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MOFCOM Regular Press Conference (February 16, 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.

China News Service: We have noticed that according to American data, in 2022, the total trade in goods between the United States and China reached USD690.6 billion, setting a new record in history. Although some politicians in the United States advocate "comprehensive decoupling" between China and the United States, China and US still enjoy close economic and trade exchanges. What is the comment of the Ministry of Commerce? How about the China-US trade prospects this year?

Shu Jueting: China-US economic cooperation and trade concerns the immediate interests of the two peoples and plays a decisive role in global economic growth. In 2022, statistics from both sides showed that bilateral trade between China and the United States reached a record high, showing strong resilience. This fully showcases the highly complementary economic structure between China and the United States and the mutually beneficial and win-win nature of their economic cooperation and trade.

We have noticed that the American Chamber of Commerce in China recently stated that the China market is not an "option" but a "must" for American enterprises, and the Chamber of Commerce will seize new development opportunities together with its member enterprises. The U.S.-China Business Council believes that "coupling" between the United States and China is a good strategy that will benefit the people of the two countries. China will always adhere to open cooperation and provide opportunities for the world through its own development. Thank you.

National Business Daily: We have noticed that 15-minute community service circles for the convenience of residents have been built in many places nationwide to promote high-quality development of the life service industry and keep urban economic microcirculation unimpeded. What are the main components of 15-minute community service circles?

Shu Jueting: The development of 15-minute community service circles for the convenience of residents is an important embodiment of the people-centered development philosophy and meeting the people's needs for a better life. It is also an important vessel to protect people's livelihood, restore and expand consumption, and keep the urban economic microcirculation smooth. In recent years, the Ministry of Commerce has actively promoted 15-minute community service circles, worked together with relevant departments to issue guiding opinions and development guidelines, and designated two groups of 80 pilot areas throughout the country to guide and accelerate pilot work in the following areas:

First, focusing on improving the supply facilities for community consumption. In accordance with the principle of "providing people with what they are missing", we will provide tailor-made solutions, shore up weaknesses in public service facilities, improve the types of businesses serving basic daily needs and improving quality of life. For example, we will let small repair jobs, such as shoe repair and key copying return to people's lives in an orderly manner, build diversified facilities offering services that will make life easier for the elderly and provide leisure and entertainment, and make residents' daily lives and consumption more convenient. Second, focusing on innovative scenarios of community consumption. In line with diversified and tailored consumption, we will promote the integration of various services and functions such as the circles for 15-minute community services, old-age care, leisure and recreation, develop new forms of businesses such as smart stores, incorporate multiple functions in one convenience store or community supermarket, expand convenience services, and promote new online and on-site sales models such as online booking and delivery and instant retailing to create a new engine for consumption growth. Third, focusing on growing market players of community consumption. Accelerating the development of comprehensive service-oriented business centers and neighborhood centers, encourage chain stores to settle in the community, support community consumption promotion activities, and stimulate market vitality.

To date, the 80 pilot areas have built 1,402 community service circles with 280,000 commercial outlets covering more than 32 million people in 2,766 communities. The community service circles in the pilot areas now feature more balanced commercial networks, more diverse facilities and business forms, greater vitality of market entities, and more service provision functions. Residents now have a greater sense of fulfillment.

Next, MOFCOM will work with relevant departments to launch a three-year action plan based on the pilot program and fully promote the development of community service circles to bring more benefits to the people. Thank you.

The Cover: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi completed his state visit to China today. Could you update us on China-Iran trade and economic cooperation in recent years and how to deepen and substantiate bilateral commercial cooperation in the future?

Shu Jueting: China and Iran are each other’s important trading partner. Over the past few years, under the strategic guidance of President Xi Jinping and President Raisi, China-Iran trade and economic relations have maintained a sound momentum of development despite unfavorable factors. In 2022, bilateral trade volume hit US$15.8 billion, up by 7% year on year. China has been Iran’s largest trading partner for 10 consecutive years. China and Iran have leveraged economic complementarities to advance Belt and Road cooperation and contribute to the economic and social development in the two countries and the region at large.

During President Raisi’s visit, China and Iran had an in-depth exchange on promoting the development of commercial ties and delivered a series of positive outcomes. Going forward, we will work with Iranian counterparts to implement the important consensus reached by two Presidents in trade and economic fields, deepen practical cooperation on trade, and import more quality products from Iran. We will continue to carry out Belt and Road cooperation with Iran and strengthen cooperation within multilateral frameworks such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization so as to create new drivers for deepening China-Iran comprehensive strategic partnership. Thank you.

MASTV: It is reported that trade between China and Australia will restart next month. Is this accurate? Australia expressed concerns over the Chinese-made cameras installed in various government facilities such as the Defence Department and will even remove these cameras. Will this affect the trade ties between China and Australia?

Shu Jueting: China and Australia have always had normal trade cooperation. In 2022, bilateral trade exceeded US$220 billion, bringing real benefits to Chinese and Australian businesses and peoples. Given the huge size of trade, it is normal for China and Australia to have some trade concerns, which can be solved in a mutually beneficial way through dialogue and communication.

China is always against overstretching the concept of national security, politicizing trade issues and discriminating against and oppressing Chinese enterprises, which are simply wrong. China stands firm in supporting Chinese businesses in protecting their legitimate rights and interests. We hope Australia can work together with China to provide a fair, open and non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese companies to do trade and make investment in Australia and create more favorable factors for bilateral trade and economic cooperation. Thank you.

Reuters: Could you confirm the date on which Australian trade minister will visit Beijing and meet Minister Wang Wentao? China has imposed anti-dumping duties on Australian wine and barley, over which Australia has filed complaints to the WTO. Did the two Trade Ministers discuss these negotiations in the recent conversations? Can we expect China to remove those duties soon?

Shu Jueting: According to the consensus reached at Ministers’ virtual meeting, Minister Farrell will visit China at a convenient time this year. The two working teams are in communication regarding specific arrangements.

On your second question, at their virtual meeting, the two Ministers had professional, pragmatic and candid exchanges on key trade concerns and exchanged views on WTO cases of interest. China is willing to maintain communication with Australia on technical issues in bilateral trade and look for mutually beneficial solutions. Thank you.

Kyodo News: Next week will mark one year of war in Ukraine. Will China continue to import Russian energy? Are there risks of secondary sanction? Are the import procedures of Australian coal complete? If so, What significance does it have?

Shu Jueting: On your first question, China has conducted normal trade cooperation with countries including Russia on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit. Meanwhile, we oppose all forms of unilateral sanctions and long arm jurisdiction which finds on basis in international law.

With regard to the second question, China implements automatic licensing management for coal imports. It is a normal business act for enterprises to independently decide to purchase imported coal according to their production needs, technical changes and the situation of domestic and international markets. China and Australia are important economic and trade partners for each other, with highly complementary economic mix and mutual benefits in bilateral trade and economic cooperation. At present, the economic and trade relations between the two countries faces an important window of opportunity. The two sides should work together to contribute to the bilateral trade and economic cooperation. Thank you.

CCTV-4: Some foreign media reported that the Biden administration will ban US companies from investing in a number of Chinese enterprises. What does MOFCOM know about it and will it make a response?

Shu Jueting: We have taken note of the related reports. The administration has interfered with the normal business decisions of enterprises through administrative means. Such an act undermines market rules and international economic and trade order, and damages the interests of enterprises and investors. It is neither in the interest of the two countries nor the whole world. In 2022, the amount of utilized FDI in China reached RMB1,232.68 billion, up 6.3% year-on-year, and the investment from major sources have increased. China will open its door wider to the world. We will continue to foster a business environment that is market-oriented, law-based, and internationalized. Enterprises from all over the world, including the US companies, are welcome to invest in China and share the development benefits. Thank you.

TASS: It is reported that Russia and China recently signed an intergovernmental agreement on gas supplies via the Far East route. What is MOFCOM’s comment on this?

Shu Jueting: China and Russia carry out cooperation on natural gas based on mutual respect, equal footing and mutual benefits. As for the details of the agreement, I suggest you refer to the related Chinese authorities. Thank you.

Shanghai Securities News: Recently, the first round of consultations of Version 3.0 China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (FTA) negotiations started. What is upgraded in Version 3.0 FTA compared with the previous one? How will it shape the future of China-ASEAN Free Trade Area?

Shu Jueting: Launched in 2002, the China-ASEAN FTA is the first free trade area negotiated by China with other sides, and also the first one by China and ASEAN as a whole. Over the past two decades, the two sides have made joint efforts to continuously enrich and improve the China-ASEAN FTA, boosting the leapfrog development of the trade and economic relations between China and ASEAN. In fact, the agreement has become an important institutional cornerstone of China-ASEAN trade and economic relations.

In November 2021, when President Xi attended the Special Summit to Commemorate the 30th Anniversary of China-ASEAN Dialogue Relations, he proposed to begin work on the China-ASEAN FTA Version 3.0 at an early date, which received positive responses from ASEAN leaders. After consultations, the two sides determined the scope of the negotiations, and recently formulated the procedural rules, timetable and road map for the negotiations.

The two sides will be committed to upgrading and optimizing existing fields such as trade in goods and investment, and further promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation based on the existing China-ASEAN FTA and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. On top of that, the two sides will actively explore cooperation in emerging areas, and include areas of common interest such as digital economy, green economy and supply chain connectivity in the FTA. We will enhance cooperation in the related fields, and work for a more inclusive, modern, comprehensive and mutually beneficial FTA.

The development of China-ASEAN FTA Version 3.0 can stimulate the potential of two-way trade and investment and promote regional economic integration. It allows the two sides to share new opportunities created by digital economy and green economy and jointly foster a new engine for regional economic growth. It is conducive to deepening cooperation in industrial chain, supply chain and value chain between the two sides and delivering win-win results. Going forward, MOFCOM will work with related departments, listen to opinions from all parties, step up the FTA negotiation process, and contribute more to a China-ASEAN comprehensive strategic partnership featuring peace, security, prosperity and sustainable development. Thank you.

Shu Jueting: Any more questions? If not, this is the end of today’s press conference. Thank you.

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