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MOFCOM Regular Press Conference (August 19, 2021)

Gao Feng: Friends from the press, good afternoon. Welcome to the MOFCOM regular press conference. Today, I have an announcement to make.

China’s outbound investment cooperation, January-July 2021

From January to July 2021, China’s non-financial outbound direct investment (ODI) was RMB406.52 billion, down 4% year-on-year (US$62.81 billion, up 4.2% year-on-year). The value of performed overseas project contracts was RMB508.13 billion, up 3.4% year-on-year (US$78.51 billion, up 12.3% year-on-year), and the value of newly signed contracts RMB797.7 billion, down 6.8% year-on-year (US$123.25 billion, up 1.2% year-on-year). 184,000 workers were engaged in overseas labor service cooperation, and the total overseas labor force amounted to 602,000 in the end of July. The highlights include:

First, investment continued to grow and contracting markets were stable in countries along the Belt and Road. From January to July, China’s non-financial direct investment in Belt and Road participating countries reached US$11.29 billion, growing by 9.9% year-on-year. This amount accounted for 18% of the total non-financial ODI over the seven months, up 1 percentage points compared with the same time span last year. Newly signed project contracts and performed contracts in participating countries valued US$64.42 billion and US$45.26 billion respectively, accounting for 52.3% and 57.6% of the total values.

Second, outbound investment showed sustained growth in multiple sectors, and local investors remained the main driver. From January to July, ODI flowing into the information transmission sector surged by 32.9% year-on-year to US$4.81 billion. ODI in areas such as scientific research and technological services, manufacturing, transportation and residential services was also on the rise. Local businesses contributed US$48.46 billion worth of non-financial ODI, up 10.6% year-on-year and accounting for 77.2% of the total ODI over the seven months. Provinces and municipalities in the Yangtze River Economic Belt invested US$23.82 billion overseas, up 18.8% year-on-year and accounting for 77.2% of the total ODI.

Third, newly signed contracts are concentrated sector-wise with an increased number of large-scale projects. From January to July, over 60% of the newly signed project contracts were in areas such as transportation, electric engineering and general construction. 453 newly signed contracts valued more than US$50 million, 32 more than the same period last year; their total value was US$104.86 billion, making up 85.1% of all new contracts.

Next, Let’s proceed to the Q&A.

The floor is open.

The Cover: Statics from MOFCOM show that the sales of new energy vehicles (NEVs) since the beginning of this year has exceeded that of the whole 2020. What measures has MOFCOM taken to boost NEV consumption? What is MOFCOM’s outlook on NEV consumption this year?

Gao Feng: From January to July this year, a record 1.478 million NEVs from Chinese manufacturers were sold, which was more than doubled compared with the same period last year and already exceeded the total sales of 1.367 million of 2020. NEVs accounted for 10.0% of new car sales from January to July this year, up by 6.1 percentage points year-on-year. In the first half of 2021, over 70% of the NEVs were sold to individual customers, which reflects stronger domestic momentum.

In accordance with the instructions of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, MOFCOM has worked with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and other relevant authorities in the following areas:

First, we’ve arranged another round of NEV sales events in the rural areas of Jiangsu, Chongqing and other localities. Statistics shows that NEV sales in the rural areas amounted to over 430,000 from May to July. The China Automobile Dealers Association (CADA) carried out auto exhibition tours in more than 20 localities like Tianjin and Hainan to promote NEVs.

Second, we’ve rolled out policy measures to promote NEV consumption. We encourage local governments to issue more car licenses and ease the criteria for license application to reduce restrictions for NEV purchases. Meanwhile, we make it easier for NEV users to charge batteries, drive and park.

Third, we’ve made sustained efforts in electrifying vehicles in key sectors. Measures have been adopted to step up the promotion of NEVs in such public areas as public transport, taxis, logistics and delivery.

With the steady recovery of China’s economy, evolving consumption attitude of our people, and improving conditions and facilities for the use of NEVs, China’s NEV market will unleash further potential and its penetration rate will be even higher. NEV sales are expected to stay on an upward track. Thank you.

National Business Daily: Recently, the Port of Ningbo-Zhoushan has been partially closed due to the pandemic. Some are worried that this would add further pressure to the international shipping capacity that’s already under strain. What’s MOFOCM’s take on that? What measures will be taken to keep global supply chains stable?

According to our knowledge, since COVID-19 cases were found in the Port of Ningbo-Zhoushan on August 11, the Meishan Terminal has been closed, which has temporarily impacted part of the import and export business. The local government and relevant companies took swift and effective measures to move the ships at the Meishan Terminal to other terminals to keep the business running. The Port is now in smooth operation.

In the next step, we will work with relevant departments to enhance the resilience and risk resistance of China’s industrial and supply chains in foreign trade, while ensuring proper pandemic prevention. We will firm up chains, deepen international cooperation, firmly uphold the multilateral trading system, and oppose protectionism. We will keep the international industrial and supply chains and international logistics stable and smooth, and work with all trading partners for the economic recovery and development of the world. Thank you.

CNBC: During the Tianjin talks between China and the US, was there any new discussion about the China-US trade? Is there any new progress?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China has made announcements about the Tianjin talks. What I can tell you is that China and the US are maintaining normal communication on the trade and economic fronts. Thank you.

Economic Daily: MOFCOM is now canvassing public opinions on the Administrative Measures for Standardization in the Field of Commerce (Draft for Comments). The previous Administrative Measures (for Trial Implementation) has been implemented for nine years. Could you please brief us on the reasons for this revision and what changes have been made in the new draft?

The current Administrative Measures for Standardization in the Field of Commerce (for Trial Implementation), which was published in 2012, has played a vital role in enhancing the management of standardization in the commerce field and improving the law-based administration of standardization. In recent years, we have revised and implemented the Law on Standardization of the People’s Republic of China and made further progress in commercial development. The original standardization administration system in the commerce field can no longer fit into the new environment, which calls for institutional revisions to further strengthen and improve the management of standardization in the field of commerce.

In accordance with the plans of the Party Central Committee and the State Council, we started the revision of the Administrative Measures in November last year. On the basis of in-depth research, a draft for comment has been prepared and is now released for public comment. This revision has the following three main features:

First, highlight the promotion of high-quality commerce development. On standard development, the standardization technical committee and relevant experts would check technologies in the standards to ensure the quality of standards. On standard implementation, it is further specified that mandatory standards must be implemented, while the development and implementation of group and corporate standards are encouraged. Promote the use of recommended standards by enterprises and social groups in production, circulation, consumption and other steps, and let standards support industrial and high-quality commerce development.

Second, highlight capacity building in standardization governance. Introduce all-round and whole-process regulations on the formulation, implementation, supervision and management of standards on commerce. Establish a promotion mechanism for standardization work on commerce, and lead and coordinate standardization work on commerce in a unified manner. The provincial commerce authorities will assist the Ministry of Commerce in standardization work within their respective administrative areas. The evaluation before launching the standards, technical review, and feedback and evaluation after implementation of the standards are regulated, and the supervisors and the responsibilities and measures of supervision are defined. At the same time, in the process of formulating and implementing standards on commerce, it is necessary to ensure that the work is open and transparent.

Third, highlight serving the creation of a new development dynamic. Actively promote participation in international standardization activities, carry out foreign cooperation and exchanges on standardization, encourage the mutual conversion and application between domestic and foreign commerce standards, deeply integrate standardization work with international rules, and promote a higher level of opening to the outside world.

In the next step, we will carefully study the comments publicly solicited, further improve the Administrative Measures, and accelerate the relevant revision. Thank you.

CGTN: Recently, it was reported by the media that as Lithuania allowed the Taiwan authorities to open a "representative office" under the name of "Taiwan", Chinese enterprises will cancel the direct freight trains to Lithuania at the end of August and September. Is that the case? What is the comment of the Ministry of Commerce?

Gao Feng: For some time, the Lithuanian government has constantly created obstacles to bilateral pragmatic economic cooperation and trade, interfering with regular business activities of Chinese enterprises in Lithuania on the grounds of national security, and undermining pragmatic cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries. China has made solemn representations on many occasions.

Recently, Lithuania has brazenly violates the spirit of the communiqué on the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Lithuania and severely undermines China's sovereignty and territorial integrity, and has seriously affected the confidence of enterprises of the two countries in mutually beneficial cooperation.

We urge the Lithuanian side to immediately rectify its wrong decision, take concrete measures to undo the damage, work harder to enhance the well-being of the two peoples, and create favorable conditions for bilateral economic cooperation and trade. Thank you.

The Paper: Recently, the Ministry of Commerce publicly solicited opinions on the Guide to the Development of Urban Business Districts (Draft for Soliciting Opinions). According to the Guide, it is necessary to control the scale and focus on optimizing the existing business districts, and strictly control the scale of commercial buildings newly built and renovated. What is the reason why the Ministry of Commerce issued this guide? How will the Guide direct the development of local business districts?

Gao Feng: In recent years, China's urban business has continued to expand in scale and upgrade in structure, primarily forming a multilevel business district layout covering core business, regional business and community business districts, offering services at different levels and meeting diversified needs of urban residents. In general, however, there are still some problems in urban business districts, such as unreasonable planning and layout, insufficient community commercial facilities in general, etc. The number of outlets in some urban business districts tend to reach the full capacity, while the relative surplus, high vacancy rate and high rents coexist. The forms of business in some business districts are not diversified enough and focus less on experience, which could not effectively meet the needs of consumption upgrading for residents.

After extensive and in-depth research, MOFCOM, together with relevant institutions, formulated the Construction Guidelines for Urban Business Districts and is soliciting public opinions on it. We hope that the Guidelines could steer the urban business upgrading actions by local governments, that is, designing urban business districts in the light of local conditions with layered and categorized business layouts to meet consumer demands of different groups. Specifically, there are four focuses. First, channeling resources to community levels to build 15-minute community life circles. We aim to improve the weak links in developing community-level business districts to provide greater convenience for residents. Second, upgrading business districts. While nurturing international consumption hub cities, we plan to build a number of business districts up to international standards and distinctive blocks and business districts in order to satisfy the diverse consumer demands of residents. Third, enriching consumption scenarios. With a guiding catalogue of business types, we will upgrade traditional business types such as shopping and catering, lay out emerging business types that are experiential, immersive and interactive and integrate cultural and tourism resources to provide customers with better shopping and leisure experiments. Fourth, promoting technology-based transformation. We will drive the digital and intelligent transformation of business districts and develop more smart blocks with greater business types, patterns and scenarios. The ultimate goal is to further modernize urban business industries.

[CNR Business Radio] It is reported that the revision of the 2021 negative list for foreign investment market access is nearly done and will be made public soon. Is that true? What are the targeted areas of this revision?

[Gao Feng] To step up the revision of the 2021 negative list for foreign investment market access, MOFCOM and the NDRC have extensively solicited ideas and suggestions from multiple stakeholders for further research together with relevant institutions. We are going to shorten the list further and expand high-level opening-up. Thank you.

[Securities Daily] The latest MOFCOM data shows that paid-in FDI in the first 7 months of this year reached RMB 672.19 billion, a year-on-year increase of 25.5%. Some believe that paid-in FDI growth this year outpaced former expectation. What is MOFCOM’s take on the latest data?

From January to July this year, paid-in FDI in China was RMB 672.19 billion (excluding banking, securities and insurance), a year-on-year increase of 25.5%, or 30.9% in US dollar terms. Paid-in FDI maintained a good momentum since the second half of last year, showing the steadily growing confidence and expectation of foreign investors. According to reports from American, European, Japanese and other foreign chambers of commerce, nearly 2/3 of American enterprises, 59% EU enterprises and 36.6% Japanese enterprises are planning to invest more in China.

However, we have also noticed that there are still uncertainties in using foreign investment and the situation is still complex. Going ahead, in accordance with the arrangement of CPC Central Committee and the State Council, we will continue to take active measures to expand opening-up, improve business environment and strengthen service to help foreign investors and foreign-invested enterprises develop better in China. Thank you.

[Gao Feng] Any other questions?

Since there are no more questions, this is the end of today’s press conference. Thank you.

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