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MOFCOM Regular Press Conference (August 31, 2023)

Shu Jueting: Friends from the press, good afternoon. Welcome to MOFCOM’s regular press conference. Let me first share a piece of information.

It is about the development of China’s trade in services from January to July, 2023.

From January to July, 2023, China’s services trade maintained the momentum of growth, hitting RMB3666.91 billion, up 8.1% year-on-year. In breakdown, exports were down by 6.3% to RMB1538.5 billion, while imports went up by 21.6% to RMB2128.41 billion, with a deficit of RMB589.91 billion. The main characteristics are as follows.

First, the percentage of knowledge-intensive services trade went up. From January to July, knowledge-intensive services trade increased 11.7% year-on-year to reach RMB1583.87 billion, whose share in total trade in services rose by 1.4 percentage points to 43.2%. In breakdown, exports went up 15.1% to RMB915.74 billion and imports rose 7.3% to RMB668.13 billion.

Second, travel service rebounded. From January to July, travel service imports and exports reached RMB768.13 billion, up 66.2% year-on-year, which makes it the fastest growing services trade sector. More specifically, exports were up 55.8% and imports grew 67%.

So much for the information. Now I’d like to open up for questions. The floor is open.

CCTV-4: US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo visited China from August 27 to 30. China and the US agreed to establish new communication mechanisms. What is China’s comment? What was discussed at the meetings between China and the US?

Shu Jueting: China-US trade and economic relations do not only concern the two countries, but also have a global impact and draw wide attention. To further implement the important consensus of the two presidents in Bali, US Commerce Secretary Raimondo visited China from August 27 to 30 at the invitation of Minister Wang Wentao of Commerce.

On August 28, Minister Wang Wentao and Secretary Raimondo held talks and reached specific and practical outcomes. China and the US agreed to establish multi-tiered communication channels between the commerce authorities to strengthen communication on the trade and economic front. First, Minister Wang Wentao and Secretary Raimondo agreed to stay in regular communication with timely and direct discussion on important issues and meet at least once a year. Second, the two sides will set up a working group with US and Chinese officials at Vice Minister and DG levels, which will meet twice a year at the Vice Minister level and involve business representatives from both sides. The working group will focus on the concerns of the two business communities and commit itself to exploring solutions to specific commercial issues. Third, the two sides launched an export control information exchange as a mechanism for explaining respective export control regimes and improving communication. The two sides will conduct exchanges on export control in accordance with their respective laws. The mechanism will help both governments strengthen understanding of and communication on each other’s export control policies and express business communities’ concerns.

The establishment of these communication channels provides important platforms for the commerce authorities of both sides to have institutionalized and regular discussions on trade and economic issues of concern. It is a major move to stabilize Sino-US commercial relations and create an enabling environment for practical cooperation between the two countries’ business communities.

Besides, the two sides discussed and agreed to have experts engage in technical consultations on strengthening protection of trade secrets and confidential business information in the course of administrative licensing.

Minister Wang Wentao and Secretary Raimondo had a rational, practical, professional and in-depth exchange on trade and economic issues of concern to the two sides. China expressed serious concern about US Section 301 tariffs, semiconductor policy, two-way investment restrictions, discriminatory subsidies and sanctions on Chinese companies, emphasizing that generalizing national security is not conducive to normal commercial exchanges. Unilateral and protectionist measures breach market rules and fair play, will only serve to undermine global industrial chain and supply chain security and stability, and dampen business expectations and atmosphere for cooperation. Recently, some foreign-invested companies, including those from the US, reported to us that they had cultivated the Chinese market for decades and were keen to expand business in China. That said, the biggest risk facing their investment and operations in China was Sino-US relations, significantly increasing instability over business expectations. We believe that the best derisking is to return to the two presidents’ consensus in Bali and bring Sino-US trade and economic relationship back to a healthy and stable track to tap its role of ballast, stabilize business expectations, and boost business confidence in trade and investment.

China is committed to its basic state policy of reform and opening up and works to build a market-oriented, law-based and worldclass business environment. From January to July, China’s paid-in investment from the US was up 25.5% year-on-year, speaking to US companies’ confidence in China’s business environment. Recently, the State Council announced 24 policy measures in 6 categories in the Opinions to Further Optimize the Environment for Foreign Investment and Increase Efforts to Attract Foreign Investment to create a more favourable investment environment for foreign investors. At present, MOFCOM is working with related departments and localities to deliver the measures. China will only open its door to the outside world wider and wider and continue to welcome companies from across the world, including the US, to invest and share in development opportunities in China. Thank you.

China Economic Net: The 2023 CIFTIS will open very soon. What changes and highlights do you expect of this year’s exhibitors? What role will the Fair play in promoting the steady development of trade in services?

Shu Jueting: In his congratulatory letter to the Fair in 2022, President Xi Jinping noted that CIFTIS was a key platform for China to expand opening up, deepen cooperation and lead innovation. Under the theme of Opening up Leads Development, Cooperation Delivers the Future, the 2023 edition will play a key role in three areas. First, it will promote the high-level opening up of trade in services. This edition will provide an important window for all to explore new ideas, trends and pathways for the open development of services and trade in services. Second, it will deepen practical cooperation on services trade, with a focus on international cooperation and on-site activities and continued participation of trading missions for more practical outcomes. Third, it will activate the innovation dynamics for services trade by further underlining the pioneering role of science and technology, model and business type innovation to renew the momentum and motivation for trade in services.

Currently, the preparations for the Fair are ready. This edition will feature an expanded business exhibition. A total of 2400 companies will attend on site, including over 500 Fortune Global 500 companies and industry champions, with a exhibition area of 155,000 square meters, all greater than the last edition. The exhibitors are more global and specialized. With 59 countries and 24 international organizations setting up stalls, 12 more than last year, the Fair’s global content will exceed 20%. The Fair will also see the release of authoritative outcomes, such as the Report on the Development of China’s Services Trade and the Report on the Development of World Tourism Cities.

You are welcome to cover the event. Thank you.

Reuters: Since China’s exports are slowing down, did Minister Wang Wentao mention to US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo at the meeting that the US is expected to import more Chinese goods? Did they discuss reducing or eliminating the tariffs currently imposed on each other’s imports?

Shu Jueting: I have already briefed you on what has been discussed at the bilateral meeting. China is always opposed to the US imposing Section 301 tariffs on China and has expressed grave concern over this at the meeting. The Section 301 tariffs on Chinese products, which have lasted for five years, have seriously disrupted normal trade between China and the US, placed additional economic burdens to enterprises of the two countries and US consumers, destabilized the global trade order, and undermined global economic stability and security. The WTO has also explicitly ruled that the US Section 301 tariffs had violated WTO rules. The elimination of all tariffs on China’s products is in the interest of both countries and the whole world. Thank you.

Economic Information Daily: China’s foreign trade has been under pressure in recent months, but there are some new bright spots. For example, 478,000 private enterprises were involved in foreign trade in the first seven months, an increase of 36,000 year-on-year. How does the Ministry of Commerce view the endogenous driving forces of China’s foreign trade? What are the specific measures and arrangements to further reduce the burden and increase the vitality of foreign trade enterprises?

Shu Jueting: Since the beginning of this year, China’s foreign trade has withstood multiple pressures. In the context of falling demand in the international market, imports and exports from January to July increased by 0.4% in renminbi terms (the same below). Generally speaking, China’s foreign trade has maintained a steady momentum with strong resilience and ever-growing impetus as reflected in the following three aspects.

From the perspective of the exporters and importers, the quantity and vitality of foreign trade enterprises have both increased. Businesses are the cornerstone of foreign trade development. From January to July this year, more than 550,000 foreign trade enterprises were engaged in import and export, an increase of 5.1%. Among them, 478,000 were private enterprises, accounting for more than 80%, and continued to serve as the stabilizer of foreign trade. Business entities seized opportunities for development by increasing research and development investment, focusing on market segmentation, integrating industrial resources, and establishing digital supply chains. They have shown great resilience and creativity.

From the perspective of products, the export competitiveness of high-quality, high-tech and high value-added products has increased. Exports of the new energy vehicles, photovoltaic products and lithium-ion batteries remained robust, with a combined increase of 51% from January to July. The industrial and technological level of China’s NEV industry continues to rise, with ever-improving overseas marketing channels and after-sales service system. China’s NEVs have been exported to more than 160 countries and regions.

From the perspective of business forms, the new driving forces for foreign trade development are released at a faster pace. Cross-border e-commerce grew rapidly, with import and export up by 16% in the first half of the year. Its proportion of overall foreign trade has risen from less than 1% five years ago to about 5%. More than 100,000 entities are involved in cross-border e-commerce business. There are nearly 700 industrial parks of all kinds. New models such as live streaming e-commerce and social e-commerce continue to emerge, becoming an important channel for exports.

Going forward, we will work to reduce the burden and increase the vitality of foreign trade enterprises from the following aspects.

Facilitating cross-border business personnel exchanges. We will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the National Immigration Administration and other agencies to jointly promote the resumption of flights by Chinese and foreign airlines and provide more convenient entry and exit visa services.

Supporting enterprises in participating in exhibitions at home and abroad. We will continue to hold important exhibitions such as the CIIE, the Canton Fair and the CIFTIS. We will step up support for foreign trade enterprise in sending people to participate in overseas exhibitions and carry out overseas marketing.

Strengthening financial services for foreign trade. We will increase export credit support for foreign trade enterprises, especially small, medium and micro ones. We will expand the scope and coverage of export credit insurance to help enterprises expand their markets.

In the near future, we will introduce more special policies and measures to upgrade processing trade and promote trade cooperation in new energy vehicles to ensure the stability and quality of imports and exports. Thank you.

Red Star News: The Netherlands announced that on September 1 additional export control measures would enter into force for advanced semiconductor manufacturing equipment. Is there any update of the consultations between China and the Netherlands on this issue?

Shu Jueting: The Chinese government maintains communication and exchanges with relevant countries in the field of export control. China hopes that all parties, including the Netherlands, will uphold an objective and fair position and market principles, abide by the spirit of contracts and international rules, safeguard a free and open international trade order, and protect the legitimate rights and interests of enterprises. Thank you

Kyodo News: As the impact of Japan’s discharge of treated water into the sea expands on every aspect, there are calls for a boycott of Japanese goods. What is the comment of the Ministry of Commerce? At their meeting, Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao and US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo agreed to establish new communication channels, including working groups and annual ministerial meetings. How does the Ministry of Commerce evaluate these achievements?

Shu Jueting: The Chinese Foreign Ministry has responded to the issue of the Japan’s discharge of nuclear-contaminated water into the sea.

I have just briefed you on the talks between the commerce ministers of China and the United States. Relevant communication channels provide an important platform for the commercial authorities of the two countries to carry out regular discussions on economic and trade issues of each other’s concern. It is an important measure for the two sides to stabilize China-US economic and trade relations and strive to create a good environment for the business community to carry out practical cooperation. Thank you.

CNBC: What did US Secretary of Commerce Raimondo talk about with the Chinese side and US companies in China during her visit? What are the priorities for the follow-up economic and trade cooperation?

Shu Jueting: During the talks, the two ministers had rational, pragmatic and professional in-depth exchanges on economic and trade issues of each other’s concern. China expressed grave concerns over the Section 301 tariff, semiconductor policy, two-way investment restrictions, discriminatory subsidies and sanctions against Chinese companies, and demanded that the US equally treat Chinese companies investing in the US in terms of market access, regulatory enforcement, public procurement and policy support, and provide a fair, just and transparent business environment for Chinese companies. The US side said that it does not seek to decouple from China or interrupt China’s development process, and that China's economic prosperity and growth serves the interests of both countries.

Both China and the United States believe that economic and trade relations are the ballast of bilateral relations, and stable China-US economic and trade relations are in the interest of both countries and the world at large. The two sides agreed to establish new channels of communication, and will focus on specific economic and trade issues relevant to enterprises to find solutions and promote bilateral trade and investment. China is willing to work together with the United States to uphold the principles of mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation, actively implement the consensus reached during this visit, strengthen communication and coordination, seek to solve specific economic and trade issues encountered by enterprises, create a good policy environment for the business communities of the two countries to strengthen cooperation, and give more certainty into global economic recovery and growth.

You may refer to the US side or relevant companies to learn more about the talks between Minister Raimondo and the US companies in China. Thank you.

Shenzhen TV: Wang Shouwen, China International Trade Representative and Vice Minister of Commerce, said in New Delhi that India may join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), adding that it would benefit China-India trade. Does China intend to persuade India to join the RCEP?

Shu Jueting: At the 2nd RCEP ministerial meeting jointly held by the 15 Parties following the entry into force of the agreement, the Parties agreed to continue discussions to reach consensus on the accession procedure for new members. Regarding India's accession, according to the provisions of the agreement, as the founding negotiating country, India was able to apply for membership aftter the agreement entered into force on January 1 last year. The RCEP is an open and inclusive agreement. Its door is open to all Parties, including India. Thank you.

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