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MOFCOM Regular Press Conference (October 26, 2023)

Shu Jueting: Friends from the press, good afternoon. Welcome to the regular press conference of the Ministry of Commerce. I have one piece of information to share with you today.

This is about China's outbound investment cooperation from January to September 2023.

From January to September 2023, China's outbound investment continued to grow, with a outbound non-financial direct investment of 673.14 billion yuan, up 18.7% year-on-year (equivalent to 95.96 billion US dollars, up 11.8%). Among them, the non-financial direct investment of Chinese businesses in BRI countries reached 164.71 billion yuan, a year-on-year increase of 27.7% (equivalent to 23.48 billion US dollars, a year-on-year increase of 20.3%).

From January to September 2023, the turnover of foreign contracted projects was 764.82 billion yuan, an increase of 8.2% year-on-year; The value of newly signed contracts amounted to 986.28 billion yuan, up 1.5% year-on-year. Among them, the turnover of foreign contracted projects by Chinese businesses in BRI partner countries was 628.53 billion yuan, up 10.1% year-on-year; The value of newly signed contracts was 818.77 billion yuan, up 2.6% year-on-year.

Now I’m ready to take your questions. The floor is open.

CBN: In the first three quarters, the import and export of China with BRI partner countries amounted to 14.32 trillion yuan, up 3.1% year-on-year, accounting for 46.5% of the total import and export. What measures will be taken in the next step to further promote economic and trade cooperation with the BRI partner countries?

Shu Jueting: Last week, the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) was successfully held. President Xi Jinping announced eight major steps China will take to support the joint pursuit of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, setting a new direction, opening new vistas and generating new momentum for the development of BRI. Guided by the guiding principles of President Xi Jinping's keynote speech, the Ministry of Commerce will work with all to substantiate BRI economic and trade cooperation and jointly build an open world economy, with a focus on the following four areas.

First, building a platform for economic and trade cooperation. We will work with the relevant partners to establish pilot zones for Silk Road e-commerce cooperation, hold the 6th China International Import Expo, the 2nd Global Digital Trade Expo and other important exhibitions, build a platform for economic and trade cooperation between BRI countries and share market opportunities in China. Second, further promoting high-standard opening up. China will remove all restrictions on foreign investment access in the manufacturing sector. In light of international high-standard economic and trade rules, China will build pilot free trade zones with higher-standards, accelerate the development of Hainan Free Trade Port, and enter into free trade agreements and investment protection treaties with more BRI countries. Third, creating more pragmatic cooperation projects. China will guide enterprises in coordinating landmark projects and "small and beautiful" livelihood projects, and facilitate economic development and improve people's livelihood in BRI partner countries. China will promote high-quality development of the China-Europe Railway Express, accelerate the development of the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor, and build a multidimensional Belt and Road connectivity network. Fourth, expanding cooperation in emerging areas. China will broaden investment and industrial cooperation, and encourage enterprises to cooperate in the fields of green infrastructure, green energy and green transportation. China will actively enter into and implement investment cooperation agreements with BRI countries on green and digital economy. Thank you.

Xinhua News Agency: According to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics last week, the contribution rate of consumption to economic growth reached 94.8% in the third quarter. How does the Ministry of Commerce view the recent trends in consumer market?

Shu Jueting: Since the beginning of this year, the Ministry of Commerce has organized a series of activities under the Consumption Revitalization Year, introduced policies and measures to promote automobile and home consumption, deepened the cultivation and development of international consumption center cities, launched 15-minute community service circles and a three-year action plan aiming to strengthen the nation's county-level commerce system, and made great efforts to boost consumption of big-ticket items, promote service consumption and expand new consumption.

Thanks to the joint efforts of all, the consumer market continued to recover. In the first three quarters, the total retail sales of consumer goods reached 34.2 trillion yuan, up 6.8% year-on-year. In particular, since the third quarter, the recovery trend has become clearer, mainly reflected in the following aspects: First, the recovery momentum is stable. In September, the total retail sales of consumer goods increased by 5.5% year-on-year, and the growth rate was 0.9 percentage points faster than that of August, rebounding for two consecutive months. Among the major commodity categories, the year-on-year growth rate of over 60% of the retail sales of commodities has accelerated compared with that of August. Second, the market is full of vitality. In the first three quarters, service retail sales increased by 18.9% year-on-year, and catering revenue increased by 18.7%. During the Mid-Autumn and National Day vacation, the average daily passenger flow of major business districts and national demonstration pedestrian streets increased by 1.6 times and 87.4% respectively. Third, there are many highlights in consumption. Online consumption, green consumption and smart consumption have accelerated, and new forms, new models and new scenarios of business keep emerging. In the first three quarters, online retail sales increased by 11.6% year-on-year, NEV sales increased by 37.5%, and the market penetration rate reached 29.8%. Fourth, the pulling effect is strong. As you just mentioned, in the first three quarters, the contribution rate of final consumption expenditure to economic growth reached 83.2%, 6 percentage points higher than that in the first half of the year. Among them, the contribution rate in the third quarter reached 94.8%, which boosted GDP growth by 4.6 percentage points and served as an important support for economic recovery.

Of course, the sustainable recovery and growth of future consumption depends on the promotion by multiple factors, such as consumption ability, readiness and environment. Based on its own portfolio, the Ministry of Commerce will focus on the "Consumption Revitalization Year", focusing on optimizing supply, innovating scenarios, improving the environment, consolidating consumption recovery, and giving full play to the basic role of consumption in driving economic growth. Thank you.

Market News International: As the Australian Prime Minister is about to visit Beijing, what is the expectation of the Ministry of Commerce for this visit? Do you think Australia-China trade can be normalized during this visit?

Shu Jueting: We welcome the visit of Prime Minister Albanese to China and his attendance at the Sixth China International Import Expo. The Chinese and Australian economies are highly complementary. Mutually beneficial bilateral trade and economic cooperation serve the shared interests of the two countries and two peoples. We hope this visit can be an opportunity for China and Australia to further strengthen communication and coordination, support practical cooperation between the business communities, and promote the steady and sound development of bilateral trade and economic relations. Thank you.

China News Service: We noted that the China-Gulf Cooperation Council Economic and Trade Ministers’ Meeting was successfully held on October 22 in Guangzhou and achieved tangible outcomes. Can you brief us on this meeting?

The China-Gulf Cooperation Council Economic and Trade Ministers’ Meeting was the first multilateral trade and economic event hosted by MOFCOM following the success of the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. The aim is to implement the eight steps that President Xi Jinping announced to support high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. We will work with the trade authorities of GCC countries and the GCC Secretariat to accelerate the implementation of the measures adopted by the first China-GCC Summit in December last year. We will make joint efforts to ensure in-depth and substantive cooperation between China and GCC countries under the Belt and Road Initiative.

Earlier, we released the information of this meeting and the economic and trade cooperation between China and the GCC. To answer your question, I would like to share more details on the outcomes of this meeting.

First, the meeting made clear that China-GCC cooperation will be focused on high-quality Belt and Road development. As the BRI enters a new stage of high-quality development, China and GCC countries will work to create synergy between the BRI and the development vision of GCC members, deepen the Belt and Road partnership, and jointly promote the economic and trade prosperity China and GCC countries from a new starting point.

Second, the meeting adopted the Joint Statement on Deepening China-GCC Economic and Trade Cooperation. The two sides reviewed the implementation of economic and trade measures of the first China-GCC Summit, and agreed to give priority to trade and investment, the digital economy, sustainable development, infrastructure in our cooperation.

Third, the meeting decided to speed up the negotiations of the China-GCC Free Trade Agreement. The two sides recognized it was important to jointly safeguard the multilateral trading system and conclude the China-GCC FTA negotiations as soon as possible, and agreed to demonstrate flexibility to speed up the negotiations, so that the FTA can generate greater momentum for wider, more extensive, and deeper China-GCC economic and trade cooperation.

Fourth, the meeting advanced two-way investment cooperation between China and the GCC countries. To promote two-way investment in a constructive manner, the two sides held in-depth discussions on ways to advance the operation of the China-GCC Joint Investment Association, and welcomed partnerships between all kinds of investment and financing institutions of the two sides, including sovereign wealth funds.

On the side of the meeting, the China-China Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum was held. Through this ministerial meeting, the two sides sent a clear message to their business communities to strengthen economic and trade cooperation. About 400 representatives of Chinese and GCC enterprises, business associations and financial institutions joined the Forum, where they had extensive and practical exchanges on business opportunities in their respective markets. Thank you.

Kyodo News Agency: Last week, the Ministry of Commerce issued a notice to impose export control on graphite, a material used in electric car batteries. It is said the measure is related to the European Union’s anti-subsidy investigation into electric vehicles. What is the purpose of this export control measure?

Shu Jueting : On October 20, the Ministry of Commerce and the General Administration of Customs issued a notice on the optimization and adjustment of temporary export controls on certain graphite materials and related products, including import and export. Among them, three kinds of highly sensitive graphite are officially put on the control list, while five kinds of less sensitive graphite are removed from the temporary control.

The Chinese government has made normal adjustments of export control in accordance with law. It is not targeted at any specific country or region, nor at any specific incident. China has been committed to safeguarding the security and stability of the global industrial chains and supply chains, and will grant permission to exports that comply with relevant regulations. Thank you.

Economic Daily: Last week, the General Administration of Customs released the foreign trade data for the first three quarters, which fell by 0.2% in renminbi terms and an even bigger margin in US dollar terms. Does this mean that China’s foreign trade is still in a tight spot? How do you view the foreign trade performance this year?

Shu Jueting: Since the start of this year, global trade has remained sluggish due to high inflation, high inventories, geopolitical risks, and other factors. The World Trade Organisation statistics show that global export fell by 4.6 per cent in the first half of the year, with a 1.3 per cent drop in the first quarter and 7.8 per cent drop in the second quarter. Due to concerns over growth difficulties and challenges, the WTO recently revised the forecast of global merchandise trade growth in 2023 from the previous 1.7% to 0.8%. Taking into account the widespread decline in commodity prices, the global trade in goods will decline. Several export-oriented economies have been hit hard, with ROK’s export falling 11.5 per cent and Vietnam’s export falling 8.5 per cent in the first three quarters.

In the face of multiple risks and challenges, the commerce system has worked to implement the instructions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council to stabilize the scale and optimize the structure of foreign trade. We have taken solid steps to ensure the implementation of policies for stabilizing foreign trade. Foreign trade enterprises have redoubled efforts to secure orders and expand the overseas market in new ways. As a result, China’s foreign trade performance remains stable. In the recent months, it has maintained stability and made progress. In terms of scale, China’s import and export rose quarter by quarter, and grew every month in the third quarter. The import and export in September hit a new high this year. In terms of share, WTO data show that the international market share of China’s exports rose steadily in the first half of the year, reaching 14.2%, an increase of 0.4 percentage points over the same period last year. In terms of importers and exporters, 597,000 importers and exporters realized actual import and export in the first three quarters, close to the level of last year. In particular, the proportion of private enterprises increased by 1.1 percentage points. In terms of main growth drivers, competitive products such as automobiles, ships, lithium batteries, and luggage maintained a high growth rate, and new forms of cross-border e-commerce continued to made contributions. You may have noticed the popularity and active transactions at the ongoing 134th Canton Fair, which attracted more high-quality overseas buyers than previous years. They have shown strong interest in Chinese goods and manufacturing.

These positive changes would not have been possible without the commitment and innovation of China’s importers and exports, the implementation of effective policies to stabilize foreign trade. They are also proof of the resilience and vitality of China’s foreign trade. With more positive factors emerging, we are confident that the fourth quarter will continue to witness sound operation of foreign trade, and goal of ensuring stability and improving quality of foreign trade will be achieved this year. Thank you.

Bloomberg: Do you think the export of graphite will completely stop for a while or just decrease a little? Which countries or industries will China stop exporting graphite to?

Shu Jueting: We have published the announcement and policy interpretation on the optimization and adjustment of the temporary export control measures towards graphite products on the website of the Ministry of Commerce.

As I just stressed, the graphite export control policy is a normal adjustment in accordance with the law, and some items are included while some removed from the export control list. The export control measures do not target any specific country, region, or industry. China is always committed to safeguarding the safety and stability of the global industrial and supply chains, and will grant licenses to exports that comply with relevant regulations. Thank you.

Reuters: My question is also about the export control of graphite products. What impact do you think it will have on the export of lithium batteries? Will it have a greater impact on the global new energy supply chain?

Shu Jueting: It seems that you are all very interested in this issue. I answered similar questions just now but I would like to reiterate that this export control policy is a normal adjustment made by the Chinese government in accordance with the law. Some items are included while some removed from the export control list. The export control measures do not target any specific country, region, or industry, including the sector you just mentioned. Thank you.

China Business News: The second phase of the 134th Canton Fair is being held in Guangzhou. What are the achievements of the Canton Fair so far? What will be the highlights of the upcoming third phase?

Shu Jueting: The first phase of the 134th Canton Fair ended on October 19, and the second phase is well underway. The overall operation of the Canton Fair is stable with positive results being achieved.

First, buyers have actively participated in the fair. Since the opening of this session, as of October 25, more than 150,000 overseas buyers from 214 countries and regions had attended the fair in-person, exceeding the total number of the previous session and up 3.2% from before the pandemic (Autumn 2019 Canton Fair). Among them, 96,000 buyers are from Belt and Road partner countries, accounting for 64.1%, up 15.6% from before the pandemic.

Second, transactions have recovered and grown. Export deals worth 12.33 billion dollars were signed offline during the first phase, up 9.2% from the previous session, with more than half of the export deals from Belt and Road partner countries. Exhibitors have gained confidence and remained optimistic about future growth in orders as the deals and buyers’ appointments to visit their factories outperformed their expectations.

Third, the optimization of the exhibition area has delivered remarkable results. This session of Canton Fair has adjusted seven exhibition areas and further coordinated the themes. The three phases focus on advanced manufacturing, household goods and better life respectively. The exhibitions are more professional and relevant, providing more convenience for the one-stop procurement. These efforts have paid off. For example, the export deals from the newly established exhibition area for new energy vehicles and smart mobility reached 133 million dollars.

Fourth, the fair has been marked by a colorful series of trade promotion activities. As of October 25, 285 new products had been debuted, five professional thematic forums held, and more than 40 “Trade Bridge” matchmaking activities organized. The prize ceremony for the Canton Fair Design Awards has been held to encourage enterprises to engage in R&D and innovation.

Fifth, digital and green development has come to the fore. Seminars on the development and application of digital trade documents and green trade were held to help enterprises speed up digital transformation and turn the idea of green development into real actions. Exhibitors have submitted 432,000 pieces of green and low-carbon products. The pavilions have used 100% green electricity for the first time. In doing so, the Canton Fair continues to play a leading role in green development.

The second phase of the Canton Fair will end tomorrow, and the third phase will take place from October 31 to November 4, with the theme of better life. There will be 21 exhibition areas in five sectors, including toys, children, baby and maternity products, fashion accessories and fittings, home textiles, stationery, as well as health and recreation products. Please stay tuned. Thank you.

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