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MOFCOM Regular Press Conference (May 11, 2023)

Shu Jueting: Friends from the press, 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.

Xinhua News Agency: The China-Central Asia Summit will soon be held in Xi’an. Could you brief us on the commercial cooperation between China and the five Central Asian countries?

Shu Jueting: China and the five Central Asian countries have been deepening practical commercial cooperation since they established diplomatic ties over 30 years ago. They have achieved many tangible outcomes by developing vigorous, mutually beneficial commercial ties that are rich in content.

First, ever-improving institutional arrangements. In 2022, the heads of state of China and the five Central Asian countries jointly announced that they would build a China-Central Asia community with a shared future. Under the framework of China-Central Asia cooperation, economic and trade ministers of the six countries convened the China-Central Asia Meeting of Economic and Trade Ministers on April 18 to exchange views on trade, investment, the digital economy, green development, connectivity, as well as multilateral and sub-national cooperation. To date, China has signed documents on Belt and Road cooperation, formulated mid- to long-term plans on commercial cooperation and signed investment protection agreements with all Central Asian countries, putting in place increasingly full-fledged commercial cooperation mechanisms.

Second, quantitative and qualitative trade development. In 2022, China and the five Central Asian countries achieved the target of USD70 billion of trade ahead of schedule. Their trade from January to March this year increased by 22% year-on-year with strong development momentum. At the same time, their trade mix has improved. In 2022, China’s imports of agricultural, energy and mineral products from Central Asian countries increased by more than 50% year-on-year. Its exports of mechanical and electrical products to Central Asian countries grew by 42% year-on-year. China’s trade through cross-border e-commerce with Central Asia was up by 95% year-on-year, and nearly 300 Central Asian enterprises have established presence on China’s e-commerce platforms. More and more high-quality specialty products from Central Asia are entering the China market.

Third, investment cooperation has benefited all sides. By the end of March this year, China’s outward direct investment stock in the five Central Asian countries topped US$15 billion and completed turnover of project contracting reached US$63.9 billion. We have made continued efforts to advance cooperation on such areas as infrastructure, oil and gas, mining, process manufacturing, medical and health care, education, science and technology and digital economy. A series of projects have been implemented successfully in the five Central Asian countries to boost industrial upgrading, connectivity and betterment of people’s lives.

MOFCOM is ready to work with Central Asian counterparts to take the opportunity of the Summit to build on the sound momentum of trade and investment and scale new heights in China-Central Asia trade and economic cooperation. Thank you.

Global Times: Bloomberg reported that President Biden aimed to sign an executive order before or after Hiroshima Summit scheduled May 19 to 21 that will limit investment in some parts of Chinese high-tech industry by American businesses. Artificial intelligence, semiconductors and quantum technologies may face a sweeping ban. What’s MOFCOM’s response?

Shu Jueting: We noted such report on the U.S. restricting domestic companies and attempting to coerce allies and partners into curbing investments in China against the principle of market economy and fair competition, interfering in normal business decisions, playing havoc with international trade and economic order and destabilizing global industrial and supply chains. If true, China will firmly oppose these practices.

China stays committed to high standard opening up and welcomes international businesses to invest in China and share development opportunities. Thank you.

Economic Daily: Pilot free trade zones are pacesetters of reform and opening up. What achievements have they made in foreign trade and investment the first quarter? What role do they play in stabilizing foreign trade and investment?

Shu Jueting: Developing pilot free trade zones is an important strategic measure by the CPC Central Committee to advance reform and opening up in the new era. PFTZs have fully leveraged advantages as the test ground. While putting into practice the policies and measures on stabilizing foreign trade and investment at central and local levels, PFTZs have also explored new ways to ensure stable growth in foreign trade and investment, created new growth drivers and contributed to stable development of China’s foreign trade and investment.

In the first quarter of this year, PFTZs registered rapid growth in foreign trade and investment. Import and export of 21 PFTZs reached RMB1.8 trillion, up 6.6% year-on-year, 1.8 percentage points higher than China’s total. In breakdown, export stood at RMB794.9 billion, up 8.5% and import RMB1036.3 billion, up 5.2%. Paid-in FDI in PFTZs rose to RMB71.9 billion, up by 22.1% year-on-year, 17.2 percentage points higher than China’s total. Import and export and actualized FDI of PFTZs accounted for 19.4% and 18.1% of the 21 provinces (autonomous regions and municipalities).

PFTZs have driven growth in foreign trade and investment from four aspects.

First, empowering development through institutional innovation. PFTZs seek growth drivers from institutional innovation and keep pushing for trade and investment liberalization and facilitation. A combination of measures is increasingly at play. For instance, the PFTZ in Guangdong allows paperless declaration of RCEP certificate of origin and express parcels and perishable goods can cross the border within 6 hours. Zhejiang PFTZ is pushing forward institutional reforms including providing the same storage tanks for both bonded and non-bonded oil and gas products and adding multiple functions to export monitoring warehouses.

Second, focusing on key industries to promote development. The Pilot Free Trade Zones take targeted measures for the development of advantageous industries and effectively boost the development of export-oriented industries. For example, the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone has fully implemented the Global Operator Program, supporting headquarter enterprises in adding hybrid functions such as new ways of trade and fund management. Jiangsu Pilot Free Trade Zone has deployed and implemented more than 90 key R&D projects and 49 major projects on commercialization of scientific and technological advances, and more than 3,500 high- and new-tech enterprises have settled in the zone.

Third, providing targeted services to support development. The Pilot Free Trade Zones in many localities have launched a "white list" for foreign-invested enterprises and enterprises in foreign trade and established service records, and offered stronger support for production and operation services. The Tianjin Pilot Free Trade Zone explored measures to facilitate cross-border flow of talents and issued the catalogue for the first group of overseas vocational qualifications. Liaoning introduced 22 financial measures to support the high-quality development of the Pilot Free Trade Zone. The Beijing Pilot Free Trade Zone has expanded the coverage of export credit insurance to protect small enterprises on foreign trade.

Fourth, keeping the development of services for logistics channels unimpeded. The Pilot Free Trade Zones actively expand the reach of international logistics, innovatively facilitate logistics, transportation and customs clearance, and serves the development of export-oriented economy. Shanghai, Anhui and other Pilot Free Trade Zones jointly launched the "Integrated Reform of Special Goods Inspection in Yangtze River Delta Customs", and the time for cross-border trade clearance was significantly reduced. Yunnan, Sichuan, Shaanxi, Guangxi, Hunan, Chongqing and other pilot free trade zones cooperate with local railway bureaus to promote the "single document system" of multimodal transport between China and Laos, and promote the smooth flow of domestic and international logistics.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the development of the Pilot Free Trade Zones. The Ministry of Commerce will hold a series of activities to help domestic and foreign enterprises better understand the innovative measures of the Pilot Free Trade Zones and jointly seize new opportunities for development. Thank you.

Phoenix TV: According to media reports, the European Union accused seven Chinese enterprises of selling microelectronics and other products that can be used to support wars to Russia, and has proposed to impose sanctions on these enterprises. What is the response of the Ministry of Commerce?

Shu Jueting: We have noticed relevant reports. China and Russia carry out normal economic and trade cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and mutual benefit. Chinese competent departments have repeatedly stated where China stands on Ukraine. China does not inflame the situation, let alone takes advantage of it. We resolutely oppose unilateral sanctions and "long-arm jurisdiction" against China that have no basis in international law and are not authorized by the UN Security Council on the grounds of China-Russia cooperation. It is hoped that the EU will cherish mutual trust and cooperation between China and Europe, act cautiously and not set a bad precedent. Thank you.

The Cover: We have noticed that at the recent spring meeting of the Committee on Subsidies and Countervailing Measures of the WTO, delegates from China criticized the discriminatory subsidy policies and measures of the United States and called on the WTO to effectively supervise such subsidy measures. What is your comment on this?

Shu Jueting: It is an important right given to its members by the WTO to pay attention to and challenge trade measures taken by WTO members and their impact. Recently, the United States promulgated the relevant implementation rules of the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS and Science Act, in which the discriminatory subsidy measures have attracted the attention of WTO members, including China. Under the pretext of coping with climate change, the U.S. not only adopts measures that are protectionist in nature, but also manipulates double standards in international economic and trade rules, and even follows unilateralist and trade bullying measures, which are inconsistent with WTO rules. These not only disrupt the multilateral trading system and the international economic and trade order, but also undermine the stability of the global industrial and supply chains. China urges the United States to strictly fulfill its obligations under WTO rules, correct its wrong practices as soon as possible, and earnestly safeguard the multilateral trading system.

China stands ready to work with WTO members to jointly oppose unilateralism and protectionism, practice true multilateralism and promote the WTO in playing a better role. Thank you.

Shanghai Securities: As the third China-CEEC Expo is going to be held, could you please share with us how the preparations are going?

Shu Jueting: The third China-CEEC Expo will be held in Ningbo, Zhejiang province from May 16 to 20. The Expo will be themed on “deepening practical cooperation toward the future”. Many political leaders and diplomatic envoys from Central and Eastern European Countries will join, including Serbia, Hungary, and Slovakia. Over 20 provinces and cities in China will also send their delegations. Currently, the preparations are well under way. Last week, we gave a detailed briefing at the press conference of the State Council Information Office. Considering the recent developments, I’d like to add some information.

First, the exhibition scale has reached a record high. This year’s Expo has attracted over 380 businesses from Central and Eastern European countries. The exhibition area has reached 11,000 m2. These two figures have surpassed the second Expo. Many companies are from Poland, Serbia, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Czech. Over 2,000 domestic and international buyers have registered. The number of participants to this year’s Expo is expected to be over 100,000.

Second, there will be intense trade and economic events. To deliver tangible results from the Expo, we have carefully designed a series of trade and economic promotion activities, including CEEC purchase conference, the opening ceremony of the regular pavilion of CEEC goods, and thematic promotion for Slovakia and Poland. The related authorities will also hold events such as China-CEEC Customs Dialogue on Inspection and Quarantine, Advisory Committee Meeting of the Association for the Promotion of Agricultural Cooperation between China and the CEE Countries. The China-CEEC Expo is becoming an important platform for China and CEE countries to align and communicate trade and economic policies.

Third, the Expo will have strong logistics support. We have strengthened communication with the government of Zhejiang province and Ningbo to enhance division of labor and collaboration, draft detailed plans, implement the measures for reception, transportation, security and COVID-19 control. We will strengthen IPR protection at the Expo and redouble efforts to provide the best logistics services. We expect this year Expo to be a high-standard, high-quality, high-level trade and economic event that can contribute to the high-quality trade and economic cooperation between China and CEE countries. Thank you.

National Business Daily: Australia has announced that Australian Trade Minister Don Farrell will visit China. Could you please share with us some information?

Shu Jueting: Australian Trade Minister Don Farrell will visit China between May 11 and 13 at the invitation of the Ministry of Commerce of China, and will co-host with Chinese Commerce Minister Wang Wentao the 16th China-Australia Ministerial Economic Committee in Beijing.

China hopes the visit by Minister Farrell will provide an opportunity to further implement the important common understanding between Chinese and Australian leaders in Bali. It will be an opportunity for the Ministers to have an in-depth exchange of views on how to grow bilateral trade and economic ties, and properly address each others’ concerns on trade and economic issues, and ways to move forward practical commercial cooperation between the two countries. Thank you.

(All information published on this website is authentic in Chinese. English is provided for reference only.)