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MOFCOM Regular Press Conference (April 15, 2021)

Gao Feng: Members of the press, good afternoon. Welcome to MOFCOM Regular Press Conference. To start with, let me share three pieces of information.

First, on China’s FDI utilization in the first quarter.

From January to March, 2021, 10263 foreign-invested enterprises were incorporated in China, up 47.8% year-on-year and 6.7% over the same period in 2019. Actually utilized foreign investment stood at RMB 302.47 billion, up 39.9% year-on-year (US$ 44.86 billion, up 43.8% year-on-year excluding banking, securities and insurance, the same below), and 24.8% over the same period in 2019.

By sector, services sector actually utilized RMB 237.79 billion in foreign investment, up 51.5% year-on-year. Hi-tech industry reported an increase of 32.1%. In breakdown, hi-tech services were up 43.9% and hi-tech manufacturing was up 2.5%.

Source-wise, actual investment from Belt and Road countries, ASEAN and the EU was up 58.2%, 60% and 7.5% respectively (including investment via free ports).

In terms of regions, the actually utilized foreign investment in the east, central and west regions of China was up 38.2%, 36.8% and 91% respectively.

Gao Feng: Second, regarding China’s automotive consumption in Q1.

In the first quarter of 2021, China's auto consumption potential continued to be released, with new vehicle sales, auto exports, second-hand car transactions, the number of scrap motor vehicles recycled and other indicators exceeding the level in the same period of 2019. New energy vehicle (NEV) sales increased by more than 70% compared to the same period of 2019.

First, compared with 2019, new vehicle sales increased slightly, with NEV sales increasing by more than 70%. According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, 6.484 million new vehicles were sold in the first quarter, up 75.6% year-on-year and 1.8% higher than that in the same period of 2019; 515,000 new NEVs were sold, up 280% times year-on-year and 72.2% higher than that in the same period of 2019.

Second, compared with 2019, auto imports remained at the same level while exports grew by more than 70%. According to the General Administration of Customs of China, 235,000 vehicles were imported in the first quarter, up 17.9% year-on-year and roughly the same level as in the same period of 2019. 430,000 vehicles were exported, up 88.1% year-on-year and 73.4% higher than that in the same period of 2019.

Third, the number of second-hand car transactions was 20% higher than that in 2019. According to the China Automobile Dealers Association, 3.956 million used cars were sold nationwide in the first quarter, up 97.2% year on year and 21.5% higher than that in the same period of 2019.

Fourth, the number of scrap motor vehicles recycled was nearly 20% higher than that in 2019. According to MOFCOM, 574,000 motor vehicles were recycled nationwide in the first quarter, up 86.2% year on year and 18.6% higher than that in the same period of 2019.

Gao Feng: III. Belt and Road trade and economic cooperation in the first quarter of 2021.

Since the beginning of this year, China’s practical trade and investment cooperation with countries along the Belt and Road demonstrated a sound momentum.

In terms of trade in goods, in the first quarter of this year, China’s trade with these countries amounted to RMB2.5 trillion, up 21.4% year on year and accounting for 29.5% of China's total foreign trade. China’s exports with these countries stood at RMB1.41 trillion, up 28.6%, and imports at RMB1.09 trillion, up 13.2%.

In terms of two-way investment and project contracting, in the first quarter of this year, China’s non-financial direct investment in countries along the Belt and Road amounted to USD4.42 billion, up 5.2% year on year and accounting for 17.8% of the total of the same period. Countries participating in the Belt and Road initiative set up 1,241 new enterprises in China, up 44% year on year. Their paid-in investment amounted to USD3.25 billion, up 64.6% year on year. China’s completed turnover in project contracting in these countries amounted to USD17.75 billion, up 12.4% year-on-year, whereas newly signed contracts amounted to USD31.34 billion, up 19.4% year on year. Both volumes accounted for more than 58% of the total for the same period.

These are the announcement I need to make today. I am ready to take your questions. The floor is open.

Nihon Keizai Shimbun: On April 9, Premier Li Keqiang pointed out the need to ease the cost burden on firms when he convened a symposium on the economic situation. Could you brief us on firms’ current circulation costs? What measures could MOFCOM take to reduce their costs?

Gao Feng: According to a survey conducted by the China Logistics Information Center, the average logistics cost rate of Chinese enterprises is 7.9%, the logistics cost rate of commercial enterprises is 7.5%, and of industrial enterprises, 8.1%. The logistics cost of Chinese enterprises is still higher compared with that in developed countries.

In recent years, MOFCOM has focused on reducing logistics costs and increasing efficiency in the field of commerce and trade. Together with relevant departments, we carried out special campaigns to standardize national trade logistics and ensure efficient delivery in urban and rural areas. Through these campaigns, we aim to further standardize trade logistics, improve urban and rural logistics and delivery networks, promote modern logistics technology and equipment, and develop intensive delivery modes such as unified delivery, joint delivery and overnight delivery. Our efforts have achieved positive outcomes.

Going forward, MOFCOM will carry out a special campaign for the high-quality development of trade logistics across the country. We will move faster to improve the layout of the trade logistics network, further standardize trade logistics, build efficient delivery systems in urban and rural areas, and promote integrated regional logistics development. With these efforts, we wish to make trade logistics more standardized, digitized, smarter and greener with a view to reducing costs and improving efficiency. Thank you.

21st century economic daily: Customs statistics show that China-US trade grew by 61.3% in the first quarter, outpacing many other major trading partners of China. What’s the cause of this? Can you share with us the structural information? How do you view the prospect of China-US trade?

Gao Feng: China-US trade grew rapidly in the first quarter. In breakdown, China’s export to the US grew by 62.7%, and import from the US grew by 57.9%. Imports of energy, agricultural products, automobiles and car parts rose especially fast. In March, China’s export to the US grew by 41.6% year on year, and import from the US grew by 61.8%, suggesting faster growth of import.

Such rapid growth is partly due to the comparatively low base from last year because of COVID-19, but more importantly, it reflects sound recovery of the two economies, which are highly complementary in economic and trade structure and enjoy huge potential. China has always believed the trade and economic cooperation with the US are mutually beneficial. The two sides should create favorable conditions for such cooperation on the basis of mutual respect and equal treatment, to the benefit of the two peoples. Thank you.

Phoenix TV: The US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations voted on the Strategic Competition Act 2021 on the 14th this month, focusing on all-round competition with China regarding global supply chains and technologies. How does MOFCOM evaluate the impact of the Act on China-US cooperation?

Gao Feng: As to the Strategic Competition Act 2021, the spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry has made a comprehensive response. I wish to emphasize here that global supply chains are public goods. It is in the interest of China, the US, and the rest of the world to safeguard the security of global supply chains and industrial chains.

The cover: I have two questions. Recently, the 18 billion yuan fine on Alibaba Group has raised a lot of concerns. What’s your comment? How will MOFCOM promote the healthy development of the e-commerce industry with proper regulation? Second question, MOFCOM has issued the announcement on interim review of the anti-dumping measures against imports of unbleached sack paper originated in the U.S., the EU, and Japan.Can you elaborate on this?

Gao Feng: As for the first question, we place equal importance on the development and regulation of the e-commerce industry. We support innovation and healthy competition among businesses. In the meantime we are committed to leveling the playing field, as it contributes to the sustainability of the industry as a whole.

During the 14th Five-year Plan period, we will work with related authorities to strengthen guidance to the e-commerce industry, improve the institutions and systems, encourage innovation and fair play, promote integrity, and work for steady, healthy, and sustainable development of the industry.

As for the second question, upon the request of domestic industries, MOFCOM has issued announcement No.5 on April 9, 2021 in accordance with law, and decided to initiate interim review over the applicable time limit on imports of unbleached sack paper originated in the U.S., the EU, and Japan. The anti-dumping measures were executed from April 10, 2016, with anti-dumping duties of 14.9% for American companies, 23.5%-29% for EU companies, and 20.5% for Japanese companies. The unbleached sack paper under investigation is a high strength packaging paper used in packaging cement, chemical products, and food.

At present, MOFCOM is conducting the interim review in accordance with law and expects collaboration from stakeholders. The interim review will last for one year and end before April 9, 2022. The investigator will make an objective, fair and just ruling within the statutory period. Thank you.

Xinhua News Agency: The 1st China International Consumer Products Expo will be held in Hainan next month? How’s the preparation going? What work has MOFCOM done specifically?

Gao Feng: Preparations for the first China International Consumer Products Expo are well underway. The buyers and exhibitor registration have largely been completed. The exhibition area will be 80,000 square meters. 75% will be the international section, which will cover 60,000 square meters. There will be five themes in the exhibition: fashion and life, jewelry and diamond, high-end food and dietary supplement, travel, and comprehensive services. 648 businesses from 69 countries and regions with 1193 brands will participate. The guest country of honor this year will be Switzerland. The domestic exhibition area will be 20,000 square meters. 34 groups from 31 provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities, the Xinjing Production and Construction Corps, and Xiamen and Dalian will participate. They will organize over 800 businesses, many of which are local competitive products and time-honored brands. Visitors registration is better than expected. During the Expo, we will hold new product release, business matching, industry promotion and other side events, including around 70 product release and debut of international brands, and product promotion for nine regions from home.

The CICPE is coming in about 20 days. We will continue to work with other members of the organizing committee to make meticulous preparation in terms of the exhibition display, main events, exhibition and convention services, side events, logistics support and epidemic control. We will ensure the success of the 1st CICPE. Thank you.

Shenzhen Satellite TV: On April 13, the Japanese government decided to discharge into the ocean the Fukushima nuclear wastewater. What impact will this move have on China-Japan economic and trade relations?

Gao Feng: In spite of domestic and foreign questions and objections, the Japanese government unilaterally decided to discharge into the ocean the Fukushima nuclear wastewater, without exhausting safe disposal methods nor fully consulting with neighboring countries and the international community, which has aroused great concern from the international community, especially neighboring countries and people. China is seriously concerned about that.

China will closely follow the development of the situation and carefully evaluate the possible serious threats to the safety of related food and agricultural and aquatic products and their trade, to ensure the safety of Chinese consumers. Thank you.

Global Times: Does the Ministry of Commerce have any special measures for Hubei’s recovery of foreign trade and investment after the epidemic?

Gao Feng: Although Hubei was seriously affected by the COVID-19 epidemic last year, with the strong leadership of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council and the support of relevant departments, especially the joint efforts of the entire Hubei Province, Hubei achieved steady growth of foreign trade and investment, and made important contributions to the work of keeping foreign trade and investment stable nationwide.

In terms of foreign trade, in 2020, Hubei's foreign trade import and export reached RMB429.41 billion, an increase of 8.8% year-on-year, 6.9 percentage points higher than that of the whole country. From January to February this year, Hubei's import and export reached RMB78.38 billion, an increase of 82.5% year-on-year, 50.3 percentage points higher than that of the whole country, with a growth of 52.2% than that of the same period in 2019 and 31.7 percentage points higher than that of the whole country.

In terms of utilizing foreign investment, the paid-in foreign investment of Hubei in 2020 reached RMB11.59 billion, second in central China. In the first quarter of this year, the paid-in foreign investment of Hubei reached RMB3.19 billion, which increased more than three times year-on-year.

In the next step, we will continue to support Hubei in keeping foreign trade and investment stable throughout the year in accordance with the arrangements of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. In terms of foreign trade, we will continue to guide Hubei to make full use of policies and measures such as export credit insurance, foreign trade credit and export tax rebate, and continue to support Hubei in cultivating new business patterns such as cross-border e-commerce and market procurement trade, and housing the gradient transfer of processing trade. In terms of utilizing foreign investment, first, we will continue to strengthen services for key foreign-invested companies and key projects in Hubei, and actively coordinate relevant parties to provide support in terms of economic factors. Second, we will support the development of Hubei as an open platform, actively promote the innovation and upgrading of Hubei's national economic development zones, and guide and support Hubei's national economic development zones to actively house industrial transfer from eastern China. Third, we will guide and help Hubei in making good use of the new Catalogue for the Guidance of Industries for Foreign Investment, and enhance business promotion for advantageous industries. Thank you.

Gao Feng: Do you have any other questions? If not, this is the end of today's press conference. Thank you.

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