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MOFCOM Regular Press Conference (April 21, 2022)

Gao Feng: Members of the press,good afternoon! Welcome to MOFCOM regular press conference. Let me share with you the following information.

I. China’s outward investment and cooperation in the first quarter of this year.

In the first quarter of 2022, the industry-wide outbound direct investment was RMB217.76 billion, up 5.6% year-on-year (equivalent to USD34.29 billion, up 7.9% year-on-year). Non-financial ODI increased 6.3% year-on-year to RMB170.95 billion (equivalent to USD26.92 billion, up by 8.5% year-on-year). In breakdown, ODI in wholesale and retail went up by 36.3% year-on-year to USD5.45 billion, and manufacturing up by 13.3% to USD4.35 billion. Non-financial direct investment in BRI countries reached USD5.26 billion, a year-on-year increase of 19%, accounting for 19.5% of the total during the same period and rising by 1.7 percentage points.

In the first quarter of 2022, the turnover of foreign contracted projects was RMB184.16 billion, down 5.7% (equivalent to USD29 billion, down 3.7% year-on-year). The value of newly signed contracts amounted to RMB300.94 billion, down 13.3% year on year (equivalent to USD47.39 billion, down 11.5% year on year). 207 newly signed contracts are worth USD50 million or above and 109 worth USD100 million or above. The total value of the newly signed contracts with BRI countries stood at USD24.64 billion with a turnover of USD15.97 billion, accounting for 52% and 55.1% of the total respectively.

Second, China’s online retail sales in the first quarter.

In the first three months of 2022, China’s online retail market kept growing steadily. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s online retail sales hit RMB3.01 trillion in the first quarter of this year, up 6.6% year-on-year. Specifically, the sales of physical goods stood at RMB2.53 trillion, up by 8.8% year-on-year, accounting for 23.2% of the total retail sales of consumer goods, up by 1.3 percentage points. According to commerce big data monitoring, China’s online retail market showed the following characteristics in the first quarter.

First, online retail sales in Eastern, Central, Western and Northeastern China grew by 6.8%, 8.1%, 4.6% and 7.3% year-on-year respectively.

Second, online sales of food and drink grew by 20.8% year-on-year. In breakdown, dine-in and food delivery sales grew by 67.8% and 14.8% year-on-year respectively.

Third, China’s rural online retail sales were RMB472.79 billion, up 5.4% year-on-year. The rural online retail sales of physical goods stood at RMB430.59 billion, up by 6.2 year-on-year. The rural online retail sales in Eastern, Central and Northeastern China went up by 5%, 12.6% and 10.3% year-on-year respectively. China’s online retail sales of agricultural products reached RMB130.09 billion, up 11.2% year-on-year.

Fourth, customs statistics show that cross-border e-commerce imports and exports reached RMB434.5 billion, up 0.5% year-on-year. In breakdown, exports registered RMB310.4 billion, up 2.6% year-on-year.

So much for the briefing. Next I would like to take your questions.

The floor is open.

China Business News: Recently, the inter-ministerial mechanism for integrated domestic and foreign trade development convened its first plenary session, with MOFCOM as the lead. How will the mechanism facilitate the integrated development of domestic and foreign trade?

Gao Feng: Promoting the integrated development of domestic and foreign trade is a vital decision and plan made by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. To smooth domestic and international circulations, MOFCOM will work with members of the inter-ministerial mechanism to remove institutional impediments, help market players fully tap resources in both domestic and international markets, and see that domestic and foreign trade run efficiently. To be specific, we will make the following efforts.

First, aligning rules. We will benchmark against high-standard international rules, give full play to the role of pilot free trade zones and the free trade port as pacesetters in reform and opening-up, and step up reform and innovation to effectively align domestic trade rules with international ones. Second, harmonizing product standards. We will actively convert domestic and international standards, as well as improve the mutual recognition of inspection, quarantine, certification and accreditation. We will ensure that products sold domestically are produced on the same production lines, meet the same standards, and are of the same quality as exported products, and reduce the cost of circulating products between domestic and overseas markets. Third, connecting channels. We will give full play to exhibitions and e-commerce, create platforms for matchmaking between virtual and physical channels at home and abroad, remove impediments in the market, connect online channels and integrate different platforms. Fourth, fostering leading players. We will encourage qualified large-scale commercial and logistics enterprises to go global, foster a number of quality traders, and improve businesses’ ability and level of integrated domestic and foreign trade operation. Fifth, accelerating digital empowerment. We will promote the digital development of domestic and foreign trade, speed up the transformation and upgrading of traditional industries, actively foster new business forms and models, make business production more flexible, and facilitate the integration of related industrial and supply chains. Sixth, providing better services. We will promote the exchange of information, mutual recognition of supervision, and mutual assistance in law enforcement between regulators of domestic and foreign trade, enhance facilitation in customs clearance and settlement, and increase support for training to create an ecosystem providing integrated services for domestic and foreign trade.

In the near future, MOFCOM will work with related departments to carry out pilot projects in places selected on merit with a view to developing a number of replicable practices that can be rolled out on a wider scale and driving the integrated development of domestic and foreign trade across the country. Thanks.

Market News International: Total retail sales of consumer goods fell 3.5% year-on-year in March. To what extent does the impact on consumption come from COVID-19 and related policies? What measures will be taken to boost consumption in places where the situation improves? How do you view the growth prospects of total retail sales of consumer goods this year?

Gao Feng: China's consumer market has generally been recovering and developing since the beginning of this year. In the first quarter, total retail sales of consumer goods registered RMB10.9 trillion, a year-on-year increase of 3.3%; final consumption expenditure contributed to as much as 69.4% of economic growth, still the primary force driving China's economic growth. Overall, the fundamentals underpinning China's long-term economic growth have not changed, and the consumer market remains resilient with great potential.

In response to the frequent outbreaks of COVID-19 in multiple places in China, we will adhere to the people-centered approach and coordinate COVID-response and economic and social development. As COVID-19 is gradually brought under control, and various policies and measures to promote consumption take effect, it is expected that consumption will continue to recover later.

We will work with local commerce authorities to coordinate COVID-response and consumption promotion. On the basis of implementing various policies and measures that have been introduced, we will facilitate the adoption of targeted measures in light of local COVID prevention and control to see sustained consumption recovery and consolidate the fundamental role of consumption in economic development. Thanks.

National Business Daily: At the recent State Council Executive meeting, a new round of consumption promotion measures were put forth, including new steps to expand spending on automobiles and household appliances. What’s MOFCOM’s plan to boost consumption? What’s your outlook on this year’s consumption growth?

Gao Feng: MOFCOM will conscientiously implement the decisions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council to take multiple measures to push for sustained recovery of consumption as required by the State Council Executive Meeting. Our focus are as follows:

First, upgrade traditional consumption. To stimulate spending on automobiles, home appliances and other big-ticket items, we will deepen reform on automobile circulation, expand circulation channels of used cars, support rapid development of new energy vehicles, and encourage local authorities to promote green, smart home appliances in rural areas as well as trade-in programs. We will also implement existing policies to address difficulties faced by catering, retail and other business, and work to ensure supply of daily necessities.

Second, accelerate the development of new types of consumption. We will speed up integration of online and offline consumption, encourage the cultivation of new business types, models and scenarios, and expand new consumption types such as customized, experiential, smart and trendy consumption. We will help time-honored brands with their innovation-driven development, and stimulate brand consumption. We will also advocate a healthy lifestyle that is simple, green and low-carbon to drive green consumption.

Third, improve consumption platforms. We will foster and build international consumption center cities, further the high-quality development of pedestrian streets, launch demonstration and development projects of smart business circles and smart stores, and accelerate the development of 15-minute convenient living circles. We will move faster with county-level commercial systems, bring supply chains, logistics, and products and services down to rural areas, and agricultural products to the cities, and instruct commercial circulation businesses and e-commerce platforms to expand their business to rural areas. Thank you.

Global Times: Some reports say that the spread of the Omicron variant and countermeasures to it in China have affected the economy. What are the measures to balance pandemic response and operations of foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs) in China?

Gao Feng: The Chinese government has all along attached great importance to providing services for FIEs. FIEs are also Chinese businesses in nature, playing a key role in pursuing high-quality economic development and safeguarding stable global industrial and supply chains.

To address the impact of frequent, sporadic Covid-19 resurgence on business activities, the Chinese government has taken proactive and targeted steps to ensure smooth transportation channels, optimize traffic control measures, reroute emergency supplies, and secure supply of key materials, in a bid to help the affected businesses, FIEs included, to overcome the difficulties. MOFCOM has worked with relevant authorities and local governments to help FIEs solve problems of production restart, entry of personnel, and logistics and transport.

In the next step, we will further leverage the role of the special task force for key foreign-invested projects and work with relevant authorities and local governments in an all-out effort to see that all relevant measures be implemented, to address particular difficulties and problems encountered by FIEs through coordination, and to help ensure that companies can operate while effectively containing the virus. Thank you.

The Cover: At a national teleconference on securing smooth logistics and stable industrial and supply chains, held on April 18 in Beijing, it was required to formulate a white list of foreign trade companies to stabilize industrial and supply chains. What has MOFCOM done to help foreign trade companies reopen? Will there be further steps?

Gao Feng: To help foreign trade companies overcome Covid-19 and other impacts, MOFCOM, alongside local governments and relevant authorities, has focused on delivering real results by implementing policies and measures to stabilize foreign trade. We have intensified effort to remove impediments to air, rail and sea transport and logistics, and strengthened business-related services to tackle practical problems faced by foreign trade businesses such as logistics, movements of personnel and settlement, to safeguard the stable and smooth operation of foreign trade industrial and supply chains and help foreign trade companies reopen.

In the next step, MOFCOM will make better use of the foreign trade and foreign investment coordination mechanism, instruct local governments to step up services for foreign trade companies, and explore further steps to enhance stability and development of foreign trade, so as to remove obstacles, address problems and overcome challenges; safeguard smooth operation of foreign trade industrial and supply chains; and achieve steady increases in both the volume and quality of foreign trade. Thank you.

Economic Daily: The results of the first evaluation of comprehensive cross-border e-commerce pilot zones have been released. Could you give us a briefing?

Gao Feng: There are currently 132 national cross-border e-commerce pilot zones across the country, forming a development pattern that connects the land and sea, the east and the west.

Under the auspices of the State Council, the Ministry of Commerce has conducted a comprehensive evaluation of the first five batches of 105 cross-border e-commerce pilot zones in China. The results show that the first five batches of comprehensive pilot zones have acted in strict accordance with the message of the State Council's approval, and vigorously promoted institutional, management and service innovation, delivering impressive results. First, they have helped to maintain stability and enhance quality of foreign trade. In 2021 cross-border e-commerce import and export reached 1.98 trillion yuan, up by 15%. Growth was sustained in the first quarter of this year, hitting 434.5 billion yuan. Second, a coherent development structure, led by the eastern regions, has taken shape. Comprehensive pilot zones in eastern China have generally produced visible results, while the central region has emerged strong, and the western and northeastern regions have a number of spotlights. Third, cultivation of the industrial ecosystem has accelerated, with 70 proven practices replicated nationwide. Overseas warehouses have exceeded 2,000 and cover an area of over 16 million square meters, with optimized distribution and growing international influence. In 2021, the comprehensive pilot zones carried out over 2,000 domestic and international exchanges and cooperation. Steady progress was made in standardization, with 41 national, industry and other standards set in the pilot zones.

As the next step, MOFCOM will continue to provide guidance to cross-border e-commerce pilot zones, strengthen the cultivation of players, promote rule-making and standard-setting, scale up brand building, review and replicate best practices, give full play to the cross-border e-commerce pilot zones as important open platforms, and contribute further to the high-quality development of China's foreign trade. Thank you.

Yicai: Recently, MOFCOM has officially launched the national RCEP training sessions. How does MOFCOM evaluate the effectiveness of RCEP in the first quarter of its entry into force, and how will you promote better implementation of RCEP?

Gao Feng: According to the statistics of China Customs, in the first quarter, Chinese enterprises enjoyed 6.7 billion yuan of import benefits from RCEP, and 130 million yuan of import tariff preferences; 37.1 billion yuan of export benefits, and are expected to enjoy 250 million yuan of tariff preferences from member countries. The driving force of RCEP to regional trade is gradually being felt.

We will continue to work with authorities concerned to ensure high-quality implementation of RCEP.

First, We will hold high-quality RCEP series training activities. The national RCEP training sessions, which mainly benefit the business community, has been officially launched, and the first session was held on April 11-13. To meet the needs of different localities and enterprises, we will design more targeted professional courses, provide a rewarding experience to the participants, and benefit more small and medium-sized enterprises.

Secondly, we will provide supporting services for enterprises. We will work release information dissemination and provide online consultation on the China Free Trade Zone Service Network, to make it easier for businesses to learn about the benefits of the agreement. We will also work with relevant departments to help solve the problems encountered by enterprises as the make use of the agreement. We encourage localities to actively build service platforms for RCEP, to provide guidelines for enterprises as they apply for and enjoy the benefits of the agreement, such as tariff concessions.

Third, we will strengthen institutional building. We will hold the first meeting of the Joint Committee of RCEP Agreement with members as soon as possible to discuss the rules of procedure of the Joint Committee, the transposition of the tariff schedule, the implementation of rules of origin and other related matters, so as to provide a solid guarantee for the high-quality implementation of RCEP. Thank you.

Economic Information Daily: Recently, the Ministry of Commerce and other two departments jointly issued the Notice on Supporting the Campaign of County-Level Commercial Development, aiming to address weaknesses of county-level business infrastructure and promote the development of county-level business systems. What specific plans does the Ministry of Commerce have?

Gao Feng: According to the arrangements of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, since June 2021, the Ministry of Commerce, together with relevant departments, has actively promoted commercial development at the county level. In 2021, 834 county-level comprehensive business service centers, 1,858 township business centers and 36,900 village-level convenience stores were built or renovated. More than 80% of the administrative villages in China have access to direct express delivery.

In order to further address the prominent problems of weak rural commercial infrastructure, high logistics cost, and low quality goods and services, recently, the Ministry of Commerce, together with the Ministry of Finance and the National Rural Revitalization Administration, issued the Notice on Supporting the Campaign of County-Level Commercial Development. On the basis of preparatory work, by supporting and improving county and rural commercial networks, logistics and distribution, and other infrastructure, it paves the way for market players to bring supply chain, logistics and distribution, goods and services to rural communities and agricultural produce to the public, so as to promote the high-quality development of county-level commerce and facilitate rural revitalization.

In terms of policy orientation, we will highlight the "three focuses": focusing on counties and towns, and giving play to their roles as hubs and junctions connecting urban and rural businesses; focusing on the construction and upgrading of "hardware" facilities, and improving the commercial carrying capacity and development environment for counties; focusing on counties lifted out of poverty and key counties receiving assistance in pursuing rural revitalization, and the alignment of efforts to consolidate and expand achievements in poverty alleviation with efforts to promote rural revitalization.

In terms of specific work, we will focus on four aspects in view of the weaknesses that restrict the development of county commerce: First, we will act swiftly to fill gaps in county commerce networks and support the upgrading and renovation of a number of township commerce centers, supermarkets and farmers' markets. Second, we will improve the three-tiered logistics and distribution system at village, township and county levels, support the construction and upgrading of a number of county-level logistics and distribution centers and township-level express delivery stations, and develop common delivery. Third, we will extend and optimize the supply chain system, support a number of large circulation enterprises in bringing their supply chain to the community level, provide direct supply and sales, centralized procurement, food ordering, housekeeping and other consumer services, and improve the quality of rural goods and services. Fourth, we will improve the capacity of bringing agricultural produce to the public, support the construction of a number of commercial processing facilities for sorting and primary processing of agricultural produce, among others, and help farmers increase their income.

Considering the diversity of China’s rural areas, we will guide the localities to formulate local development goals tailored to their own conditions objectively, and make utmost efforts within our capacity to promote solid progress in the development of county-level business system and facilitate rural revitalization. Thank you.

Gao Feng: Are there any other questions? If not, this is the end of the press conference. Thank you.

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