and manufacturing projects with Central Asian countries, helping the five countries enhance their capacity for self-generated development. Fifth, closer people-to-people ties and looking out for each other. In the face of the pandemic unseen in a century, China and Central Asian countries tide over this difficult time, providing anti-epidemic materials to each other as promptly as possible. China sent medical experts to Central Asian countries and provided COVID-19 vaccines, while China and Uzbekistan also started joint production of vaccines.

In the next step, the Ministry of Commerce will work with economic and trade departments of Central Asian countries to take the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties as a new starting point, strengthen the top-level design of economic cooperation and trade, speed up negotiation and implementation of medium- and long-term economic cooperation and trade plans with Central Asian countries, and provide guidance for pragmatic cooperation in various areas after the pandemic. We will keep cooperation channels smooth, strengthen cooperation on cross-border e-commerce and other new business forms, expand the import of high-quality products in Central Asia, implement more high-standard, sustainable and people-centered cooperation projects, and keep industrial and supply chains between China and Central Asian countries stable. We will enhance the level of cooperation, tap the potential of cooperation in digital economy, promote green transformation of traditional industries, and speed up signing investment cooperation MOUs on digital economy and green development. To amplify the effect of cooperation, we will strengthen exchanges with Central Asian countries in poverty reduction experience, COVID-19 vaccine, food security, development financing and other areas, strengthen cooperation within the multilateral framework, promote the implementation of global development initiatives, and contribute to a Community with a Shared Future for Mankind. Thank you.

Bloomberg: On Wednesday, U.S. President Biden said “we’re not there yet” to lift additional tariffs imposed by his predecessor. What’s MOFCOM’s comment?

Shu Jueting: China holds that removing the additional tariffs is in the interests of China, the U.S., and the rest of the world. In particular, amid the current inflation, it meets the fundamental interests of Chinese and U.S. consumers and producers, and is inducive to world economic recovery. Thank you.

CNR Business Radio: The RCEP will enter into force in Korea on February 1. What opportunities does it mean for Chinese industries? How will it facilitate China-Japan-Korea trade and economic exchanges?

Shu Jueting: Starting from February 1, Korea will adopt RCEP tariff rates. China and Korea are closely connected by trade and economic links that feature extensive cooperation on the electronics, machinery, automobile, and textile sectors. Both sides have made high-standard openness commitments under the RCEP. This will create favorable conditions for trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, and boost high-quality development of bilateral trade and investment. At the same time, the unified massive market formed under the RCEP will further deepen industrial and supply chain connections in the Asia Pacific, which naturally includes China, Japan and Korea. This enables the parties to leverage comparative strengths and industrial complementarity, deepen cooperation on high-end industrial and supply chains, and ultimately enhance trade and investment cooperation among countries within the region. Thank you.

Economic Information Daily: It is reported recently that the footwear industry is relocating outside of China, dampening export digits. But according to our information from Fujian and Guangdong, the number of footwear makers has remained stable in the past two years, and in terms of business contracts, in 2021, Fujian footwear producers has recovered from the slump of 2020, and even outperformed pre-pandemic levels. However, they still reported unchanged profit margins despite revenue growth, as well as difficulties in transforming and upgrading the sector. Can MOFCOM provide any further information? How will MOFCOM boost further development of traditional export-oriented sectors, including footwear?

Shu Jueting: Over the past couple of years, MOFCOM has been working steadfastly with relevant local authorities and government agencies to stabilize foreign trade and ensure smooth operation of foreign trade industrial and supply chains. With these efforts, China’s foreign trade has overcome numerous challenges and registered rapid growth. Specifically, for labor-intensive industries such as footwear, MOFCOM has introduced a series of policies and measures targeted at their difficulties and concerns, including certifying national bases for transformation and upgrading for foreign trade of footwear and intensifying support, holding overseas footwear brand exhibitions to help businesses explore the international market, and mitigating pressure on international logistics. Meanwhile, foreign trade companies have also made arduous efforts to push for transformation, upgrading, and increasing competitiveness of the sector. As a result, the quantity and prices of footwear export have both registered growth.

In 2021, China exported US$47.9 billion worth of footwear, up 35%. The prices of exported footwear continued rising, by a margin of 15% last year. The industrial and supply chains of the footwear sector demonstrated strong resilience, playing a positive part in stabilizing foreign trade. by locality, Fujian and Guangdong remained the two largest footwear exporting provinces, whose export value from January to November reached US$11.9 billion and US$10.7 billion, growing by 38% and 17% respectively. Together, they accounted for 44% of China’s total footwear export. Meanwhile, we also noticed that in 2021, global supply chain suffered from local disruptions, international logistics prices stayed at a high level, and problems lingered such as scarce and expensive labor and rising costs of raw materials, energy and resources. Consequently, overall costs of companies rose, and certain businesses saw only increased revenue, not increased profits.

The traditional, competitive foreign trade sectors play a significant role in supporting market entities, as well as ensuring stability in employment, foreign trade, and expectations. The Opinions on Conducting Cross-Cyclical Adjustments to Further Stabilizing Foreign Trade, recently published by the State Council, clearly states that local authorities should implement policies and measures to help exporters of labor-intensive products, footwear included, to reduce burden, stabilize employment, and create new jobs; should intensify policy support such export credit and export credit insurance in manners complying with WTO rules; and are encouraged to establish routine employment monitoring mechanisms for designated foreign trade entities, to understand employment dynamics in time and apply targeted supportive measures. MOFCOM will firmly implement the decisions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council and do our best to enact policies stabilizing foreign trade. We will make good use of platforms like foreign trade transformation and upgrading bases and overseas brand exhibitions, encourage traditional sectors such as footwear to develop new business types and models, enhance trade liberalization and facilitation, help businesses explore international markets, and do our best to ensure stable and smooth industrial and supply chains, so as to promote high-quality development of traditional export-oriented sectors. Thank you.

Cover News: As the Spring Festival is approaching, what measures will MOFCOM take to promote consumption and further unleash the consumption potential?

As a traditional festival in China, the Spring Festival is also a high season for shopping. MOFCOM will give equal attention to COVID control and consumption promotion, guide local governments to fully implement the COVID containment measures and ensure stable market supply during the holidays, to better meet the consumption demands of the public.

First, invigorate the market. MOFOCM will work with relevant departments to co-organize a one-month shopping event - the “Spring Festival Online Shopping Event”. Major e-commerce platforms will remain open during the holiday period, and provide more green, smart and quality products as well as meal sets and customized New Year Eve’s dinners that cater to consumers’ demands for the festival. While ensuring proper epidemic control, localities will arrange various consumption promotion events both online and on-site.  

Second, ensure market supply. We will guide distributors to work as usual during the festival and urge them to step up sourcing efforts so that market supply is sufficient. We will also work with relevant departments to allocate central reserves of beef and lamb to certain provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities, guide local governments to replenish their own reserves, and dispatch storable vegetables and other daily necessities if necessary. We will guide the COVID-affected areas to partner with nearby cities or provinces at different levels to ensure stable supply of daily goods.

As is monitored by MOFCOM, the supply of daily necessities in all localities is generally adequate with stable prices. Sales of special purchases for the Spring Festival, premium fresh food, winter clothes, smart home appliances, flowers and plants are very strong. Time-honored and featured restaurants are well-received and winter sports such as skiing and skating are quite popular. The consumption market has kicked off to a good start this year. During the holiday period, commercial departments at all levels will strengthen market monitoring and emergency response, further promote consumption and maintain stable supply, so as to create a sound environment for the public to celebrate the Spring Festival. Thank you.

That concludes today’s press conference. Thank you all.

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