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MOFCOM Regular Press Conference (February 23, 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.

National Business Daily: Not long ago, the State Council approved the establishment of integrated pilot zones for cross-border e-commerce in 33 cities and prefectures, increasing the number of the pilot zones to 165. Could you brief us on the development of the zones? What role have they played in developing cross-border e-commerce?

Shu Jueting: Developing integrated pilot zones for cross-border e-commerce is a major decision made by the Central Party leadership and the State Council to give full play to the positive role of cross-border e-commerce in transforming and upgrading traditional sectors and promoting digitization. To support the healthy, sustained, innovative development of cross-border e-commerce, the State Council has set up 165 integrated pilot zones through seven approvals, covering 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, breaking new ground in opening China further through links running eastward and westward, across land and over sea.

In recent years, as innovative hubs for the development of cross-border e-commerce, integrated pilot zones for cross-border e-commerce has effectively maintained the scale of foreign trade and improved its mix, and vigorously promoted the development of new business forms. Generally, the pilot zones have three features. First, they account for a large proportion. According to customs data, the imports and exports of cross-border e-commerce in China reached RMB2.11 trillion in 2022, up 9.8%. Among them, the imports and exports contributed by comprehensive pilot areas accounted for more than 90%. Second, the quality of entities in the areas is continuously improved. At present, there are about 200,000 enterprises related to cross-border e-commerce in each comprehensive pilot area, and over 9,300 of them are recognized as high-tech enterprises. Third, the industrial supporting facilities are increasingly complete. In the pilot areas, industrial parks for cross-border e-commerce have been built actively, supporting facilities have been enriched and a number of professional service providers in payment, logistics and marketing have emerged.

Going forward, MOFCOM will continue to advance the development of comprehensive pilot areas in a solid manner, with its focus on four aspects. First, a batch of outstanding pilot projects will be developed. We will guide comprehensive pilot areas to actively charter new courses and develop in differentiated ways based on local industrial advantages. The second is to cultivate a number of key enterprises. More efforts will be made to cultivate large and specialized cross-border e-commerce enterprises to enhance their comprehensive competitiveness. Third, experiences and practices will be popularized. We will select excellent cases, gather mature experiences and practices, and apply them across the country. Fourth, international cooperation on cross-border e-commerce will be strengthened. We will support entities to explore overseas markets and enhance their coordination and exchanges with other countries in making rules and setting standards. Thank you.

China Radio International: We have noticed that China and Ecuador have recently concluded the FTA negotiations. Could you tell us about it and how do you evaluate the significance of the FTA?

Shu Jueting: China-Ecuador FTA negotiations started in February, 2022. On February 16 this year, the third meeting of chief negotiators of China-Ecuador FTA was held virtually, at which both sides confirmed the conclusion of FTA negotiations. The teams of the two sides will complete the follow-up work such as legal review of the texts, fulfill their domestic procedures and work to officially sign the FTA at an early date. In 2022, bilateral trade between China and Ecuador reached a record high of USD13 billion, with a year-on-year increase of nearly 20%. We believe that China-Ecuador FTA will further tap the potential of bilateral trade, promote the sustained, stable and diversified development of trade and investment between the two countries, and push bilateral trade and economic cooperation to new heights. Thank you.

Shenzhen TV: On February 16, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce announced the establishment of a "disruptive technology strike force" and enforced related laws to protect the advanced technology of the United States from illegal access and use by U.S. rival countries. It is considered as the latest measure taken by the U.S. to prevent China from obtaining advanced technology from the U.S. through "illegal means". What is China's comment on this?

Shu Jueting: Recently, some people in the U.S. have made groundless accusations against China by setting up the so-called "disruptive technology strike team". We deplore and reject this move. China has always been committed to the protection of intellectual property rights, supported normal international technical exchanges and cooperation, and worked to improve people's well-being through technological progress.

In recent years, the U.S. has overstretched the concept of national security, abused export control and other measures, and used administrative power to intervene in technical cooperation among enterprises. Such acts have disrupted the normal market order, undermined the security and stability of the global industrial and supply chains, and hindered the recovery and development of the world economy.

The U.S. should stop smearing and oppressing China and create an enabling atmosphere for the overall stability of China-US economic and trade relations. Thank you.

Yicai TV: According to Philippine news media, on the evening of February 21 local time, the Senate of the Philippines adopted the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement. The voting was 20 in favor, 1 against, and 1 abstention. What's your comment?

Shu Jueting: China is glad to see that the RCEP agreement is adopted by the Philippine Senate. We hope that the Philippines can complete domestic preparations for the implementation of the agreement and expeditiously submit the instrument of ratification to the ASEAN Secretariat, to bring the agreement into effect for the Philippines as early as possible. China also expects that as RCEP comes into force for all its parties with the Philippine’s implementation, it will play a bigger role in building even closer regional industrial and supply chains, and in further liberalizing and facilitating regional trade and investment. Thank you.

The Global Times: This year, the chairs of Volkswagen and Kering have visited China for inspection. It is also reported that senior management of Apple, Mercedes Benz, Pfizer and other multinational corporations have plans to visit China soon. What's your comment? Also, What measures will MOFCOM take to attract foreign investment this year?

Shu Jueting: As far as I'm concerned, dozens of multinational headquarters have contacted MOFCOM to plan for business visits. That includes companies you just mentioned. This fully shows the willingness of foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs) to engage in the Chinese market and their confidence in China’s prospects. It also showcases China's strong attraction for foreign investment.

As always, we welcome business cooperation and increased investment in China, and we hope that foreign investors can share the opportunities brought by China’s development. MOFCOM will give full play to its special task force for key foreign-invested projects to better coordinate and facilitate senior executives' visits to explore investment opportunities, so that more foreign-invested projects can be signed, launched and developed at an early date. Thank you.

The Cover: The CPC Central Committee recently published its Document No. 1 for 2023, calling for “faster development of modern rural services and all-round development of county-level commercial systems”. Could you please talk about the development of county-level commerce? What areas will MOFCOM focus on in the next step?

Shu Jueting: Strengthening county-level commercial systems is a key part of rural revitalization. It is an important step to increase both farmers' income and rural consumption. Working with related authorities, MOFCOM has intensified policy support and guidance for local governments. Some achievements have been made.

First, optimized commercial networks in counties, townships and villages. In 2022, 983 integrated county commercial service centers and township malls were built or upgraded. Thanks to renovation projects, many rural marketplaces and convenience supermarkets got better conditions and became more functional.

Second, an improved rural logistic delivery system. In 2022, 506 county delivery centers and 650 township delivery outlets were built or upgraded. With resource integration and common delivery, rural logistic cost was lowered, and delivery became more efficient.

Third, rural e-commerce innovations. Last year, rural online retail sales registered 2.17 trillion yuan, up by 3.6% year-on-year. By extending e-commerce services to rural areas, local authorities expanded sale of agricultural specialties and utilized new business models such as live commerce to create jobs and increase income for farmers.

Fourth, more efficient distribution of agricultural products. In 2022, 878 agricultural retail markets were upgraded, 12 public welfare Agricultural wholesale markets were built, and 960,000 tons of cold storage capacity were added. Online retail sales of agricultural products reached 531.38 billion yuan, up by 9.2% year-on-year. A multi-tiered distribution system for agriculture products, featuring backbone wholesale markets, retail markets and e-commerce, was improved.

In the next step, the Ministry of Commerce will conscientiously implement the guiding principles of the No.1 central document, strengthen policy coordination with relevant departments, and promote the development of county-level commercial systems for higher quality and efficiency. On the basis of preliminary work, we will implement the "Three-year Action Plan for County Commerce" and strive to establish a relatively complete commercial network at county, township and village levels in qualified areas by 2025. At the same time, we will set a group of examples for county businesses, transform and upgrade a number of markets in townships and villages and new convenience stores in rural areas, and build a number of demonstration counties in commerce to play a leading role. We will also vigorously develop new forms of businesses, such as live stream e-commerce and real-time retailing, promote the high-quality development of rural e-commerce, and bring more agricultural produce to cities to increase farmers' income. Thank you.

Bloomberg: I'd like to ask if you have a forecast for China’s FDI this year, and whether some recent sanctions imposed by China on some American companies will create doubts for foreign-invested enterprises about investing in China?

Shu Jueting: Recently, we published China’s FDI in January, and I believe you have followed it closely. In January, China's FDI increased by 14.5% year-on-year. According to the data, China's FDI has maintained a steady growth in the context of the overall sluggish transnational investment around the world, which fully shows that most multinational companies stay committed to investing in China and are ready to develop in China for a long time. With the joint efforts of all, we are confident that we will continue to do a good job in attracting FDI in 2023 and help foreign-invested enterprises develop better in China. Thank you.

Caijing: At present, many market agencies believe that consumption is crucial to this year's economic growth. Will the Ministry of Commerce introduce some new measures to help release the household savings, which stay at a high level now? Will coupons be issued in a large scale this year?

Shu Jueting: Thank you for your interest in consumption. China has a vast market with a population of 1.4 billion. The growth of the residential disposable income is basically in sync with economic growth; the middle-income group is steadily expanding; the foundation for consumption recovery is solid; and there are many more favorable factors. Judging from the consumption in January, the recovery of the national consumer market is relatively strong, and there is general confidence in the recovery of the consumer market this year. The Ministry of Commerce will continue to take various measures and work with various departments and localities to restore and expand consumption. Thank you.

Bloomberg: On December 30 last year, the Ministry of Commerce issued a notice on the revision of the Catalogue of Technologies Prohibited and Restricted from Export, and publicly solicited opinions. The notice said that the deadline for feedback was January 28. When will the notice be finalized and published after the deadline for feedback?

Shu Jueting: As for the revision of the Catalogue of Technologies Prohibited and Restricted from Export, we have now completed the public consultation. In this process, we received feedback from all walks of life. At present, we are studying these suggestions carefully with the relevant departments and drawing on good suggestions. Thank you.

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

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