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MOFCOM Regular Press Conference (April 20, 2023)

Shu Jueting: Friends from the media, good afternoon. Welcome to MOFCOM regular press conference. First, let me make two announcements.

First, on China’s foreign direct investment in the first quarter

From January to March, 2023, China’s paid-in FDI registered RMB408.45 billion yuan, up 4.9% year-on-year, getting off to a steady start. Specifically, the following four characteristics featured.

First, the number of new foreign-invested enterprises grew fast. MOFCOM launched the Invest in China Year events this year to attract foreign investment, with the localities stepping up efforts to go global and bring in foreign investment. From January to March, over 10,000 FIEs were established, up 25.5% year-on-year.

Second, the quality of FDI continued to improve. Policies for foreign-invested R&D centers and encouraging foreign investment in manufacturing and the updated Catalogue of Encouraged Industries for Foreign Investment are moving the needle. China’s FDI structure kept improving. Form January to March, hi-tech industry’s actually utilized foreign investment stood at RMB156.71 billion, up 18% year-on-year. In breakdown, electronics and communications equipment manufacturing, science and technology outcome conversion, R&D and design service, and pharmaceutical manufacturing reported growths of 55.7%, 50.3%, 24.6% and 20.2%.

Third, investment from some countries grew substantially. From January to March, investment from France and Germany was up 635.5% and 60.8% year-on-year. In addition, investment from the UK, Canada, Japan, Switzerland and Korea also grew by 680.3%, 179.7%, 47.7%, 47.4% and 36.5%, and that from Belt and Road countries, 27.8%.

Fourth, big foreign-invested projects were executed more quickly. The special task force for key foreign-invested projects played its part, further strengthening the synergetic coordination mechanism of regular exchanges, targeted services and accurate business attraction and driving the execution of key projects. From January to March, RMB223.28 billion was paid in for big projects with a contractual investment of over US$100 million, up 10.4%.

Shu Jueting: II. China’s outward investment cooperation in the first quarter of this year

In the first quarter of 2023, China’s non-financial ODI increased 26.3% year-on-year to RMB215.97 billion (equivalent to USD31.54 billion, up 17.2% year-on-year). In breakdown, ODI in wholesale and retail went up by 31.4% year-on-year to USD7.16 billion;, ODI in transportation, warehousing and postal service grew by 24.4% year-on-year to USD1.48 billion; and the investment in manufacturing, construction, information transmission also increased. Non-financial direct investment in BRI countries reached USD5.76 billion, a year-on-year increase of 9.5%, accounting for 18.3% of the total during the same period.

From January to April, the total value of accomplished overseas contracted projects was RMB216.8 billion, up 17.7% year-on-year. The value of newly signed contracts dropped by 1.8% year-on-year to RMB295.47 billion. The turnover of completed contracted projects and the value of the newly signed contracts with BRI countries stood at RMB116.48 billion and RMB174.89 billion respectively, accounting for 53.7% and 59.2% of the total.

That’s all for my announcement. Next, I’d like to take your questions. The floor is open.

Shanghai Securities News: China’s foreign trade beat expectations, up 15.5% year-on-year in March. What are the factors driving foreign trade up? Can this trend continue?

Shu Jueting: In the first quarter of this year, China’s import and export of goods reached RMB9.89 trillion, up 4.8% year-on-year. In March, trade in goods grew by 15.5% year-on-year. China’s foreign trade kicked off to a steady start. The reasons for such growth are manifold, including a low aggregate last year, robust orders driven by pent-up demand, smoother cross-border transportation, outcomes of sending Chinese trade delegations overseas, recovery of business expectations, among other factors. Three main driving forces are and will continue to be at play.

First, entity vitality has increased. Compared with the same period last year, 25,000 more Chinese foreign traders registered import and export, up by 5.9%. Import and export by private enterprises grew 14.4%, accounting for 52.4% of China’s total, an increase of 4.5 percentage points over the same period last year. Second, the product mix continues to improve. Exports of high value-added products such as automobiles have maintained a strong momentum. In the first quarter, auto exports soared by 96.6%. Electric vehicles, photovoltaic, and lithium batteries remain competitive, with combined exports up 66.9% in the first quarter, contributing 2 percentage points to overall export growth. Third, the market potential is gradually released. In March, China’s trade with emerging markets including ASEAN, Latin America, and Africa rose by 27.5%, 18.6% and 29.4% respectively, which partly offset the sluggish demand in the traditional markets.

Overall speaking, due to many constraints such as the global economic downturn, weak external demand, impact of unilateralism and protectionism and geopolitical risks, China’s foreign trade is still facing a severe and complex environment. MOFCOM will resolutely implement the plans made by the Party Central Committee and the State Council and work with all relevant departments to follow through the policies on stabilizing foreign trade, stepping up support for enterprises, and creating new drivers of foreign trade. We will go all out to stabilize foreign trade and upgrade trade structure so as to make a greater contribution to economic recovery and growth. Thank you.

The Paper: MOFCOM initiated a trade barrier investigation into Taiwan’s restrictive measures against the mainland on April 12. What is the progress so far?

Shu Jueting: In accordance with relevant regulations, MOFCOM decided to launch a trade barrier investigation into Taiwan’s trade restrictive measures against the mainland upon the application submitted jointly by the China Chamber of Commerce of the Import and Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal By-Products, the China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals & Chemicals Importers & Exporters, and the China Chamber of Commerce for the Import and Export of Textiles. The investigation starts on April 12, 2023 and is now under way in accordance with relevant regulations. Thank you.

China Economic Net: Recently many top executives of foreign companies have visited China to discuss cooperation and sign big-ticket investment deals, which speak volume of their optimism about and commitment to China. What do you make of FIEs’ involvement in China’s high-quality economic growth? What outcomes have FIEs achieved in their investment in China?

Shu Jueting: Since the beginning of this year, many top executives of global firms have visited China. They attended major events such as the China Development Forum, Boao Forum for Asia, the launching ceremony of Invest in China Year and China International Consumer Products Expo. Meanwhile, they had a comprehensive and in-depth study of China’s development to seek new investment cooperation opportunities. Our Minister have met the senior executives visiting China as well, where multinational companies acknowledged the strong appeal of the China market and expressed willingness to further cooperation with China and explore China’s market. Since the outset of this year, about 300 new foreign investment projects have been signed, involving key sectors such as biomedicine, advanced manufacturing, chemical industry, energy and modern services.

China will stay committed to high-level opening up, foster a new development pattern at a quicker pace and promote high-quality development, which will offer broader prospects for businesses from all countries in China. Enterprises from around the world are welcome to play to their strengths in keeping with China’s development strategy, continue to expand their investment in China and share the new opportunities brought by China’s development. Thank you.

Phoenix TV: We have seen media reports that senior officials of the U.S. Department of Commerce recently visited China, which paved the way for the visit of Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo to China. Can the Ministry of Commerce confirm this? In addition, what topics did China and the United States discuss?

Shu Jueting: Last week, the officials of the Ministry of Commerce of China met with officials of the U.S. Department of Commerce in Beijing. The two sides exchanged views on China-US economic and trade relations and strengthening communication and cooperation between the Ministry of Commerce of China and the U.S. Department of Commerce. Thank you.

National Business Daily: The Brazil E-commerce Week has been officially launched recently. Can you brief us on the relevant background and highlights?

Shu Jueting: To further expand China-Brazil economic cooperation and trade and bring more Brazilian products to the Chinese market, during Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's visit to China, the Ministry of Commerce launched the Brazil E-commerce Week to guide relevant e-commerce platforms in holding various e-commerce events with Shanghai and other provinces and municipalities, so as to boost the sales of quality and featured Brazilian products in China by setting up exclusive event venues for Brazil, live broadcasting at professional bases, and promoting core products for brands. According to the monitoring of major e-commerce platforms by the commerce big data platform, from April 14 to 19, the online retail sales of goods from Brazil increased by 92.1% year-on-year, and agricultural products such as Brazilian bee products, beef, acai berry extract and coffee beans enjoyed booming sales, increasing by 200.5%, 77.6%, 73.7% and 59.1% year-on-year, respectively. Representative brands of Brazilian shoes, such as Melissa, were popular. During the event, Shanghai also launched a variety of on-site supporting events to promote Brazilian snacks and fine wine and coffee.

Prior to this, we also held the French E-commerce Week on April 6-12, and selected more than 5,000 kinds of quality and featured products from more than 500 French brands for online sales. The online retail sales of French clothing, shoes, hats, knit goods, and alcoholic products increased by 112.2% and 44.3% respectively. The businesses of the two countries have reached many intended deals, which will bring more new choices of quality consumption to domestic consumers.

Based on the "Silk Road E-commerce" cooperation, China stands ready to work with other countries, continue to promote mutually beneficial cooperation in bilateral and regional e-commerce and share the dividend from the development of digital economy. We also hope that such activities will inject new momentum into the high-level development of bilateral economic cooperation and trade. Thank you.

China Business News: The first phase of the Canton Fair ended on April 19. This is also the first time for the Canton Fair to fully resume its on-site exhibitions since the outbreak of Covid-19. What are the highlights of this Canton Fair so far? What achievements have been made?

Shu Jueting: The first phase of the 133rd Canton Fair was successfully held from April 15 to 19 this year. Based on first-hand information from the Canton Fair, there are mainly five highlights:

First, the scale of the exhibition reached a new high. This year's Canton Fair opened a new exhibition hall, and the exhibition area of the first phase increased from 400,000 square meters originally to 500,000 square meters. As of 6 pm on April 19, when the venue was closed, the fair had received 1.261 million visitors. Both the exhibition area and the number of visitors to the venue have reached record highs. At the same time, the online platform was operated on a regular basis, and 311,000 overseas buyers participated online.

Second, overseas buyers are active in placing orders. In the first phase, 66,000 overseas buyers attended the exhibition on-site, and the turnover for export was USD12.8 billion. Many exhibitors said that although overseas buyers are still recovering, the buyers at the exhibition are ready to buy and would place orders faster. Judging from the number of orders, the proportion of medium and long-term orders lasting more than three months is close to 60%. In addition to placing orders on the spot, many merchants would also make an appointment with exhibitors to visit their factory in person, and more cooperation may be expected in the future.

Third, new themes and new exhibits keep pace with the times. In this phase of the Canton Fair, new themes such as industrial automation and intelligent manufacturing, new energy, intelligent connected vehicle, and intelligent life were introduced, attracting 762 companies to participate in the relevant exhibitions. 150 events for the debut or first-ever exhibition of new products were held, involving sectors such as industrial manufacturing, electronic and household appliances, building materials and home decoration, attracting 30,000 viewers online and on-site. There were 784,000 online exhibits during the first phase, including nearly 151,000 new products, 143,000 green and low-carbon products, 96,000 smart products and 95,000 products of independent intellectual property.

Fourth, green development stands at the forefront of the trend. The three “new” products such as electric vehicles, photovoltaic products and power batteries have been collectively unveiled, attracting a large number of buyers to make inquiries and negotiate. About 500,000 low-carbon and environmentally-friendly exhibits such as zero carbon source air conditioners and photovoltaic energy storage equipment were exhibited.

Fifth, the forums and events are diversified. During this Canton Fair, the second Pearl River International Trade Forum focused on trade digitalization, innovation for Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area's investment systems and other hot topics, with five thematic forums attracting extensive participation of political, business and academic communities and receiving enthusiastic responses. In the same period, 7 professional forums were held in the fields of consumer electronics and new energy vehicles, among others, and 44 matchmaking activities, such as the "Bridge of Trade" were hosted.

The second phase of the 133rd Canton Fair will be held from 23rd to 27th of April, which will provide an opportunity to exhibit consumer goods, gifts, home decorations, and other light industry products. The Canton Fair will redouble efforts to invite buyers, provide better services, and create a sound environment for global exhibitors and businessmen to make good deals.

TASS Russian News Agency: GACC statistics show that trade between China and Russia reached USD53.845 billion in the first quarter of this year, up by 38.7%. What’s the comment of MOFCOM on such rapid growth? What’s the main driver behind it?

Shu Jueting: Under the strategic guidance of the two Presidents, trade between China and Russia maintained sound momentum this year. Chinese statistics show that trade in goods between the two countries reached USD53.85 billion in the first three months, up 38.7%, which is proof of the potential and space for trade and economic cooperation between the two countries. We will work with Russia to implement the important common understanding of the two leaders, and work for sustained, stable, and healthy trade and economic cooperation between China and Russia under the principle of mutual respect and win-win cooperation.

Red Star News: It is reported by Australia media that the first Australian business delegation will visit China after three years, and that Minister for Trade and Tourism of Australia Farrell will visit China in the coming weeks. What’s the comments of MOFCOM? How is the trade and economic cooperation between the two countries?

Shu Jueting: China and Australia are highly complementary economies and important trading partners for each other. In 2022, trade between China and Australia reached USD220.9 billion. In the first quarter of this year, bilateral trade reached USD58.8 billion, up by 10.9%. Trade and economic cooperation between the two countries are win-win in nature and serve the shared interests of the two countries and peoples.

We noted the news that Australian business delegation will visit China. China welcomes win-win commercial cooperation and exchanges between the business communities of the two countries. China will remain committed to high-standard opening-up, deepen global industrial chain and supply chain cooperation, and open the door wider. China’s development will provide broader market and opportunities for businesses from around the world, including from Australia.

During their virtual meeting in February, Minister Wang Wentao invited Minister Farrell to visit China when he’s available. The invitation was accepted. The two teams are maintaining close communication on the detailed arrangement of the visit. Thank you.

The Paper: We noted that the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission under the US Council published an analyst report that pointed out data security issues with some Chinese e-commerce platforms, and advised the US government to remain alert. What’s your comment?

Shu Jueting: We noted that the US recently published a so-called analyst report that blames Chinese e-commerce platforms without any investigation and confirmation. The report repeatedly used ambiguous words such as “maybe” “possible” “seem”, and cited unilateral statements of US businesses that are without any authority or legal effect. China is gravely concerned about such practice, which is neither professional, nor responsible.

The Chinese government attaches great importance to data security and IPR protection. China continues to improve the legal framework, enhance enforcement, provide guidance on industry self-discipline, and remains firm in penalizing legal violations. China stands ready to work toward a level playing field for global businesses. Thank you.

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