Shu Jueting: Friends from the media, good afternoon. Welcome to MOFCOM 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.
Shanghai Securities News: This year marks the 10th anniversary of the inception of Belt and Road Initiative. MOFCOM said that this year more FTAs with interested Belt and Road countries will be negotiated and signed and an FTA network covering the Belt and Road will be built at a quicker pace. What steps has MOFCOM taken and what achievements have been made?
Shu Jueting: After years of unremitting efforts, China has signed FTAs with 18 partners along the Belt and Road, including 10 ASEAN members, Chile, and New Zealand. One of the FTAs is the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is the largest free trade agreement in terms of population, trade volume and growth potential. China is also actively advancing negotiations on China-ASEAN FTA 3.0. FTA negotiations or upgrade talks are under way between China and 25 Belt and Road countries including Korea, Singapore, the GCC, Israel, and Nicaragua. We are working actively to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement (DEPA). Joint feasibility study on potential FTAs between China and five Belt and Road partner countries such as Papua New Guinea and Bangladesh. Last February, we concluded China-Ecuador FTA negotiations, which is the latest outcome of FTA cooperation between China and Belt and Road countries.
Going forward, MOFCOM will continue to develop FTAs with China’s trading partners, including those along the Belt and Road, featuring wider coverage, higher quality and greater benefits. We will further strengthen the globally oriented network of high-standard FTAs. To expand the coverage, we will push for the accession to CPTPP and DEPA, continue to move forward with the ongoing FTA negotiations and upgrade talks and sign more FTAs with interested countries. To enhance the quality, we will further open up market access and play an active role in making rules in emerging sectors such as digital economy and environmental protection. To deliver more benefits, we will step up efforts to enhance the awareness and knowledge of FTAs and contribute to maintaining stable regional and global industrial and supply chains through sound implementation of FTAs so as to bring more benefits to businesses and peoples of China and our FTA partners. Thank you.
Macau Monthly: President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Russia this week. Could you talk about China-Russia trade and economic relations? Is there plan for deeper cooperation? The China-Russia Expo, which will resume this year, has drawn attention from both China and Russia. What preparations has China made for the seventh expo?
Shu Jueting: President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Russia and his in-depth exchange of views with President Vladimir Putin on China-Russia relationship and matters of practical cooperation of mutual interest inject fresh impetus into our bilateral cooperation in the new era and prepare the blueprint of China-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership in the next stage. Under our leaders’ strategic guidance, China-Russia trade and economic relations have maintained good momentum, and cooperation in all areas have made steady headway. The two sides agree to promote both the scale and quality of trade and economic cooperation, advance trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, safeguard secure and stable industrial and supply chains, fully implement the China-EEU trade and cooperation agreement, and carry out regional cooperation up to higher standards and on a deeper level. During the visit, the two countries signed trade and economic cooperation documents on soy beans, forestry, exhibitions, Far East industries and infrastructure, to broaden and deepen bilateral cooperation.
In the next step, MOFCOM will work with Russia to implement the important consensus between our heads of state and advance the sustained, stable and sound development of China-Russia trade and economic cooperation following the principles of mutual respect and mutual benefits.
On your second question: The China-Russia Expo is a major platform to develop bilateral trade and economic relations and strengthen subnational and business exchanges. The two sides are working expeditiously to formulate a plan for the expo and designing commercial activities to create more opportunities for business cooperation. Thank you.
CNR: The third Hainan Expo will be held in Hainan in April. How has the preparatory work been going on? What are the new characteristics of the third Hainan Expo, compared with the two previous sessions?
Shu Jueting: The third China International Consumer Products Expo (Hainan Expo) will be held in Haikou, Hainan from April 10 to 15, 2023. This year’s Hainan Expo will be the first major international exhibition held by China after the stable transition of pandemic response measures. It also serves as an integral component of the “Boost Consumption Year”. So far, the applications of business exhibitors have all been received; guest invitation, supporting events, services and other preparatory work are under way in an orderly manner.
This year’s Hainan Expo has the following characteristics. First, the scale will be larger. The total floor space will increase by 20,000 sqm2 from last year to 120,000 sqm2, and the number of exhibitors and purchasers will also surpass that of the previous two sessions. Second, more quality products will be displayed. More globally leading brands in market segments will be featured, as well as premium Chinese brands and time-honored brands, and many Chinese and international brands will hold product launch events. Third, more diverse activities will be hosted. A series of promotional events, matchmaking activities, trade fairs and seminars will be held, aside from the Global Consumption Forum. Fourth, international participation will increase. There will be a marked increase in political figures, multinational CEOs and overseas purchasers who will attend the expo in person. Thank you.
China Business News: A recent U.S. ITC report says that after the Trump administration imposed Section 301 tariffs on China, U.S. import prices rose about 1 to 1, meaning that the cost of Section 301 tariffs have been borne almost entirely by U.S. importers. What’s your comment?
Shu Jueting. We have taken notice of this report. The report points out that the cost of Section 301 tariffs have been borne almost entirely by U.S. importers. Commentators believe that the report verifies the general view of trade experts that the additional tariffs are hurting the U.S. itself.
U.S. Section 301 actions are typical examples of unilateral and protectionist practices. They severely interrupt normal China-U.S. trade, disrupt stability of global industrial and supply chains, and make U.S. importers and consumers suffer. The WTO panel has ruled that Section 301 actions are inconsistent with WTO rules. The U.S. should heed the appeals in the U.S. and around the world, respect the ruling of the WTO panel, remove additional tariffs on China as quickly as possible, and work with China in the same direction to uphold stable global industrial and supply chains, in order to benefit people from China and the U.S. and around the world. Thank you.
China News Agency: During the epidemic, the Ministry of Commerce set up a task force on key foreign investment projects to help foreign enterprises solve difficulties and problems. As the epidemic control enters a new stage, is there any new considerations and initiatives for the priorities of the task force in the next step?
Shu Jueting: Since its inception in April 2020, the task force for key foreign investment projects under the foreign trade and foreign investment mechanism has made every effort to ensure sound service and support to FIEs and foreign-invested projects, in line with the decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. As an important channel for foreign enterprises to solve their problems, it has been widely recognized by enterprises and played a positive role in stabilizing the expectations and confidence of foreign enterprises.
In order to attract and utilize more foreign investment, according to the new situation and new requirements as China enters a new stage of epidemic prevention and control, the Task Force on Key Foreign Investment Projects has shifted its focus and enhanced its effectiveness by formulating relevant guidance documents for implementation at the sub-national level. The main content can be summarized as "four mechanisms": First, deepening the mechanism of regular communication with foreign enterprises--expand the scope of communication, enrich the form of communication, visit enterprises and invite them to come, listen and respond to the concerns of foreign enterprises in a timely and effective manner. Second, improving the mechanisms for problem collection, coordination and resolution, monitoring and early warning and rapid response--Expand the channels for raising issues, increase the efforts to solve outstanding common problems, strengthen forward-looking analysis and research, and comprehensively improve service provision capability. Third, establishing a coordination mechanism to connect regular exchanges, targeted services, and targeted investment--fully support the "Year of Investment in China" activities, promote business-matching to meet foreign investors’ interest and FDI needs of localities; bring in more landmark foreign-invested projects. Fourth, establishing a foreign investment coordination mechanism at the local level-- follow up on the "Year of Investment in China", accelerate the formation of "three lists" (projects under discussion, projects signed, projects under construction), timely adjust the list of key foreign investment projects, strengthen tracking services, and promote the early implementation of the projects.
In the next step, the task force will continue to play a coordination role and act as a bridge. It will work with various departments and localities to do researches and optimize the working mechanism, so as to provide all-weather and full-process services for foreign enterprises and projects in China and create a better investment environment. Thank you.
China Daily: EFE reported on March 17th that Brazilian President Lula will pay a state visit to China from March 26 to 31, accompanied by a record 240-member business delegation. The country's government officials have also expressed Brazil's interest in diversifying its trade relations with China. Can you tell us more about the economic and trade cooperation between China and Brazil?
Shu Jueting: China and Brazil are important economic and trade partners for each other. In recent years, under the strategic leadership of the two Presidents, China-Brazil economic and trade relations have been deepened, bilateral trade has steadily developed, and investment cooperation has become increasingly dynamic. In 2022, bilateral trade volume reached USD171.49 billion. China has become Brazil's top trading partner for 14 consecutive years. Brazil is China's largest source of imports of soybeans, chicken and sugar. Brazil’s important agricultural products, such as corn, have also gained access to the Chinese market with rapid growth in export. China is also an important source of direct investment for Brazil. Bilateral practical cooperation is steadily advancing in a wide range of areas, including manufacturing, energy and mining, agriculture, and infrastructure.
We hope President Lula's visit can create an opportunity to conduct constructive discussions on promoting the in-depth development of bilateral economic and trade relations, further deepen pragmatic cooperation between China and Pakistan, and promote the quality and efficiency of bilateral economic and trade relations. Thank you.
Shenzhen Satellite TV: Recently, foreign media reported that the US would force the sale of TikTok’s American operations. What is the comment of the Ministry of Commerce?
Shu Jueting: We have noticed relevant reports. If TikTok is forced to sell its American operations only because it is foreign-invested, while ignoring the products and services themselves, this will seriously harm the confidence of investors from other countries, including China, to invest in the United States. If the news is verified, China will resolutely oppose it.
The sale or divestiture of TikTok involves technology export, and administrative licensing procedures must be performed in accordance with the laws and regulations of China. The government of China will make a decision in accordance with law. Thank you.
Economic Daily: During the COVID-19 epidemic, the exhibition sector was one of the industries that were seriously affected. Can you brief on the development of China's exhibition sector this year?
Shu Jueting: Since the beginning of this year, the Ministry of Commerce, together with relevant localities and departments, has resolutely followed through on the decisions and arrangements of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, actively introduced policies and measures to promote on-site exhibitions. Thus the exhibitions have shown a trend of fast recovery.
According to the statistics of the Ministry of Commerce, in January and February, there were 184 exhibitions held by professional exhibition venues in China, a year-on-year increase of 1.1 times. The total exhibition area was 3.657 million square meters, up 62.3% year-on-year. Among them, there were 78 large-scale exhibition events with an exhibition area of over 10,000 square meters, a year-on-year increase of 1.6 times. In February, there were 134 exhibitions held by professional exhibition venues in China, up 3.3 times year-on-year, recovering to 83.8% in the same period of 2019. The total exhibition area was 2.635 million square meters, a year-on-year increase of 5.8 times, returning to 93.8% of the same period in 2019. Among them, there were 60 large-scale exhibition events with an exhibition area of more than 10,000 square meters, accounting for 44.8%, a year-on-year increase of 4.5 times, recovering to 90.9% in the same period of 2019.
At present, China has smoothly entered the stage of downgrading its response to Covid-19 to measures designed for class-B infectious diseases. A large number of overseas customers are eager to come to China for the exhibitions and explore market opportunities. Chinese businesses are also looking forward to obtaining orders and expanding trade through the exhibitions. It is estimated that the scale of exhibitions held in China throughout the year is expected to increase substantially compared with the previous year. In the next step, we will continue to improve policies and measures, innovate and optimize management and services, create an enabling environment for faster recovery and development of the exhibition sector, and promote its high-quality development. Thank you.
Global Times: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in Japan last Saturday with six ministers, hoping to strengthen economic relations between Germany and Japan. Reuters claimed that the cooperation between Germany and Japan on economic security will involve strengthening the supply chain. Although China was not mentioned by name, Japan and Germany confirmed that they would promote cooperation to avoid "excessive dependence on certain countries" in sensitive areas such as mineral resources. What is the comment of the Ministry of Commerce?
Shu Yuting: China and Germany are important economic and trade partners, and their industrial and supply chains are deeply integrated. China has been Germany's largest trading partner for seven consecutive years, and Germany has been China's largest trading partner in Europe for 48 consecutive years. The two-way investment between the two countries has reached nearly USD60 billion. The China-German economic and trade cooperation has deepened, contributing to the economic development of the two countries and bringing tangible benefits to the two peoples.
The close economic ties between China and Germany are the result of globalization and market laws. China and Germany have complementary economic advantages. There never exists the case that one side depends on the other. At present, there have been much complexity and change in the international environment, and the world economy faces a daunting recovery. It is even more necessary for all to promote pragmatic cooperation with an open mind, expand the convergence of interests, and achieve mutually beneficial and win-win results. China stays ready to work together with all, including Germany, to promote the healthy and sustainable development of economic and trade relations, keep global industrial and supply chains stable, and inject more stability and certainty into world economic growth. Thank you.
Red Star News: This year, the Ministry of Commerce proposed to hold the "Invest in China Year" in business and investment promotion. Is there any further update about this event?
Shu Jueting: This year, the Ministry of Commerce will launch a series of business and investment promotion activities under "Invest in China Year". China's localities enjoy distinctive resource endowments and industrial development. We hope that through a series of promotion activities featuring "bringing investment in" and "going global", we can fully display investment opportunities and comparative advantages of various places, let everyone know more about a diverse and inclusive China in its opening up and development endeavor, and build a platform for investors from all over the world to achieve win-win cooperation for all.
At present, the investment promotion activities of "Invest in China Year" have been gradually launched. Last week, the Ministry of Commerce dispatched a delegation to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to carry out economic and trade exchanges and investment promotion, and held the "Invest in China Year"-China-Arab and China-Saudi Arabia Investment Cooperation Forum. On March 28-29, the Ministry of Commerce and the Guangdong Provincial People's Government will jointly hold the launching ceremony of "Invest in China Year" and the promotion events for Guangdong. At present, more than 100 executives of multinational companies and representatives of foreign chambers of commerce and industrial associations have signed up.
More multinational companies are welcome to actively participate in the series of activities under "Invest in China Year", support enterprises from all over the world to visit and hold meetings in China, visit more places and see more things, fully understand the new policy for investing in China, and better grasp the new opportunities of investing in China. Thank you.
Reuters: The Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) wrote this week that inflation is the main driver for a new high in US export to China in 2022. The report also pointed out that from 2017 till now, China's purchase of American goods are far less than the predicted amount of purchase without trade wars or sanctions, and the export volume of the United States is far less than those listed in the Phase One agreement between China and the United States. Should China worry that the expansion of its surplus with the United States will lead to new complaints from the United States that China has not done enough or has not imported more products from the United States? Will the expansion of the surplus with the United States hinder China's efforts to ask the United States to reduce tariffs on goods from China?
Shu Jueting: China has never deliberately pursued a trade surplus with the United States. In the final analysis, the American trade deficit with China is determined by multiple factors, such as the economic structure of China and the U.S., international division of labor for industries, and U.S. export controls on China. In recent years, the overall foreign trade deficit of the United States has continued to expand, and the growth rate of the U.S. trade deficit with China is clearly lower than that of the U.S. overall deficit.
Based on market demand, China businesses import a large amount of agricultural produce, automobile, science and technology, energy and petrochemical products from the United States, which is beneficial to both sides. Similarly, China's export to the United States has also increased the welfare of American consumers, enhanced the competitive edge of downstream enterprises, and reduced inflation in the United States. China-U.S. trade is mutually beneficial in nature. The United States should remove the Section 301 tariffs imposed on China as soon as possible, relax export controls on China, stop trade restrictions targeting China enterprises, and create favorable conditions for businesses of the two countries to expand trade cooperation and reduce its trade deficit with China. Thank you.
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