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Ministry of Commerce Regular Press Conference (May 30, 2024)

He Yadong: Friends from the media: Good afternoon and welcome to MOFCOM regular press conference. With no announcement to make today, I now open the floor for questions.

China Business News: Recently, the executive meeting of the State Council adopted the Opinions on Expanding Cross-border E-commerce Export and Promoting the Development of Overseas Warehouses. Could you brief us on the development of China’s cross-border e-commerce and what steps MOFCOM will take to expand the exportation of cross-border e-commerce and develop overseas warehouses?

He Yadong: Cross-border e-commerce is a vibrant force to drive foreign trade in China, and a major trend in the international trade landscape. Recent years have witnessed a strong synergy between cross-border e-commerce and new types of foreign trade infrastructure such as overseas warehouses. This has greatly facilitated the rapid growth of cross-border e-commerce, which has expanded by over 10 times over the past five years. In the first quarter of this year, the total import and export of cross-border e-commerce grew by 9.6% to RMB577.6 billion, among which the export increased by 14% to RMB448 billion. Based on initial statistics at local levels, China now has over 120,000 cross-border e-commerce entities, over 1,000 cross-border e-commerce industrial parks, and more than 2,500 overseas warehouses that cover a total area of more than 30 million square meters. Particularly, there are more than 1,800 overseas warehouses (spanning more than 2,200 square meters) that are cross-border e-commerce specific.

In the next step, we will move faster to issue the Opinions on Expanding Cross-border E-commerce Export and Promoting the Development of Overseas Warehouses, and work with line ministries and local governments to implement the Opinions with the following four priorities:

First, empowering industrial development. Based on the 165 cross-border e-commerce comprehensive demonstration zones in China, we will combine the industrial endowments and geographical advantages of different localities to encourage more companies to engage in international trade through cross-border e-commerce.

Second, fostering more market entities. We will guide cross-border e-commerce comprehensive demonstration zones to cultivate leading companies along the industrial chains, and drive the digitalization of MSEs in the upstream and downstream industries. We will also hold special training centering around new business types of foreign trade to strengthen capacity building.

Third, enhancing mutual learning. We will arrange on-site events at cross-border e-commerce comprehensive demonstration zones to further facilitate exchanges of best practices and useful experiences. We will improve self-discipline of the industry and encourage orderly competition.

Fourth, creating a sound environment. We will actively engage in international cooperation, both multilaterally and bilaterally, and include the topic of cross-border e-commerce into the work of FTA negotiations, joint committees and mixed committees. We will also support international cooperation by cross-border e-commerce comprehensive demonstration zones, industries and enterprises. Thank you.

The Cover: The ninth China-Japan-ROK trilateral summit meeting was held recently in Seoul, the ROK, a restart after four and a half years. Is there any progress on the negotiations of the China-Japan-ROK FTA?

He Yadong: The China-Japan-ROK FTA negotiation, which started in November 2011, has gone through 16 rounds. In the joint declaration of the ninth Trilateral Summit Meeting among China, Japan and the ROK concluded on May 27, the three sides affirmed the importance of ensuring implementation in a transparent, smooth and effective manner of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement as the basis of a Trilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA), and would keep discussions for speeding up negotiations for a Trilateral FTA, aiming at realizing a free, fair, comprehensive, high-quality, and mutually beneficial FTA with its own value. The important consensus arising from this summit meeting charts the course for accelerating China-Japan-ROK FTA negotiations in the next step.

China, Japan and the ROK share close industrial linkages and strong economic complementarity. The China-Japan-ROK FTA, once concluded, will build on top of existing FTA cooperation and further expand market openness, lower trade barriers, promote trade and investment, and improve business environments among the three countries, delivering real benefits for Chinese, Japanese and ROK people and businesses.

China attaches great significance to the China-Japan-ROK FTA negotiation. It stands ready to work with Japan and the ROK to move forward the negotiation process at a faster pace, and make positive contribution to stability and recovery of regional and global economy. Thank you.

SETV: The G7 finance ministers and central bank governors issued a communique after their recent meeting, in which they accused China of so-called “non-market policies and practices” and said that they would monitor the potential negative impacts of “overcapacity” and consider taking steps to ensure a level playing field. What’s your comment?

He Yadong: Recently, some countries have rehashed the “non-market policies and practices” narrative while hyping up “China overcapacity”. Such typical double standard is essentially unilateralism and protectionism, and will inevitably disrupt true fair competition and undermine the international economic order.

The accusation from some countries that China “gains an unfair competitive edge” and causes “market distortion” through government subsidies is pure distortion of facts. China’s subsidy policies are in line with the WTO rules. It does not put in place subsidies prohibited by the WTO. The cost-effectiveness and competitiveness of Chinese products are the result of adequate market-based competition, not government subsidies. China has been working to foster an open market based on fair competition. Industry leaders of China’s new energy, platform economy and consumer electronics sectors are mainly private businesses; in 2023, 30% of China’s foreign trade was conducted by foreign-invested enterprises.

At the same time, some of China’s critics have abused unfair and non-market practices, launched a massive number of rule-breaking tariffs, discriminatory subsidies, targeted investment restrictions and reckless unilateral sanctions, and built exclusive “small circles”, seriously undermining fair competition. In true fair competition, you try to make yourself run faster, rather than trip others up; you pursue open cooperation, equality and mutual benefits, rather than form exclusive blocks; you observe established rules that reflect international consensus, rather than wantonly violate and alter them.

China firmly opposes unilateralism and protectionism in any form. China upholds true fair competition, and is committed to building a high-standard market system, fostering a world-class business environment that is market-oriented, law-based and up to international standards, promoting innovation and industry advancement, and pursuing shared development through joint efforts. Thank you.

Economic Information Daily: With the Dragon Boat Festival around the corner, traditional foods, such as zongzi, or sticky rice dumplings, are popular not only on the domestic market, but also overseas, especially some time-honored brands. What’s MOFCOM’s view on the consumption highlights during the festival?

He Yadong: MOFCOM is organizing the 2024 Consumption Promotion Year in a coordinated manner. Focusing on consumption highlights during traditional festivals such as catering, shopping, culture, recreation and tourism, MOFCOM is guiding local governments in carrying out a wide range of activities for the Dragon Boat Festival to further boost consumption. We are mainly working on the following four aspects.

First, underlining the Dragon Boat Festival. Local governments are nurturing new consumption highlights of a “new Chinese style” in line with traditional festival customs and seasonal features. Zongzi cultural festivals, dragon boat contests, traditional fairs, intangible cultural heritage displays and traditional Han Chinese clothing experience activities are organized in many places.

Second, focusing on part exchange. Local governments are carrying out a series of trade-in activities to encourage consumers to trade their cars in for new-energy vehicles, buy smarter household appliances, and renovate their home decoration, including in kitchens and bathrooms. To date, we have launched national trade-in campaigns in 18 places.

Third, integrating consumption in different sectors. Local commerce, culture and tourism, sports and market regulation departments are enhancing coordination to integrate consumer spending in commerce, tourism, culture, sports and health-care in the consumption scenarios we launched recently, including “a taste of zongzi during the Dragon Boat Festival”, sports consumption and “touring the world in your car”.

Fourth, building local brands. Local governments are tapping local industrial advantages and special resources to foster signature consumption promotion brands. Tianjin will launch the Quality Consumption in Rural Areas campaign, Hubei will roll out the second June 16 Consumption Festival, and Shanghai will kick-start the international consumption season of Shanghai Summer to provide urban and rural residents with diverse consuming experience. Thank you.

Reuters: If the European Commission ruled that the new energy vehicle sector in China received unfair subsidies, would China negotiate with EU Member States to revoke the EU’s authorization for levying tariffs on imports from China?

He Yadong: China has clearly stated its principles and position on multiple occasions regarding your question. We have noted that recently many EU Member States and automobile sectors have strongly opposed trade protectionist measures by the EU, hoping to avoid undermining the bigger picture of China-EU trade and economic cooperation. We hope the EU take into full account the concerns of all walks of life, and properly handle economic and trade frictions with China through dialogue and consultation to accommodate each other’s reasonable concerns. China will closely follow the investigation and take resolute measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese businesses. Thank you.

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