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Regular Press Conference of the Ministry of Commerce (November 14, 2019)

CNR: President Xi Jinping paid a successful state visit to Greece lately. Gould you brief us on the Sino-Greek economic and trade relations? What are the outcomes of the visit on the commercial front?

Gao Feng: In recent years, with the personal impetus of the leaders of both countries, the Sino-Greek economic and trade cooperation has continuously deepened. Bilateral trade is growing steadily, with the value of trade in goods nearly doubling from US$ 3.65 billion in 2013 to US$ 7.06 billion in 2018. From January to September this year, bilateral trade value stood at US$ 6.35 billion, up 21.4% year-on-year. Two-way investment continues to expand. As of last September, Greece had invested US$ 100 million in 192 projects in China, whereas China had over US$ 2.3 billion invested in various sectors in Greece. Greece is the first developed European country to sign a Belt and Road MOU with the Chinese government. Owing to our joint efforts, COFCO Piraeus has become a role-model for BRI connectivity cooperation.

President Xi’s significantly-timed visit reinvigorates the deep-going and mutually beneficial economic and trade cooperation. During the visit, MOFCOM and related departments signed with the Greek side list of projects for quality development of bilateral investment cooperation and the three-year cooperation program, and cooperation documents for the import of Greek saffron and kiwi fruits. In addition, six business contracts totaling around US$ 900 million were signed for port, logistics, finance and energy. All these will further deepen bilateral practical cooperation in trade, investment and infrastructure.

China would like to work with Greece to implement the major consensuses of the leaders and strengthen strategic connection to jointly contribute to the BRI and advance practical cooperation in transport, energy, ICT, finance and tourism for a new chapter in Sino-Greek economic and trade cooperation. Thank you.

South China Morning Post: Last week, China said that a Phase One deal should be contingent on the synchronized and proportionate elimination of additional tariffs. But Trump said he didn’t agree. Are China and the US agreed on removing the additional tariffs? Does China see the lifting of the tariffs as a necessary condition? How are the talks progressing? Will the US comment overshadow the prospect of the Phase One deal?

Gao Feng: China has emphasized repeatedly that the trade war started with the tariffs and should end with the removal of the tariffs, which is a major condition for a deal. The elimination of the tariffs meets the interests of producers and consumers, China and the US, and the wider world, and therefore is the interest of both sides, rather than one side.

If a Phase One deal is to be struck, the scale of the tariff elimination should fully reflect the significance of the deal, which should be jointly assessed by the two sides. The two sides are engaged in deep discussions. China would like to work with the US to appropriately address each other’s core concerns on the basis of equality and mutual respect so as to create conditions for the Phase One deal. Thank you.

Global Times English Version: We’ve noted the report that the AHK recently published the 2019/2020 Business Confidence Report for German-invested businesses in China. The Report shows that only 27% of the German-invested companies in China expect to meet their business targets for this year and nearly a quarter of them will probably relocate production from China. What’s your take on that?

Gao Feng: We’ve noted the report released by the AHK on Nov. 12th. The findings of the report show that for the respondents, China remains a major market full of promising business opportunities. German-invested businesses remain confident about the Chinese market with high expectations for their business in China.

67% of the respondent businesses revealed plans to increase their investment in China in the next two years, 46% of which are manufacturing businesses. 44% of the respondents projected year-on-year sales growth of over 5% for 2020. 53% of the respondents still see China as a Top3 market worldwide in terms of sales. 77% of the respondents are not considering moving their investment or operations out of China. Only 10% of the companies plan to relocate capacity from China, down by 4 percentage points from last year. There is widespread anticipation among the respondents for the China-EU Bilateral Investment Treaty, which, once concluded, is expected to reenergize the growth of German-invested businesses.

At the same time we’ve also noted that the AHK and some of the German-invested businesses in China made very perceptive comments and recommendations on China’s investment environment, which we appreciate. We will continue to work to reduce restrictions for foreign investment, strengthen the protection for the legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors, and enhance investment protection to create a more equitable, transparent, predictable and law-based business environment for German businesses and other investors to share in the development opportunities of the Chinese market. Thank you.

Xinhua News Agency: It’s reported that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan said that China, Japan and South Korea would continue negotiations of the China-Japan-South Korea Free Trade Agreement even without signs of improved Japan-South Korean relations. How does China comment on that?

The total GDP of China, Japan and South Korea accounts for nearly one fifth of the world. The three economies are highly complementary. As the common wish of our three countries, establishing the China-Japan-South Korea Free Trade Area will further unleash economic and trade cooperation potential between us, promote the integration of value chain within the region, and push forward regional economic prosperity and integration.

Built on our previous efforts, the three countries have reached consensus on speeding up the negotiations, enhancing the level of liberalization of investment and trade in goods and services, as well as rules standards based on RCEP, so as to forge a “RCEP+” free trade agreement.

Recently, the three parties decided to hold the 16th round of CJK FTA negotiations in South Korea in late November. China is willing to work with Japan and South Korea to push for substantive progress of the negotiations. Thank you.

China News: Could you shed some light on the online and offline sales data of this year’s Single’s Day? Since the shopping festival has been celebrated for 11 years so far, could you introduce the new features of this year’s Single’s Day? What is you take on the live-streaming sales promotion?

According to the data from our commercial big data project that monitors a number of major e-commerce platforms, from November 1 to 11, the total online sales exceeded RMB870 billion, a year-on-year increase of 26.7%. As the market scale of online retailing hit a record high, it bears the following features:

First, upgraded products have been sought after by consumers. The launch of new products has driven quality consumption. Many FMCG brands and new foreign brands choose to launch new products at e-commerce platforms. New cellphones and sport watches have become best-selling products. 21 Chinese time-honored brands saw their sales volume growing be over 50%.

Second, service consumption grows rapidly. Consumption in health-related industries have become new hotspots, such as cosmetic medicine, oral health, medical examination, etc. Reservations of related services grew by more than 5 folds. Online sales of tourism jumped by over 100%. Housekeeping and car-related services have maintained their growth momentum.

Third, market expansion has become the new driver for consumption growth. Approximately 70% of new online shoppers are from emerging e-commerce market which is represented by third and fourth tier cities, counties and towns. The demand from young shoppers living in the second, third, fourth tier cities and small towns for tourism-related products has grown much faster than that of residents in first tier cities. Emerging market has contributed 60% of sales of best-selling products including home appliance, cosmetics and furniture.

Fourth, the interconnection between online and offline sales has promoted the quality and quantity of the consumption market. E-commerce platforms are moving faster in industrial integration, building “living circles” that combines online and offline sales by digitalizing physical stores, thus forming the ecosystem of consumption. Logistical efficiency has been greatly enhanced thanks to the application of new technologies like artificial intelligence.

Fifth, customized products have facilitated the upgrading of the supply chain. With the help of big data, e-commerce platforms have helped brand companies to customize products based on the demand of consumers, thus driving supply chain upgrading. During the shopping spree, the sales of certain new products such as washing machines for mothers and babies and humidifiers have increased by several folds compared to October.

With respect to live-streaming sales promotion, as a new marketing model of e-commerce, live-streaming can help improve consumers’ shopping experience and promote sales of many quality products with reliable services. At the same time, any business model must comply with relevant laws and regulations and protect the lawful rights and interests of consumers. We will continue to work with relevant government departments to ensure the compliance of e-commerce industry as it develops and safeguard the market order and the lawful rights and interests of consumers.

American International Market News Agency: To what extent does MOFCOM think the signing and implementation of RCEP could help mitigate the negative impacts on Chinese economy brought by trade frictions? Some people in the US are skeptical about RCEP. The US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross called RCEP as a “low-grade treaty”. What’s the comment of MOFCOM? As the largest economy in RCEP, what kind of mechanism does RCEP have to ensure that China would handle its disputes with other signatories in an equal manner?

First, the general conclusion of RCEP negotiations is a voluntary move of all parties to promote their own and regional economic development, rather than a makeshift to cope with the change of external environment. As we all know, RCEP negotiations started in 2012. All parties have made tremendous efforts to promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, as well as economic integration of the region. As the world’s largest free trade area with the biggest population, great growth potential and different levels of development among members, we have every reason to believe that RCEP will surely unleash the potential of commercial cooperation between members, strengthen the momentum for economic development, and underpin global economic stability and prosperity.

Second, ASEAN remains the core of RCEP. As a party in the negotiations, China has always supported ASEAN as the center of RCEP and played a constructive role in promoting negotiations. When it comes to international trade and economic cooperation, China is committed to equal treatment, win-win benefits and common development. We have never bullied others and will never do so. We are willing to make joint efforts with all members to build RCEP FTA in a hope to pursue common development and bring benefits to all the people around the world. Thank you.

Are there any questions?

If no, that’s the end of today’s press conference. Thank you.


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