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MOFCOM Regular Press Conference (May 27, 2021)

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

Gao Feng: First, China’s ODI Cooperation in January to April 2021.

From January to April 2021, China's industry-wide ODI was RMB285.09 billion, up 3.3% year on year (equivalent to USD43.9 billion, up 11.4% year on year). Among them, foreign non-financial direct investment was RMB222.87 billion, down 5.2% year-on-year (equivalent to USD34.32 billion, up 2.2% year-on-year). The turnover of foreign contracted projects was RMB263.07 billion, a year-on-year increase of 3% (equivalent to 40.51 billion US dollars, a year-on-year increase of 11%). The newly signed contracts amounted to RMB463.93 billion, up 1.2% year on year (equivalent to USD71.44 billion, up 9.1% year on year). In terms of overseas labor cooperation, 104,000 persons of various types were dispatched, with 594,000 people working overseas as of the end of April.

In the first four months of this year, China's foreign investment cooperation mainly presents the following characteristics:

First, progress has been made on investment cooperation with Belt and Road countries. In the first four months of this year, China's non-financial direct investment in countries along Belt and Road reached USD5.96 billion, up 14% year-on-year, accounting for 17.4% of the total in the same period, up 1.8 percentage points over the previous year. The newly signed contracts of contracted projects in Belt and Road countries amounted to USD41.56 billion, and the turnover was USD23.46 billion, up by 25.2% and 12.9% respectively year on year.

Second, ODI in various fields continued to grow. From January to April, the investment flowing to the manufacturing sector was USD5.72 billion, a year-on-year increase of 23.5%; the flow to information transmission services was USD2.44 billion, up 23.2% year-on-year. Investment in scientific research and technical services, transportation, residential services, health and other fields also showed an increasing trend.

Third, local ODI accounted for nearly 80%. From January to April, the foreign non-financial direct investment of local enterprises reached USD27.39 billion, up 7.5% year on year, accounting for 79.8% of the total ODI in the same period. Among them, enterprises in the Yangtze River Economic Belt invested USD13.57 billion abroad, up 20.9% year on year, accounting for 39.5% of the national total.

Fourth, there are more newly signed large contracts for foreign contracted projects. From January to April, there were 242 newly signed projects with a contract value of more than USD50 million, 12 more than the same period of last year, with a total value of USD61.04 billion, accounting for 85.4% of the total newly signed contractual value, mainly in transportation, power engineering and other fields.

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

China Business News: Recently, the Ministry of Commerce held symposiums with foreign-invested enterprises in the pharmaceutical industry, American Chamber of Commerce in China and German Chamber of Commerce in China. Why did the Ministry of Commerce hold intensive discussions with foreign-invested enterprises? What is the focus of the next-step work about foreign-invested enterprises?

Gao Feng: Providing services for foreign-invested enterprises is an important task of the Ministry of Commerce. The discussion and exchanges with foreign-invested enterprises is an effective way for us to help enterprises better understand policies and learn their difficulties and needs. Especially since the outbreak of the COVID-19 last year, the Ministry of Commerce has conducted more than 100 dialogues and exchanges with foreign-invested enterprises and foreign chambers of commerce. More than 1,800 foreign-invested enterprises have participated, and 281 difficult issues at the central level have been solved by coordination of the team on key foreign-invested projects under the foreign trade and investment coordination mechanism.

In the next step, we will continue to expand market access, strengthen the policy of keeping foreign investment stable, strengthen services for foreign-invested enterprises and continue to optimize the business environment in accordance with the arrangements of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council. We will continue to extensively listen to the opinion and suggestions of foreign-invested enterprises and foreign chambers of commerce, give full play to the role of the team on key foreign-invested projects under the foreign trade and investment coordination mechanism, and help foreign-invested enterprises solve practical issues, so that foreign-invested enterprises can develop in China with assurances and without worries. Thank you.

Economic Information Daily: The Master Plan for the Development of Hainan Free Trade Port (hereinafter referred to as the Master Plan) will soon mark its first anniversary. What’s MOFCOM’s comment on the progress made in the development over the past year? Did Hainan get off to a good start to realize the goals set in the Master Plan? Going forward, what aspects will MOFCOM focus on to make key breakthroughs?

Gao Feng: Following the plans of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, as well as the step-by-step arrangements and division of tasks set out in the Master Plan, MOFCOM has been focusing on trade and investment liberalization and facilitation and making solid progress in advancing related work and tasks. So far, multiple pillars supporting the trade and investment policy system of the Hainan Free Trade Port (Hainan FTP) have taken shape.

Tradewise, we have introduced 28 policy measures to liberalize and facilitate trade in the Hainan FTP and launched a pilot program in Hainan to comprehensively deepen the innovative development of trade in services. Investmentwise, we have formulated and released a comprehensive pilot program to support greater openness in services in Hainan and adopted 22 special measures to broaden market access, covering five major sectors, including the medical and healthcare, financial and cultural sectors. We have implemented the negative list on foreign investment access for Hainan, which only retains 27 restrictions and opens up wider the mining and whole-car manufacturing sectors. In terms of building opening-up platforms, we successfully held the first China International Consumer Products Expo, which was attended by 1,505 businesses from 70 countries and regions. A total of 2,628 brands were exhibited at the expo, including over 1,200 domestic brands. Foreign brands accounted for 52% of the number of brands and and 70% of the total exhibition area. We also support Hainan in building national bases for exporting digital services and traditional Chinese medical services.

These policy measures represent the systematic innovations to advance the trade and investment liberalization and facilitation system in Hainan. They can stress test Hainan for island-wide independent customs operations in the future and lay a solid foundation for kicking the development of the FTP to a good start.

Going forward, MOFCOM will work with related government departments and Hainan province to press ahead with relevant work. Tradewise, we will make explorations to further optimize the policies regulating the import and export of goods and objects in some specific area in the Hainan FTP. While working to introduce a negative list on cross-border trade in services in Hainan, we will work with the province and relevant parties to go through and standardize domestic regulations affecting free and smooth trade in services first in key areas. Investmentwise, we will fully implement existing opening-up measures and encourage multinationals to set up their regional headquarters in the Hainan FTP. On top of that, we will support the stress test on Hainan for higher-level opening-up. Thank you.

Phoenix TV: We have taken note of MOFCOM’s news release this morning that Liu He had a call with Katherine Tai, the U.S. Trade Representative. What issues were covered during the call? What are the arrangements going forward?

Gao Feng: As we all know, this morning, Vice Premier Liu He, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee and chief of the Chinese side of the China-U.S. comprehensive economic dialogue, had a call with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai. The two sides had candid, practical and constructive exchanges in the spirit of equality and mutual respect. The two sides believed that developing bilateral trade is very important, exchanged views on each other's concerns, and agreed to stay in touch.

If further information is available, we will release it in a timely manner. Thank you.

South China Morning Post: According to the Department of Agriculture of the US, China has been quickening steps to purchase corns from the US. Does it mean that China is still and will keep implementing the Phase One Deal with the US actively?

The China-US Phase One Agreement is in the interests of China, the US and the world at large. The two sides should make joint efforts to create an atmosphere and conditions favorable to the implementation of the Agreement. Thank you.

Red Star News: Yunnan and Qinghai were struck by earthquakes recently. Could you brief us on the situation of emergency supplies and market supply of local markets?

So far, in the earthquake-stricken areas, prices of daily necessities such as staple food, oil, meat, vegetable, eggs and milk have remained stable with normal supply. According to the monitoring data, inventories of daily necessities from key suppliers in Yangbi, Yunnan Province and in Maduo, Qinghai Province are able sustain for 15 and 10 days respectively, which is sufficient for local people’s demand.

In addition, commercial departments of the afflicted areas have checked for hidden dangers in local shopping malls, supermarkets, chain stores, wholesale markets, wet markets, petrol stations and other key facilities, so as to prevent secondary disasters.

Going forward, MOFCOM will keep watching closely the market supply of earthquake-stricken areas, guide local commercial departments to strengthen market monitoring, organize distributors to beef up supply and get prepared for emergency delivery. Thank you.

China News Service: We have noted that recently the European Parliament announced to freeze discussions on the China-EU Comprehensive Agreement. What’s MOFCOM’s take on its impact on the prospect of China-EU trade and economic cooperation? Will the opening-up commitments made by China in the Agreement be suspended as a result?

China and the EU are important trade and economic partners of each other. The two sides have cooperated in a wide range of areas with close business engagement and interconnected interests. Under our concerted efforts, China-EU trade value grew by 42% to USD250.3 billion from this January to April. In the same period, the EU’s actual investment in China increased by 12.4% to USD1.95 billion, and China’s direct investment to the EU up by 70.8% to USD1.69 billion. Against the backdrop of COVID-19, the sustained growth of bilateral trade and steady increase of two-way investment is testimony to the resilience and vitality of our trade and economic cooperation.

The China-EU Comprehensive Agreement is a mutually beneficial agreement, which serves the interests of China, the EU and the world at large. Thank you.

International Business Daily: Recently, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Commerce released the Notice on Further Strengthening the Supply Chain System of Agricultural Products, specifying that efforts will be stepped up to build an unimpeded supply chain system of agricultural products in the next two years. What measures will be taken to upgrade and renovate public wholesale markets of agricultural products?

In recent years, MOFCOM has worked with the Ministry of Finance and other departments to enhance the circulation system of agricultural products based on the idea of “strengthening circulation links, building circulation chains and optimizing circulation networks”. An agricultural product market network covering rural and urban areas has basically taken shape. In 2020, the trading volume of agricultural product wholesale markets across China reached 920 million tons, with a trading value of RMB5.4 trillion and employees over 6.7 million. Steady progress has been achieved in public wholesale markets of agricultural products. These markets have reached over 40% of cities and played a positive role in improving living standards and facilitating consumption.

To further improve the efficiency of China’s agricultural circulation system and ensure the safety and stability of agricultural supply, we have introduced a series of policy measures to strengthen the agricultural supply chain system, so as to address the problems of underdeveloped infrastructure of agricultural circulation, inefficient coordination among circulation chains and poor public functions. One priority is to upgrade and renovate public wholesale markets of agricultural products.

First, strengthening trading facilities and improving the operating environment. We will support markets in renovating trading sections, internal pathways, refrigerated warehouses and other public facilities, realizing compartmentalized and categorized layout of fruits, vegetables, meat, eggs and milk, dividing passenger and car flows, and improving the order within markets. We will support markets with both wholesale and retailing operations in setting up separate retailing sections to prevent mass gathering. We will improve ventilation, drainage, waste treatment facilities to ensure cleanness and tidiness of markets.

Second, enhancing IT-based facilities and improving the management capacity. We will support markets in equipping themselves with smart devices and facilities, carrying out electronic settlement, stepping up digitization of operating and trading information for both sellers and buyers, and work towards the visualized and digitalized management of personnel, vehicles and goods. In addition, we will strengthen data security and privacy protection, and safeguard the lawful rights and interests of all stakeholders.

Third, developing trading sections for specific agricultural products and improving the production-marketing matchmaking capability. Targeting key areas of support for rural revitalization,we will support markets in intensifying efforts to build sale sections for specific agricultural products, and helping key areas expand marketing channels.

Public wholesale markets of agricultural products need to sign agreements with local governments to fulfill their public responsibilities such as ensuring emergency supplies, stabilizing prices, guaranteeing food safety and environmental protection. Thank you.

Bloomberg: It has been reported that China is limiting import of maize to its free trade zones, leading to the cancellation of contracts of less than 1 million tons with the US. US maize suppliers worry that more orders may be cancelled. What’s your comment?

Gao Feng: I’m not aware of what you mentioned. Thank you.

Gao Feng: Do you have any more question? If not, this is the end of today’s press conference. Thank you.

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