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MOFCOM Regular Press Conference (November 9, 2023)

He Yadong: Friends from the press, good afternoon. Welcome to the regular press conference of the Ministry of Commerce. Since I don’t have any announcement to make today, we may proceed directly to the Q&A session.

The floor is open.

Phoenix TV: At the sixth China International Import Expo, Premier Li Qiang said that China would actively push for the accession to the CPTPP and DEPA in his keynote speech. What progress has been made so far?

He Yadong: China officially applied to join the CPTPP and DEPA in September and November 2021 respectively and has worked actively to advance relevant process.

With regard to the CPTPP, China has conducted in-depth and comprehensive analysis, research and evaluation of all the provisions of the agreement, sorted out measures, laws and regulations that may need reform or revision, and proactively tried out initiatives in the pilot free trade zones where conditions allow and the Hainan Free Trade Port. At present, China is communicating and consulting with CPTPP members in accordance with the accession procedures.

Regarding DEPA, on August 18, 2022, the members established an Accession Working Group to fully launch negotiations. At present, China is having in-depth exchanges with the members on relevant issues of the agreement. Two ministerial meetings, three chief negotiators’ meetings and three technical consultations have been held with positive progress being made. At the same time, many places in China are taking the initiative to align with DEPA and explore practical cooperation in relevant fields with the members.

China sincerely hopes to work with other countries to meet each other halfway and achieve common development through opening up. China looks forward to joining the CPTPP and DEPA at an early date, and stands ready to work with all parties to actively promote regional economic integration, trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, and make positive contributions to world economic recovery. Thank you.

National Business Daily: Minister Wang Wentao said recently that reasonable reductions would be made to the negative list for foreign investment in the pilot free trade zones and the negative list for cross-border trade in services would be introduced as soon as possible. Could you share with us what progress has been achieved?

He Yadong: An important measure for China to promote high-level opening up is to downsize the negative list for foreign investment and lower the market access threshold.

The first list you mentioned is the negative list for foreign investment in pilot free trade zones. In September 2013, MOFCOM, together with the Shanghai Municipal Government and relevant ministries, published China’s first negative list for foreign investment in the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone in alignment with high-level investment agreements. In the past 10 years, the negative list of foreign investment in the pilot free trade zones has been revised seven times, reducing the number of items from 190 to 27. In the pilot free trade zones, the manufacturing industry is fully open, and the service industry is more liberalized than that of the whole country. Looking ahead, on the basis of fully listening to and sorting out the opinions and suggestions of foreign-invested enterprises and foreign business associations, MOFCOM will work with other competent authorities to evaluate and demonstrate further reasonable reduction of the negative list of foreign investment in the pilot free trade zones, and continue to advance high-level opening up.

Regarding the negative list on cross-border trade in services, in July 2021, MOFCOM published China’s first negative list in the field of cross-border service trade in Hainan Free Trade Port, making it clear that domestic and foreign service providers that are not on the list are treated equally and have equal access to market. This is a sea change in China’s service trade regulation. In order to implement the decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, MOFCOM is working with relevant ministries to formulate and introduce the national negative list of cross-border service trade and the pilot free trade zone version to further expand opening up. Thank you.

The Cover: Preparation for the fifth China-Nordic Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum co-hosted by MOFCOM and the People’s Government of Hubei Province is well underway. Could you give us more details?

He Yadong: Since 2018, the China-Nordic Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum has been successfully held for four sessions. It can be said that the forum has become an important platform for dialogue between China and Europe on industries, trade, and investment, and for multinational companies to deepen their engagement in China and explore the market in the country’s central region.

The fifth China-Nordic Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum, co-hosted by MOFCOM and the People’s Government of Hubei Province, will be held in Wuhan of Hubei Province, from November 13 to 15, 2023. Themed “Creating New Quality Productivity and Crafting a New Chapter for Europe”, the forum consists of 13 events in four major sections including themed exhibitions, main forums, specialized business matchmaking sessions, and site visits. Compared with previous sessions, this year’s forum will emphasize the “new and green”. Focused on China’s development strategy of the central region, the forum will specially promote Hubei’s five major competitive industries and nine emerging distinctive industries. Meanwhile, highlighting the industrial characteristics of European countries, there will be events including the China-Europe New Energy and Intelligent Connected Vehicle Industry Chain Cooperation and Development Forum, a promotion event for imported Nordic food and health products, and the Nordic City Sustainable Development Forum, in addition to exhibitions on Nordic green production, lifestyle, and ecology.

Envoys from Nordic countries in China, representatives from the Swedish Trade and Investment Council, Norway E-Commerce Association, and other business associations, as well as a number of CEOs of European firms, have confirmed their attendance. Drawing on the practices of international fora, the forum will provide business matchmaking sessions prior to the meetings for in-depth and pragmatic discussions, aiming to achieve substantive outcomes in project cooperation between Chinese and European businesses. Thank you.

Shenzhen TV: We note that on the morning of November 7, during the 6th China International Import Expo, MOFCOM held the third China Time-honored Brand Innovation and Development Conference, proposing that a dynamic management mechanism of “entry and exit” should be established. Yesterday, in conjunction with relevant ministries, MOFCOM released a Notice on the Re-examination Results of China Time-Honored Brands. Could you please provide some information on this?

He Yadong: Time-honored brands are the golden brands nurtured in the development course of China’s industry and commerce. With high economic and cultural value, they play an important role in people’s daily life. In 2006 and 2011, MOFCOM successively identified 1,128 time-honored brands in two batches. In collaboration with relevant ministries, MOFCOM continued to develop policies, organize activities and build platforms. As you just mentioned, during the sixth CIIE, we held the third China Time-honored Brand Innovation and Development Conference, inviting well-known experts and scholars, professional institutions in relevant fields, and representatives of time-honored brand holders to share and exchange experience, organizing skill inheritors of time-honored brands to show traditional skills, and publishing the development of time-honored brands. In 2022, time-honored brand holders worked hard to overcome the impact of the epidemic, with operating revenue topping 1.2 trillion yuan. Nearly 70% of enterprises were profitable. In the first three quarters of this year, the revenue has exceeded the level of the whole year of 2022 and maintained a robust momentum. At the same time, some enterprises have withdrawn from the market due to poor management and other reasons.

In order to help China’s time-honored brands adapt to the market mechanism and achieve sustained and healthy development, according to the Administrative Measures for the Development of Model China Time-honored Brands, in April this year, the Ministry of Commerce, together with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the State Administration for Market Regulation, China National Intellectual Property Administration and the National Cultural Heritage Administration, arranged for the creation of model China time-honored brands, adhered to the principle of "selecting the best of the best", established and implemented a dynamic management mechanism as brands could be removed and added, and conducted a comprehensive review of existing China time-honored brands. Recently, through the steps of business self-review, local initial examination, expert review and public announcement, the Ministry of Commerce, together with relevant departments, announced the results of the review on China time-honored brands, and removed 55 brands that had been poorly managed for a long time, or went bankrupt, or were de-registered or closed, or lost the ownership and right to use the registered trademarks of time-honored brands from the list of China time-honored brands. 73 brands with poor management and declining performance are required to address their problems within 6 months. 1,000 brands with sound operation and development are retained.

For the follow-up work, the Ministry of Commerce will work with relevant departments to further establish and improve a long-term mechanism for the protection, inheritance and innovative development of time-honored brands, help them further develop their cultural heritage, benchmark against advanced concepts, uphold fundamental principles and break new ground, and give better play to their exemplary roles. Thank you.

CBN: Recently, the Ministry of Commerce held several special round tables for foreign-invested enterprises in Shanghai. Based on the feedback of foreign-invested enterprises, what role has the round tables of foreign-invested enterprises played in keeping foreign investment stable?

He Yadong: According to the arrangements of the State Council, in July this year, the Ministry of Commerce upgraded and established the round tables for foreign-invested companies based on the foreign trade and investment coordination service mechanism, which mainly played three roles:

First, keep channels of expression unimpeded. The round tables do not set unwarranted restrictions, and encourage foreign-invested enterprises to freely and openly express their views. The round tables focus on different themes, combine major countries and industries, and domestic with overseas round tables. The participating businesses not only include the world's top 500 companies and major industry leaders, but also small and medium-sized science and technology start-ups and incubation platform enterprises, which are highly representative. Such round tables have drawn a strong interest from foreign chambers of commerce and industrial associations and foreign-invested enterprises to strengthen exchanges.

Second, coordinate to solve problems. Relevant departments are invited to respond to problems raised by businesses during the meeting, and the records of question lists at the round table are kept for carefully studies, and proper solutions and timely replies will be offered. For the serious and common problems that have been raised many times, we will work with relevant departments to promote the introduction of pragmatic and effective policy measures. I believe you have also noticed that recently we have introduced a number of "small but beautiful" measures to benefit businesses by working with relevant departments, including the full refund of value-added tax for domestic equipment purchased by foreign R&D centers, and the extension of preferential tax-free policies on allowances and subsidies for foreign individuals in accordance with relevant state regulations. Regarding the issue of cross-border flow of data that foreign-funded enterprises are generally concerned about, the Cyberspace Administration of China has published the Rules on Regulating and Promoting Cross-border Flow of Data (Draft for Comment), which is now soliciting public comments. Many foreign-invested enterprises believe that, with the implementation of relevant measures, difficult issues in production and operation will be effectively solved.

Third, strengthen policy publicity. We not only take the initiative to speak up, but also provide policy interpretations on the widely-shared concerns of foreign-invested enterprises, such as cross-border data flow, export control, intellectual property protection and trade facilitation, and also seek the opinion of enterprises, hear their comments and suggestions on improving the business environment, enhance mutual trust between government and enterprises, and build consensus. Foreign-invested enterprises said that, through the pragmatic exchanges at the round tables, they have further understood the policies, clarified their doubts, experienced the constantly improved business environment, and strengthened their confidence in their further development in China.

In the next step, the Ministry of Commerce will continue to work with various departments and localities to give full play to the role of the round tables for foreign-invested enterprises, so as to "respond to all needs and do not bring troubles" and create a predictable and quality business environment for the development of foreign-invested enterprises in China. Thank you.

Southeast satellite TV: Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid an official visit to China from November 4 to 7. Anthony Albanese said that: "The fact that it is the first visit in seven years to our major trading partner is a very positive step." Will there be any new economic and trade measures between China and Australia in the future?

He Yadong: Recently, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese paid an official visit to China and attended the 6th China International Import Expo (CIIE). President Xi Jiping met with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and said that China and Australia should keep pace with the trend of the times, bear in mind the shared interests of the two countries, and jointly build China-Australia relations featuring equality, seeking common ground while putting aside differences, and mutually beneficial cooperation, so as to promote steady progress of China-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership. Premier Li Qiang and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese held talks, and the two countries jointly issued the Statement on Joint Outcomes of the China-Australia Annual Leaders’ Meeting, agreeing to resume intergovernmental dialogue mechanisms, including the China-Australia Joint Ministerial Economic Commission, reaffirming the importance of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement for bilateral trade, and agreeing to promote economic and trade relations.

The economies of China and Australia are highly complementary and enjoy extensive common interests. It is in the common interest of the two countries and peoples to carry out mutually beneficial cooperation in the economic and trade field. Recently, with the joint efforts of both countries, China and Australia have made positive progress on a series of economic and trade issues. This shows that as long as the two sides move in the right direction, they can properly resolve their respective economic and trade concerns and well develop their bilateral economic and trade relations. We are ready to work together with Australia to actively implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of the two countries, give full play to the potential of China-Australia FTA, expand cooperation in emerging areas such as climate change and green economy, and provide a sound business environment for enterprises of the two countries to invest and operate. Thank you.

Reuters: The Ministry of Commerce announced on Tuesday that several commodities, including iron ore and rare earth, will be included in the Catalogue of Energy Resources Products Subject to Import and Export Report. What is the purpose of this measure? Will it lead to more paperwork, affect the customs clearance process and free trade between buyers and sellers? Can you further explain it?

He Yadong: It is an international common practice to establish the system for import and export report, statistics collection and information release for some commodities. By compiling information about the import and export of goods, it is helpful to grasp the import and export of commodities in time and read the trend.

Since 2008, China has implemented an import reporting system for some agricultural commodities. For more than 10 years, it has been operating well, and the trade procedure and customs clearance efficiency of businesses have not been affected. Recently, the Ministry of Commerce issued a newly revised Statistics Collection System for Import and Export Reports of Commodities. This revision only adjusted the scope of commodities, not the current reporting system. The current administration measures of relevant commodities remain unchanged, the trade procedure of businesses remains unchanged, and the customs clearance conditions remain unchanged. At the same time, while the statistics are collected and relevant licenses applied, enterprises do not need to fill in the same information repeatedly.

China Chamber of Commerce of Metals, Minerals & Chemicals Importers & Exporters (CCCMC) will soon organize relevant training to help enterprises with online reporting. Thank you.

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