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MOFCOM Regular Press Conference (June 13, 2024)

He Yadong: Friends from the press, good afternoon. Welcome to the regular press conference of MOFCOM. Today I don’t have any information to brief you. Now I’m ready to take your questions.

The floor is open.

China News Agency: In May, China’s import and export increased by 8.6% year on year. In particular, export increased by 11.2% year on year. How does MOFCOM view the performance of foreign trade and its future trend?

He Yadong: In May, thanks to some positive factors, China’s trade in goods has maintained stability and scored progress. Its performance has met our expectations. Market demand for the following three types of products remain stable:

First, consumer electronic products. After going through a cyclical trough, electronic products have gradually resumed growth. Statistics from research institutes show that global shipments of mobile phones and laptops increased by about 10% and 4% in the first quarter, demonstrating strong momentum for recovery. Driven by the demand for terminal products, China’s export and import of integrated circuits increased by 34.8% and 22% in May.

Second, housewares and homeware. As destocking in major overseas markets began to take effect, there is a strong demand for restocking furniture, textile and apparel products. Sports events such as the Olympic Games have also driven the demand for TV sets and other products. The export value of home appliances increased by 23.5% in May.

Third, some high value-added mechanical and electrical products. China’s export of automobiles and vessels increased by 20.3% and 67.7% in May, thanks to the strengths of comprehensive industrial chains and advanced technology.

In the second half of the year, China’s foreign trade still needs to navigate complex situations--precarious growth in external demand, question marks over the scale and sustainability of restocking in major markets, disruptions from geopolitics, trade barriers, and shipping price. With these factors at play, businesses still face uncertainties in receiving orders and contract fulfillment. We will continue to foster synergy between the policies for stabilizing foreign trade, and take concrete steps to help enterprises overcome difficulties. We will work to foster new growth drivers for foreign trade, and strive for its quality growth and stability. Thank you.

The Cover: One year has passed since the RCEP entered into force in June last year. How’s the overall situation? What are the next steps to increase the utilization of RCEP rules to unleash greater development dividends?

He Yadong: The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a free trade agreement with the largest population coverage, the largest trade scale and the largest development potential in the world. It is an important milestone in regional economic integration in the Asia-Pacific. Since it entered into force one year ago, the RCEP has helped to promote wider and deeper openness and regional cooperation against higher standards, and boosted confidence in global economic recovery.

First, it stimulated vitality for regional economic development. In 2023, intra-regional trade of RCEP members reached USD5.6 trillion, slightly higher than in 2021, before the agreement entered into force. Industrial chain and supply chain cooperation in the region has become closer. In 2023, RCEP members attracted USD234.1 billion greenfield investment, up 29.8%, 2.2 times that of 2021.

Second, it has contributed to China’s high-standard opening-up. Trade in goods has made steady progress. In 2023, China’s import and export with other 14 RCEP members totaled RMB12.6 trillion, up 5.3% from 2021. Investment cooperation has increased. In 2023, China’s non-financial direct investment flows in other RCEP members reached USD18.06 billion, up 26%, 14 percentage points higher than China’s overall ODI growth. More enterprises have benefited from RCEP. In 2023, Chinese companies imported goods worth RMB90.52 billion using RCEP rules, with RMB2.36 billion of tax benefits.

Going forward, MOFCOM will continue to work on the high-quality implementation of RCEP. Externally, we will give full play to China’s role as RCEP co-chair in 2024, take the lead to ensure all parties can implement the agreement effectively, so that the benefits of RCEP can be felt across the region. Internally, we will continue to provide support and services for enterprises to make full use of preferential measures of RCEP and other FTAs. We have recently published 28 best practices on the high-quality implementation of RCEP, covering four aspects: top-level design, trade in goods, trade in services and investment, and business environment. They can provide good reference for local governments in the implementation of RCEP, so that it can be better utilized and bring more benefits to enterprises. Thank you.

The Phoenix TV: The EU has announced tariff rates on electric vehicles from China. How does China evaluate the impact of the tariffs on the trade of NEVs between China and the EU? Will China take countermeasures?

Thank you for your question. You may refer to our response to the question of EU tariffs on June 12.

I want to stress that the European Commission’s findings in its pre-disclosure lack both factual and legal basis. This move would not only hurt the legitimate rights and interests of the Chinese BEV industry, disrupt win-win China-EU cooperation in NEVs, but also distort global automotive industrial and supply chains, including in the EU.

China believes the EU’s practices are in violation of WTO rules and are blatant trade protectionism. China reserves the right to file lawsuits with the WTO, and will take any necessary measures to firmly safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies.

China urges the EU to redress its misguided practice immediately, act on the important consensus reached at the recent China-France-EU trilateral leaders’ meeting, stay on the right course of getting along with each other, and properly handle economic and trade frictions through dialogue and consultations and expand win-win cooperation through healthy competition. Thank you.

Southern Metropolis Daily: We noted the Ministry of Commerce has published on its official website the assessment results of the pilot cities for modern commercial distribution system in 2024. The first batch of 20 cities are selected as pilots. How will this pilot program contribute to the commercial distribution development in these cities? What measures will be taken to support the digital transformation of traditional wholesalers and retailers?

He Yadong: In order to accelerate the development of modern commercial distribution systems, the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Finance launched, in batches, pilot programs for modern commercial distribution system in some cities in 2024. The aim is to foster a number of modern commercial distribution hubs with integrated urban and rural development, strong rippling effect, and resilient supply chains. To select the best candidates, we asked local governments to make recommendations, organized expert assessments, and made public announcement of the result. Tianjin and other 19 cities have been shortlisted as pilot cities for modern commercial distribution system in 2024.

In the next step, we will provide guidance to these pilot cities on drafting detailed work plans to resolve bottlenecks and accelerate the development of an efficient and smooth modern distribution system. First, we will build networks to connect the distribution systems in urban and rural areas. We will push for the upgrading of key markets and regional cold chain logistics bases, extension of supply chains upstream and downstream, and facilitate the two-way flow of industrial products and agricultural products. We will renovate township business centers, supermarkets and food markets, improve the three-tier logistics distribution system at county, township and village levels, and improve the distribution facilities in rural areas.

Second, we will strengthen resilience of the supply chains for daily necessities. We will reinforce the distribution and supply capacity of the wholesale market for agricultural products, increase the capacity and efficiency of warehousing, processing and delivery, build the consumption terminal networks, improve the reserve and release system of daily necessities, and information monitoring, forecasting and early warning.

Third, we will improve the resources recycling system in urban and rural areas. We will support the construction of renewable resources sorting centers to renovate waste household appliances and furniture, build more transfer stations for waste household appliances and furniture and other renewable resources, and ensure household appliances can be bought and recycled smoothly.

Fourth, we will create conditions to forge backbone enterprises of the modern distribution system. We will support the digital transformation of traditional wholesale and retail enterprises, integration of online and offline marketing networks, and ensure services are accessible at the community and village level. We will encourage key distribution enterprises to integrate with modern agriculture, advanced manufacturing, and consumer services industries, and develop modern supply chains.

MOFCOM will ensure the market plays a decisive role in resources allocation, and play a better role on the part of the government. We will encourage localities to explore development models and work approaches suitable to their conditions, enhance cross-departmental coordination, and strengthen guidance and supervision to ensure the pilot programs deliver real benefits. Thank you.

CCTV: More than a thousand exhibitors have signed up for the 7th China International Import Expo (CIIE). What has the Ministry of Commerce done to prepare for the 7th CIIE? What are the priorities? What facilitation will be provided for the exhibitors and participants?

He Yadong: On November 5, 2023, President Xi Jinping sent a letter to the 6th CIIE, hoping that the CIIE will work better and faster as a window on China’s effort to build a new development paradigm, a platform for advancing high-standard opening up, and an international public good shared by the world. MOFCOM has thoroughly studied and implemented President Xi’s instructions in the letter and made every effort to prepare for the 7th CIIE at high standards.

According to the schedule, the 7th CIIE will be held in Shanghai from November 5 to 10 this year, which comprises country exhibitions, business exhibitions, the Hongqiao Forum, professional supporting activities and people-to-people exchanges. At present, the preparations are progressing well as scheduled.

We are moving faster than previous years with inviting countries to the country exhibitions, including countries of honor. More than 30 countries or international organizations have confirmed their participation in writing. The sign-up for business exhibitions is also moving faster. An exhibition area of 325,000 square meters has been booked, accounting for over 90% of the planned area. We have started business attraction and the registration of domestic and foreign visitors. Focusing on the design of themes and topics of the Hongqiao Forum, we have consulted international organizations, well-known think tanks, media and forum member companies around the world, including Switzerland, South Africa, Japan and the United Nations headquarters. The bidding and collection of professional supporting activities and people-to-people exchanges will also be launched soon.

Since the outset of this year, we have promoted the CIIE in more than 30 countries and regions and organized a series of local CIIE roadshows in China to speed up efforts to turn exhibitors into investors.

As for the facilitation you mentioned, we will provide more support and services for exhibitors and participants such as customs clearance of exhibits, entry of personnel and vehicles, and catering so as to create better experiences for them. Thank you.

Reuters: According to media reports, Chinese industries are lobbying the government to launch an anti-subsidy investigation into EU dairy imports and an anti-dumping investigation into EU pork imports. Can the Ministry of Commerce confirm this? If it is true, what specific measures will be taken in the anti-subsidy and anti-dumping investigations? Second, Premier Li Qiang will visit Australia and Australia said it hoped China can lift the ban on live lobster imports. Could you brief us on the progress in this regard? What are the reasons for these barriers?

He Yadong: On your first question, Chinese domestic industries have the right to file applications for investigation to safeguard normal market competition order and their own legitimate rights and interests according to China’s relevant laws and regulations and WTO rules. The investigation agency will review the applications filed by domestic industries in accordance with law. If the conditions for filing are met, the investigation agency will start the filing procedure, and disclose and release announcements in accordance with law.

On your second question, China and Australia have made positive progress on a series of economic and trade issues since last year thanks to the concerted efforts of both sides. This shows that as long as the two sides stick to dialogue and cooperation, China and Australia can properly address their respective economic and trade concerns and move bilateral trade and economic relations forward.

Premier Li Qiang will pay an official visit to Australia in the near future. China stands ready to take this visit as an opportunity, focus on the long-term development of China-Australia trade and economic cooperation and work together with Australia to expand common interests, deepen practical cooperation and promote high-quality development of bilateral trade and economic relations.

I want to emphasize that China’s inspection and quarantine measures for relevant products are strictly in accordance with Chinese laws and regulations and WTO rules. China is willing to communicate with Australia on the technical issues of respective concern to find mutually beneficial solutions. At the same time, we hope that Australia will work with China to inject more positive dynamics into China-Australia trade and economic cooperation. Thank you.

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