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MOFCOM Regular Press Conference (February 9, 2023)

Shu Jueting: 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 session.

The floor is open.

Xinhua News Agency: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will pay an official visit to China from February 9 to 11. Can you brief us on trade and economic cooperation between China and Cambodia?

Shu Jueting: Over the past few years, under the strategic guidance of Chinese and Cambodian leaders, we have deepened and substantiated the cooperation on building the China-Cambodia community with a shared future, moved forward with the Belt and Road cooperation and delivered fruitful outcomes in the trade and economic field.

The China-Cambodia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) entered into force in January 2022. Since then, benefits have been unleashed and bilateral trade and investment liberalization and facilitation further enhanced. In 2022, the volume of bilateral trade hit a record high of US$16.02 billion, up by 17.5% year-on-year, making China the largest trading partner of Cambodia for 11 years in a row. Cambodia’s premium agricultural produces including mangoes and longans have gained market access to China, which is already the biggest export market for Cambodian rice and bananas. Practical cooperation between China and Cambodia has progressed steadily on such areas as infrastructure, textiles and apparel, process manufacturing and agriculture. By the end of 2022, Chinese enterprises had invested over US$10 billion in Cambodia.

This year marks the 65th anniversary of the establishment of China-Cambodia diplomatic ties and the China-Cambodia Friendship Year. We look forward to working with relevant Cambodian agencies to take this high-level visit as an opportunity to push bilateral commercial relations to a higher level. Thank you.

Yicai: Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao and Australian Trade Minister Don Farrell held a meeting via video recently. What does it mean for current trade and economic relations between China and Australia? It is reported that Australian Trade Minister will visit China in the near future. Can you update us on the timetable? Which topics and areas will be discussed?

Shu Jueting: Minister Wang Wentao and Minister Don Farrell held a virtual meeting on February 6. The two Ministers had a professional, pragmatic and candid exchange on implementing the important consensus reached by Chinese and Australian leaders in Bali, Indonesia, addressing each others’ key trade concerns in a proper manner and charting the course for the development of bilateral trade and economic cooperation. They also discussed trade and investment issues of interest and exchanged views on further expanding cooperation on emerging areas. The two sides agreed to make good use of trade and economic exchange mechanisms to address issues of shared interest. The two Ministers instructed the working teams to follow up on the matters determined at the meeting and work on the details of the trade and economic exchange mechanisms.

This meeting marks an important step toward bringing China-Australia trade and economic relations back on track. At the meeting, Minister Wang Wentao invited Minister Don Farrell to visit China and Minister Farrell accepted the invitation. The two sides will keep up communication on the arrangement for Minister Farrell’s visit to China.

Hongxing News: It is reported that the Biden administration has stopped approving licenses for U.S. companies to export most items to Huawei, such as items designed for 4G application, WiFi 6 and 7, and certain cloud-computing items. If true, it shows the US administration may further cut the ties between Huawei and its American suppliers. What’s MOFCOM’s comment?

Shu Jueting: We’ve noted relevant news. China is always opposed to US overstretching the concept of national security, violating the principles of market economy and international trading rules, imposing unreasonable sanctions on Chinese companies and undermining the stability of global industrial and supply chains and global efforts on technology innovation. China will firmly uphold the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies. Thank you.

Kyodo News: My question is related to the deal by the US, Japan and the Netherlands to restrict exports of chip-making machinery to China. If the three countries restrict exports of semiconductors, how does it relate to WTO rules? Will you sue them at the WTO?

Shu Jueting: Over the past few years, the US has been overstretching the concept of national security, abusing export control measures and coercing other countries to take trade protectionist measures. Such practices have disrupted normal international trade in semiconductors and other products, destabilized global industrial and supply chains and undermined world peace and development. China is resolutely opposed to this.

With respect to China’s semiconductor trade with Japan and the Netherlands, we hope relevant parties can abide by international trade rules, fulfilled their WTO obligations and uphold normal international trade in semiconductors and other products. China stands ready to work with all sides to ensure the stability of global industrial and supply chains. Thank you.

CMG: Türkiye and Syria have recently been hit by strong earthquakes. Has any employee of Chinese companies been affected? What measures will MOFCOM take in response?

Shu Jueting: We pay close attention to the earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria. We express deep condolences for the victims and extend sincere sympathy to the bereaved families and the injured. Immediately after the earthquake, MOFCOM worked with the Chinese Embassies in Türkiye and Syria to investigate its impact on the projects and personnel of Chinese companies in those two countries. So far, no Chinese casualties have been reported. Some individual companies reported damaged equipment.

In response to the massive earthquakes hitting Türkiye and Syria, the Chinese government immediately activated the emergency humanitarian assistance mechanism to provide emergency assistance for the two countries. In the first batch, an emergency assistance worth RMB40 million, including a rescue team and critical supplies, is designated for Türkiye, and an emergency assistance worth RMB30 million, including cash assistance and critical supplies, is designated for Syria. The rescue team for Türkiye arrived in the country on the early morning of February 8 and is conducting rescue missions. MOFCOM is coordinating shipment of the supplies for the two countries for their early delivery. Besides, MOFCOM is moving faster to implement the food assistance program for Syria. Two hundred and twenty tons of wheat is on its way to Syria, and the rest 3,000 tons of rice and wheat will be shipped soon.

At the same time, we support Chinese business associations and Chinese companies in the two countries to actively fulfill social responsibility by donating supplies and equipment and joining in local disaster relief efforts. Thank you.

TASS: I have two questions to ask. First, what’s MOFCOM’s comment on China-Russia trade and economic cooperation in 2022, and what are your expectations for 2023? Second, what’s MOFCOM’s comment on the possibility of BRICS increasing the use their own currencies in international trade and other areas to reduce the use of U.S. dollars in international cooperation? Is it necessary for BRICS to create a common currency? How will China demonstrate its influence in this process?

Shu Jueting: On your first question: Under the strategic guidance of our leaders, China-Russia trade and economic cooperation overcame adverse external impacts in 2022. Our bilateral trade maintained good momentum and exceeded USD190 million, and our practical cooperation has made steady progress. In the next step, MOFCOM will work with relevant departments as well as Russia to fully implement our leaders’ important consensus and keep our trade and economic ties on the track of steady development.

On your second question: In 2022, China, as the chair of BRICS, successfully held the 14th BRICS Summit and pushed for fruitful outcomes of BRICS cooperation. According to customs statistics, China’s total bilateral trade with other BRICS countries showed strong impetus and surpassed USD550 billion, up 12.9% year-on-year. BRICS countries have also actively engaged in financial exchanges and cooperation and made good progress, a significant factor for boosting and facilitating intra-BRICS trade.

It is an independent choice of businesses to pick the currency for settlement based on the market environment, operational needs and degrees of facilitation. In recent years, MOFCOM has been working with relevant departments to optimize the policy environment and encourage financial institutions to provide convenient and efficient settlement services, to make it easier for foreign trade companies to conduct cross-border settlement. In the future, we will continue to pay attention to the actual needs of companies and support interested companies to opt for trade settlement in local currencies, to further facilitate trade and investment. Thank you.

China News Service: U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on February 8 that she still hoped to visit China, and that it was important to improve communications with Chinese counterparts on economic issues. What’s your comment?

Shu Jueting: Not long ago, Vice Premier Liu He and Secretary Yellen had a constructive half-day meeting in Zurich, Switzerland. It is important the two sides maintain normal communications. China welcomes Secretary Yellen’s hope for a visit to China. Thank you.

Phoenix TV: Following the virtual meeting between Chinese and Australian trade ministers on Monday, what concrete progress has been made on the import of Australian products? Will China lift restrictions on Australian imports? Does this mean a full resumption of China-Australia trade flows?

Shu Jueting: Trade and economic cooperation between China and Australia is mutually beneficial and in the common interest of the two peoples. We are ready to work together with Australia to create an enabling environment for bilateral trade and investment cooperation, boost business confidence, and stabilize their expectations for future cooperation.

Considering the scale of bilateral trade, worth USD220 billion, it is normal to have mutual concerns in terms of trade. China has repeatedly stressed that the inspection and quarantine measures and trade remedy measures are in strict compliance with Chinese laws and regulations and WTO rules, and should not be misinterpreted as restrictive measures. China is willing to have communications on technical issues of mutual concern that arose in bilateral trade and find win-win solutions. We also hope that Australia can move in the same direction, providing a fair, open and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese investors, and promote the high-quality development of bilateral economic and trade cooperation. Thank you.

China Media Group: We noticed that recently, the Ministry of Commerce and the State Administration of Market Regulation jointly released the First Group of Best Practices of National-level Service Industry Circulation Standardization. Could you please give us a briefing?

Shu Jueting: The pilot program for national service industry commercial circulation standardization, under the auspices of the Ministry of Commerce and State Administration of Market Supervision, aims to promote innovation in the standard setting, implementation and application by regions, industries and market players. Since the pilot was launched in 2021, the Ministry of Commerce has provided guidance to 15 pilot cities and 94 pilot enterprises in implementing the pilot tasks, with the focus on the transformation and upgrading of circulation facilities, innovation in circulation methods, and standards certification in domestic and foreign trade. Efforts were made in exploring new models, new paths and new methods to enhance the quality and efficiency of circulation and the integration of domestic and foreign trade through standardization, delivering results with distinct features. Up to now, the pilot enterprises have developed more than 200 standards for commerce circulation, with significantly higher implementation rate, forming a preliminary path for standardization suitable to the conditions of the regions and the enterprises.

In order to amplify the role of the pilot program, the Ministry of Commerce and State Administration of Market Regulation have reviewed and published the first group of best practices, including 20 items in five aspects, such as innovative development of circulation enterprises through standardization, coordinated development of urban and rural circulation, green development of the circulation industry, efficient operation of logistics, and integrated development of domestic and foreign trade. These best practices are to be replicated nationwide. The concrete experience and practices of the pilot enterprises will be complied into case studies to provide reference for high-quality commerce development through standardization.

Going forward, the Ministry of Commerce will enhance monitoring and guidance as the pilot tasks are implemented, and step up efforts to replicate the best practices to benefit more places and enterprises. Thank you.

Reuters: Last month the Ministry of Commerce released a catalogue of technologies banned or restricted from export in the solar industry. Once implemented, how will these restrictions affect the development of the renewable energy industry and the efforts to tackle global warming? According to foreign media reports citing Russian customs data, Chinese state-owned defence companies have been exporting navigation equipment, jamming technology and fighter jet parts to sanctioned Russian state-owned defence companies. What is your comment on this?

Shu Jueting: On your first question. Recently, according to the Foreign Trade Law of the People's Republic of China and the Regulations on Technology Import and Export Administration of the People's Republic of China, the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Science and Technology have revised the Catalogue of Technologies Prohibited and Restricted from Export, and they have just concluded the public consultation. It should be noted that the catalogue is not about a particular industry. While soliciting opinions, we received feedback on PV-related technologies and other entries. In the next step, we will do a careful study with relevant departments and draw on sound suggestions.

In response to global warming, China has always taken the initiative to assume international responsibilities in line with its national conditions as a major, responsible country. China has always adhered to the principle of openness and cooperation, and stands ready to continue to share its achievements of green technology development with the world, promote the healthy development of the international renewable energy sector, and make China's contribution to the joint response to global climate change.

On your second question. China is a responsible major country. It has always been committed to the principle of safeguarding national security, world peace and regional security. China will assume its responsibilities from a global perspective, step up international exchanges and cooperation, and conscientiously undertake non-proliferation and other international obligations. The Government of China has always required enterprises to strictly abide by China’s laws and regulations on export control, and strictly implement measures on license management for dual-use items, so as to ensure that the relevant exports are in line with China's national security interests and international obligations. Thank you.

Bloomberg: When you talked about Australia, you just said that China stands ready to work with Australia to improve the trade environment. What efforts do you expect Australia to make to move towards the same target with China? Minister Wang Wentao also mentioned in the earlier meeting that it is necessary to improve the investment environment. There is some media coverage saying that Tianqi Lithium Corporation wanted to buy a mining company in Australia. Will there be more efforts to improve the investment environment? A second question, will China cancel the additional tariff on Australian red wine?

Shu Jueting: On your first question. Just now, I have emphasized that China and Australia are important economic and trade partners to each other, and their economic structures are highly complementary. It is in the fundamental interests of the two countries and their peoples to carry out mutually beneficial cooperation on economy and trade. On your second question. China takes trade remedy measures for related goods and strictly abides by China’s laws and regulations and WTO rules. China stands ready to communicate on some technical issues of concern in bilateral trade and seek mutually beneficial and win-win solutions. Thank you.

The Cover: Recently, USTR released the 2022 Review of Notorious Markets for Counterfeiting and Piracy. What is the comment of the Ministry of Commerce?

Shu Jueting: China has taken note of the list of so-called "notorious markets" recently released by the U.S. China believes that what was quoted in the report has not been investigated and verified, and the conclusion is not objective nor fair. The United States listed some enterprises and markets from China, but claimed that "the NML does not make findings of legal violations nor does it reflect the U.S. Government’s analysis of the general IP protection and enforcement climate in the countries connected with the listed markets. " This was very unprofessional and irresponsible, and China firmly opposes that.

The government of China attaches great importance to the protection of intellectual property rights, constantly improves the legislative system, improves the efficiency of law enforcement, guides industry self-discipline, and resolutely punishes infringements in accordance with law. China’s achievements in IPR protection are obvious to all. According to the Global Innovation Index 2022 Report released by the World Intellectual Property Organization, China ranked the 11th, and its overall ranking continued to move up for seven consecutive years.

Protecting intellectual property rights and cracking down on infringement and counterfeiting are common challenges faced by all countries in the world. Especially today, with the rapid development of new technologies, such as the Internet, it is necessary for all countries to work together to crack down on infringement and counterfeiting. China stands ready to continue to strengthen cooperation with other countries in IPR protection and jointly create a level-playing field for global enterprises. Thank you.

Shu Jueting: Do you have any more questions? If not, I would like to conclude today’s press conference. Thank you all.

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