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MOFCOM Regular Press Conference (March 14, 2024)

He Yadong: Friends from the press, good afternoon. Welcome to the regular press conference of the Ministry of Commerce. I have no briefing to make today. Please raise your questions.

China Business News: Recently, the European Commission issued a regulation requiring customs to register imported electric vehicles from China, claiming that the surge in imports after the launch of anti-subsidy investigations against China last year will harm the EU market. What is the response of the Ministry of Commerce?

He Yadong: We have noted that the EU has recently issued regulations requiring customs to register electric vehicles imported from China. China is highly concerned about this development, and the industry has expressed great concern about the possibility of retroactive taxation by the EU.

China's electric vehicle exporters believed that China's export volume fluctuate in line with the EU's consumer need. There is no import surge or damage to the EU market. The adoption of import registration measures and possible retroactive taxation by the EU has lengthened the import process and added burden to normal trade exchanges. It will only undermine China-EU cooperation in new energy industries and compromise the interests of EU consumers.

China strongly believes that concerns must be addressed through dialogue and consultation to achieve win-win results. We expect the EU to use trade remedy measures with caution to create a more stable and healthy environment for the development of the electric vehicle industry in China and Europe. China will closely watch the next moves of the EU and safeguard the legitimate interests of Chinese enterprises. Thank you.

Xinhua News Agency: We noted that the Ministry of Commerce and eight other departments jointly issued the Opinions on Promoting High-quality Development of Rural E-commerce. Can you brief us on that?

He Yadong : Rural e-commerce is an important measure to create new business models and build a modern distribution system in rural areas. It is also an effective way to transform the mode of agricultural development, increase farmers income, and meet rural consumer demand. In recent years, we have implemented a comprehensive demonstration program of rural e-commerce. With this program, we helped 1,489 counties build nearly 3,000 county-level e-commerce public service centers and logistics distribution centers, and more than 158,000 village-level e-commerce service stations, which acted as useful hubs for industrial products to access the rural market and for agricultural products to access the urban market. Rural e-commerce has played an important role in poverty alleviation and rural revitalization in China, and is now moving toward high-quality development.

This year’ No. 1 central document made clear that it’s crucial to implement high-quality rural e-commerce projects, build county-level e-commerce livestream bases, and promote online marketing of rural specialties. For its implementation, the Ministry of Commerce and other eight departments jointly issued the Opinions on Promoting High-quality Development of Rural E-commerce, with the focus on six aspects, including building a multi-level comprehensive service platform for rural e-commerce, accelerating the construction of modern rural logistics distribution system, cultivating diversified rural e-commerce players, improving industrialization of rural e-commerce, organizing various forms of rural e-commerce promotion activities, building on the success of the comprehensive demonstration program for rural e-commerce. There are 14 specific policies and measures。

In the next step, the Ministry of Commerce will work with relevant departments and localities to implement the Opinions, strengthen policy support and departmental coordination, improve the quality of public service provision for rural e-commerce, identify new channels to promote rural e-commerce. I believe these efforts can help to promote the high-quality development of rural e-commerce. Thank you.

The Cover: Recently, the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce approved a bill that requires the Chinese company ByteDance to divest its short video app TikTok, or TikTok will be banned in the United States. What is your comment?

He Yadong: We are following this move in the US Congress. The US should respect the principles of market economy and fair competition with concrete actions, instead of suppressing foreign companies on no grounds. We expect the US to provide an open, fair, just and non-discriminatory environment for foreign companies. Interested parties should strictly abide by Chinese laws and regulations. China will take all necessary measures to safeguard its legitimate interests. Thank you.

Kyodo News: As mentioned in the government work report, restrictions on foreign investment in the manufacturing sector will be completely lifted. Can you give us more details? What areas are still under restrictions?

He Yadong: As President Xi Jinping announced at the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in October 2023, restrictions on foreign investment in the manufacturing sector will be completely lifted. In this year's government work report, Premier Li also pledged to shorten the negative list and completely lift restrictions on the manufacturing sector.

The current negative lists for foreign investment administration include one for nationwide application and one for pilot free trade zones. The negative list for pilot free trade zone has removed all the entries on the manufacturing sector. In the next step, the Ministry of Commerce will work with the National Development and Reform Commission and other departments to revise the national version and remove all the restrictions on foreign investment in the manufacturing sector. Thank you.

Reuters: I have two questions. The first question, customs data show that China's exports to Russia increased by 15.5 percent and imports by 9.9 percent in RMB terms in January and February. What goods drove the increase in trade? The second question is that some Australian wine traders said recently that the Chinese Ministry of Commerce issued a provisional proposal to remove tariffs on Australian wine. Australian Trade Minister Farell said that China will complete the review of tariffs on Australian wine by March. Is it true that China will soon lift the tariffs on Australian wine? Can you share where we are now?

He Yadong: On your first question, under the strategic guidance of the two heads of state, China-Russia trade maintained a sound momentum this year. Main drivers include energy and other commodities, agricultural products, automobiles and home appliance. New business forms such as service trade and cross-border e-commerce have accelerated. China is willing to work with Russia to promote the steady and healthy development of bilateral trade.

On your second question, on November 30, 2023, at the request of the Australian Grape and Wine Association, the Ministry of Commerce launched a review into the anti-dumping and countervailing measures against Australian wine in accordance with the law. We conducted a comprehensive review of the claims of various stakeholders and their evidence. On March 12 this year, as required by the investigation process, the Ministry of Commerce disclosed the fact basis for the ruling to interested parties and gave them the opportunity to make comments. Next, the Ministry of Commerce will make a final review ruling in accordance with the investigation procedures and taking into account the comments of all parties. I also want to say that China is gravely concerned about Australia's trade remedy measures against China’s wind towers. We hope Australia can respect WTO rules and properly address China's concerns.

Bloomberg: US President Joe Biden said in a post on social media that he would study a petition filed by several labor unions against China's subsidies to shipyards. What is the response of the Commerce Ministry?

He Yadong: We have noted the situation. China is strongly opposed to unilateral trade protectionism in disregard of WTO rules.

The accusations against China by relevant organizations in the US are totally untenable. Several reports have shown that the main reason for the decline of the US shipbuilding industry is overprotection. The development of China's shipbuilding industry is attributable to technological innovation and acceleration of high-end, intelligent and green development. There is no factual basis for the US to blame China for its own industrial development problems.

I want to stress that the Section 301investigation is a typical unilateralist measure that violates the fundamental principles of the WTO and blatantly disregards and undermines multilateral rules. The Section 301 measures previously taken by the US against China have been ruled to be inconsistent with the WTO. We hope that the US can make decisions with measure and avoid repeating mistakes. China will closely follow the developments and take necessary measures to safeguard its legitimate rights and interests. Thank you.

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