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MOFCOM Regular Press Conference (June 15, 2023)

Shu Jueting: Friends from the press, good afternoon. Welcome to MOFCOM’s regular press conference. I would like to make an announcement first.

I. China’s outward investment and cooperation in the first five months of this year

In the first five months of 2023, China’s outward direct investment continued to grow. China’s non-financial ODI increased 24.2% year-on-year to RMB356.46 billion (equivalent to USD51.78 billion, up by 16.1% year-on-year). Non-financial direct investment in BRI countries reached USD63.06 billion, a year-on-year increase of 19.6% (equivalent to USD9.16 billion, up by 11.8% year-on-year), accounting for 17.7% of the total during the same period.

From January to May this year, the turnover of foreign contracted projects was RMB371.95 billion, up 8% year on year. The value of newly signed contracts amounted to RMB493.87 billion, down 2.6% year on year. The turnover of contracted projects and the total value of the newly signed contracts with BRI countries stood at USD204.46 billion and USD243.29 billion respectively, accounting for 55% and 49.3% of the total.

So much for the briefing. Next I would like to take your questions. The floor is open.

China Media Group: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas paid a state visit to China from June 13 to 16, during which China and Palestine announced to establish a strategic partnership. What will MOFCOM do to deepen bilateral trade and economic cooperation?

Shu Jueting: On June 14, President Xi Jinping and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held a meeting during the latter’s state visit to China, announcing to establish a China-Palestine strategic partnership and advance friendly cooperation on all fronts and charting the course for the development of China-Palestine relations and trade and economic cooperation.

Going forward, MOFCOM will continue to work closely with relevant Palestinian ministries to implement the important consensus between the leaders. The two sides will give more play to the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade and build more consensus on trade and economic cooperation. China and Palestine are willing to speed up the FTA negotiations and upgrade bilateral trade and investment cooperation. Palestine is welcome to take part in such events as China International Import Expo and China-Arab States Expo to promote its business environment and competitive products. Based on the needs of Palestine, China stands ready to continue to advance the projects that are in the interest of the economic development and people’s life in Palestine so as to inject new impetus and make new contributions to the development of China-Palestine strategic partnership. Thank you.

Economic Information Daily: Recently, with the upcoming May Day holiday, promotion on June 18, the Dragon Boat Festival, summer vacation and other peak consumption seasons, there have been a series of positive signs in the consumer market. How does the Ministry of Commerce view the trend of consumption in the second quarter? What measures will be taken to further stimulate market vitality?

Shu Jueting: Since the beginning of this year, the domestic consumer market has recovered at a faster pace. In the first quarter, the contribution of final consumption expenditure to economic growth was 66.6%, again making it the largest driver for economic growth. The total retail sales of consumer goods increased by 12.7% year-on-year in May, and by 9.3% from January to May, 0.8 percentage points faster than that from January to April. With the arrival of the Dragon Boat Festival, summer vacation and other peak consumption seasons, people’s consumption demand for holiday and leisure shopping, travel and others will be further unleashed. Coupled with other related consumption promotion policies and activities, the consumer market is expected to continue to maintain a steady growth in the second quarter.

In order to further stimulate market vitality, restore and expand consumption, the Ministry of Commerce will focus on the following work:

First, continuing to improve the consumption policy. We will strengthen coordination between departments and promote the introduction of a series of policies and measures to support the recovery and expansion of consumption. At the same time, based on the responsibilities of MOFCOM, focusing on promoting the high-quality development of automobile, home appliances, brand consumption and catering industry, we will introduce targeted supporting measures to enhance the coordination, synergy and effectiveness of policies and do a good job in implementation.

Second, continuing to organize activities for consumers. The Ministry of Commerce has designated 2023 as the Consumption Revitalization Year, and has successfully held the spring consumption season and the national consumption promotion month, and is carrying out a series of activities such as the green consumption season and the international consumption season. During the upcoming summer consumption season, consumption scenarios such as "618 shopping season for the Dragon Boat Festival”, "Nightlife Festival" and "Digital Consumption Festival" will also be launched. A series of diversified consumption activities will also be held in various localities. For example, Jiangsu hosted the event of "Summer Nightlife, New Consumption" and Sichuan hosted the Chengdu Food Expo for Dragon Boat Festival. These activities will run through the Dragon Boat Festival, summer vacation and even last longer, which will add more confidence and vitality to the consumer market.

Third, constantly innovating consumption scenarios. We will continue to develop international consumption center cities, promote the high-quality development of pedestrian streets, promote smart business districts, gather high-quality consumption resources, and connect business, tourism, culture and sports to create more immersive, interactive and experiential consumption scenarios. At the same time, we will build 15-minute circles to serve the community, speed up addressing weak links in convenience facilities, and strive to create a "consumption circle for happiness” at the doorsteps of the people. Thank you.

CBN: U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen recently met with American business leaders such as US-China Business Council’s Board of Directors, and stressed the importance of trade and investment with China, and told them that the United States hopes to cooperate with China to meet urgent global challenges. What is the comment of the Ministry of Commerce?

Shu Jueting: We have taken note of the statement made by Secretary of the Treasury Janet L. Yellen. As the largest developing country and the largest developed country in the world, the economies of China and the United States are highly complementary, with interconnected interests, and benefit from each other's development. Bilateral economic and trade cooperation not only concerns the vital interests of the two peoples, but also plays a decisive role in promoting global economic growth and enhancing the well-being of people in all countries. Based on the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, the two sides should strive to promote the healthy and stable development of bilateral economic and trade relations and inject more stability and positive energy into the world economy. Thank you.

Phonenix TV: During Honduran President Xiomara Castro's visit to China, the two countries signed many cooperation agreements on economy and trade. How can they implement the consensus of the leaders of the two countries and promote economic and trade cooperation? In addition, when will China and Honduras start their FTA negotiations? What are the expectations of China?

Shu Jueting: On June 12, President Xi Jinping held a historic meeting with Honduran President Xiomara Castro. The two sides issued a joint statement, announcing the consensus on negotiating a free trade agreement between the two countries and promoting pragmatic cooperation in various fields.

China and Honduras have strong economic complementarities and great potential for cooperation. At present, the Ministry of Commerce of China, together with the competent departments of Honduras, is conscientiously implementing the important consensus reached by the two heads of state, strengthening technical communication on FTA-related work, and striving to start the FTA negotiation as soon as possible. We are ready to take this opportunity to build dialogue mechanisms, tap the potential of bilateral economic and trade cooperation, and bring China- Honduras economic and trade cooperation to a new level. Thank you.

Shanghai Securities News: Could you tell us about the investment promotion event to be held in Yunnan, which will be attended by CIIE participating businesses?

Shu Jueting: To make better use of the CIIE as an investment promotion platform where more exhibitors are turned into investors, MOFCOM and Yunnan Provincial People’s Government will co-host “China International Import Expo in Yunnan”, themed “To boost dual circulation by introducing more foreign investment” from June 19 to 21. This is the fifth CIIE local promotion activity following Sichuan, Liaoning, Jiangxi and Jilin. It is also an integral part of the “Invest in China Year” investment promotion activities.

Focusing on special and competitive local industries and the needs of the province, CIIE in Yunnan will invite CIIE participating businesses and institutions in the fields of agricultural products, medical and health care, green energy, equipment manufacture, and culture and tourism. Economic cooperation promotion sessions and industry, trade and investment matchmaking activities will be held, supplemented by exhibitions, on-site visits and roundtables. We will, based on our survey of purchase and investment needs, make company-specific plans, build platforms for exchange and ensure precise matchmaking, to create more opportunities out of the market, policies and development while boosting high-quality development locally. During the event, we will also hold a ceremony to start application acceptance for the seventh CIIE, where a few businesses will sign the contract for participation.

Preparation for the event is basically completed. We look for you engagement. Thank you.

CNBC: I have two questions. Firstly, could you tell us about the trade and investment between China and Arab states this year so far and the outlook for the second half of this year? Secondly, as U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is to visit China on Sunday, what are the plans between China and the U.S. in terms of commercial meetings and cooperation, and is there a time table for Secretary Janet Yellen’s visit?

Shu Jueting: On your first question: Trade and economic cooperation is a ballast and powerhouse of China-Arab states friendship. China is the largest trading partner of the Arab states collectively, and the Arab states are an important trade, investment and infrastructure partner of China. This year, China-Arab states trade and economic cooperation has maintained steady growth. From January to April, China-Arab states trade increased by 2.1% year-on-year to USD134.86 billion. Seventeen Arab states registered positive trade growth with China, with nine exceeding 15%. Two-way investment continued to warm up. China’s direct investment in Arab states totaled USD980 million, up 2.9% year-on-year. The Arab states funded nearly 400 new foreign-invested enterprises in China, with an investment of USD1.11 billion. Infrastructure cooperation saw steady progress. The turnover of completed projects by Chinese companies in the Arab states grew by 12.5% year-on-year to USD7.5 billion. Technology and equipment were upgraded in cooperation projects, which feature growing integration of construction and operation.

China has a vast consumer market and a complete industrial structure, whereas the Arab states have abundant energy resources and are accelerating economic diversification. All this provides a solid basis for our two sides to deepen trade and economic cooperation, where we complement each other, share strong willingness to go ahead hand-in-hand, and stand to embrace bright prospects. MOFCOM will work with relevant authorities of the Arab states to implement the important consensus between President Xi Jinping and Arab state leaders, and the outcomes of the first China-Arab States Summit and the first China-GCC Summit, by increasing synergy of trade and economic planning and policies, creating and using new cooperation mechanisms and platforms, making new achievements in cooperation on trade and investment, infrastructure, the digital economy and green development, and contributing to a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era.

On your second question: On June 14, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China announced the upcoming visit of U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to China. As for other points you asked, I would like to refer you to competent Chinese authorities. Thank you.

The Paper: We noted the relatively high pressure on China’s export this year. How does MOFCOM view the current situation and the prospect of export? Will measures be taken to support export in the second half of the year?

Shu Jueting: On the whole, there are both challenges and opportunities to China’s export this year. Speaking of challenges, export is under relatively great pressure due to lack of external demand. The WTO expected global trade in goods to grow by 7.1% this year, significantly lower than the 2.6% of the past 12 years on average. Inflation remains high in leading developed economies; continued interest hikes have suppressed investment and consumption demand; import has therefore declined year on year for several months in a row. As a result, ROK, India, Vietnam, and China’s Taiwan region have witnessed remarkable decline in their exports in recent months, especially sluggish export to American and European markets. On the other hand, there are also opportunities, as China finds more diversified export markets, develops more varied products, and creates richer types of businesses. In particular, with the efforts of Chinese exporters to expand overseas market and meet the changing international needs, they can foster new competitive advantages and show strong resilience.

At present, MOFCOM, together with sub-national governments and interested departments, is making every effort to implement the policies and measures to stabilize and optimize foreign trade. We will focus on the following fours areas: The first area is trade promotion. We will support foreign trade companies in joining overseas exhibitions and trade fairs, and ensure unimpeded flow of their staff and businessmen. We will hold major exhibitions, including the 134th Canton Fair, and the 6th CIIE. Second, we will improve the business environment by reinforcing financial support for foreign trade companies, such as financing and credit insurance. We will also remove bottlenecks to enhance customs clearance. The third areas is innovation. We will foster the model of cross-border e-commerce plus industry belts to drive B2B export enabled by cross-border e-commerce. Forth, we will make the best use of FTAs. In order to improve the comprehensive utilization rate of FTAs, we will continue to ensure sound implementation of RCEP and other FTAs, improve public services, and organize trade promotion events with our trading partners. In addition, we will listen to foreign trade companies and industries to learn about their difficulties, challenges, requests, and suggestions, so as to help them reduce costs and increase profits, and achieve stable development.

The Paper: MOFCOM and three other authorities have recently published the Notice on Promoting the Consumption of Green and Smart Home Appliances in 2023. What are the concrete plans for such promotion?

Shu Jueting: The consumption of home appliances is a crucial part of household consumption. Last year, MOFCOM and other 12 authorities published the measures to promote the consumption of green and smart home appliances, which played a positive role in stabilizing the overall consumption of home appliances and unleashing the potential of green and smart home appliances. In the first five months of this year, retail sales of household appliances and audio-visual equipment above the designated threshold reached RMB313.3 billion, almost recovering to the same level as last year. Recently, MOFCOM and other authorities published the Notice on Promoting the Consumption of Green and Smart Home Appliances in 2023, which will push for the recovery and expansion of the consumption of home appliances from three aspects:

First, we will continue to hold promotional events for the consumption of home appliances. According to available statistics, the combined investments for such consumption promotion across China is estimated to be over RMB2.5 billion, with over 300 promotional events for the consumption of large household appliances. For example, Beijing will offer green consumption coupons in several batches; Fujian province will launch the home appliances shopping season to promote the consumption of green and smart home appliances. In the next step, MOFCOM, together with other authorities, will continue to enhance coordination and guidance, encourage localities with the right conditions to hold more promotional events in creative forms, so as to provide better experience for consumers and meet their diversified needs.

Second, we will move forward the initiatives for home appliances recycling and making green and smart home appliances available in the countryside. We observed continued growth in the consumption demand for the upgrading of home appliances. Sales data of major e-commerce platforms show that sales of home appliances recycling and in the countryside grew by 83.7% and 12.6% in the first five months of this year. We will enhance and implement our work plans in line with the local conditions and dynamics of the consumption market to move forward these two initiatives.

Third, we will continue to optimize the consumption environment for home alliances. After-sales services is an important part of consumption and a big concern of consumers. MOFCOM, together with other authorities, will speed up the implementation of the initiative to improve after-sales service. We will provide guidance as localities foster leading businesses that excel in after-sales service to drive the overall improvement of after-sales service, especially by addressing the lack of standard process in after-sales services. We hope these efforts can boost consumers’ confidence in after-sales services. Thank you.

Reuters: Australia’s Trade Minister Don Farrell recently said that China and Australia had identified the path for resolving all the remaining trade restrictions. Can you confirm this information? What measures will China take?

Shu Jueting: This year, the trade and economic authorities of China and Australia have maintained close communication and consultations at all levels. At the 16th Joint Ministerial Economic Commission in May this year, Minister Wang Wentao and Minister Farrell had a candid, professional, and comprehensive exchange of views on how to properly resolve trade and economic issues of each others’ concern, and discussed win-win solutions. Going forward, China is willing to work with Australia to implement the important common understandings of the two leaders, seek common ground and expand shared interests while shelving differences in the broader context of the trade and economic relations between the two countries. We hope to resolve each others’ concerns for trade and economic issues on the basis of equality and mutual benefits, so that bilateral trade and economic cooperation can achieve high-quality development. Thank you.

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