[Gao Feng]: Dear friends from the media, good afternoon. Welcome to the online press conference hall of the Ministry of Commerce and participate in today's regular press conference. Today, we have invited Mr. Li Xingqian, Director of the Department of Foreign Trade of the Ministry of Commerce, and Ms. Yuan Yuan, Deputy Director of the Department of Pilot Free Trade Zone and Free Trade Port. I am Gao Feng, spokesman for the Ministry of Commerce. Mr. Li Xingqian will first introduce to you China's foreign trade operation in the first two months of this year. I will introduce to you the recent operation of daily necessities market, and then we will answer the questions raised by friends from the media.
First, I will give the floor to Director Li Xingqian.
[Li Xingqian]: Thank you for your attention to the development of China's foreign trade! Now I am delighted to introduce to you the foreign trade operation from January to February in 2020. Affected by the Spring Festival, especially the epidemic, from January to February, the total import and export volume was 4.12 trillion yuan, down 9.6%. More specifically, the export volume was 2.04 trillion yuan, down 15.9%, and the import volume was 2.08 trillion yuan, down 2.4%. There were four main characteristics. First, the import and export with traditional markets declined and the import and export with emerging markets such as the ASEAN grew slightly. The import and export with traditional markets such as the United States, the European Union, and Japan fell by 19.6%, 14.2%, and 15.3% respectively. The import and export with emerging markets such as the ASEAN and the 鈥淏elt and Road鈥 countries increased by 2% and 1.8% respectively. Second, the recovery of the export of labor-intensive products was slow, and the export of mechanical and electrical products was better than the overall level. The export of labor-intensive products fell by 18.8%, and the export of mechanical and electrical products was one percentage point higher than the overall level. Third, processing trade underwent sharp decline, and general trade was highly resilient. The import and export of processing trade fell by 16.4%, 6.8 percentage points more than the overall level, and the import and export of general trade fell by 9.2%, 0.4 percentage point less than the overall level. Fourth, the business entities generally faced difficulties and challenges. The exports of private enterprises, foreign invested enterprises, and state-owned enterprises fell by 12.8%, 20.4%, and 12.4% respectively.
Although the overall operation was under pressure, China's foreign trade has great potential and strong competitiveness, and enterprises have strong awareness to innovate and ability to expand market, showing some highlights. First, the enterprises' ability to expand emerging markets has constantly improved, and the share of export to emerging markets increased by 3.7 percentage points to 51.8%. Second, the exports of some high-quality, high-tech, and high value-added products such as integrated circuits and automobiles increased against the adverse trend by 10.5% and 0.3% respectively. Third, the imports of bulk commodities have kept increasing. The imports of bulk commodities such as crude oil, iron ore, and coal increased by 16.7%, 19.3%, and 27.8% respectively, jointly driving an increase of 3.2 percentage points in imports. Meat import increased by 69.6%, with pork rising by 1.6 times. Fourth, new business forms and models have been full of vitality. Cross-border e-commerce took full advantages of online ordering and "non face to face" transactions to turn the crisis into opportunities, and actively expand business, showing strong adaptability and independent development ability.
The development of China's foreign trade has been supported by positive factors. Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the Ministry of Commerce, together with various localities and departments, has issued a series of supportive policies and measures to comprehensively solve problems for foreign trade enterprises in respect of the resumption of work and production, taxation, finance, credit insurance, exhibition participation, legal aid, and guarantee of epidemic prevention materials. With the intensively introduced policies to stable foreign trade coming into effect, the resumption of work and production of foreign trade enterprises in various regions has shown an accelerated recovery.
Next, we will thoroughly implement the decisions and deployments of the CPC Central Committee and make every effort to stabilize foreign trade. It is necessary to make horizontal cooperation with various departments, and vertical coordination with localities and enterprises to ensure that policies can be implemented quickly and effectively. Diversified markets need to be further developed; the layout of international markets should be optimized; new foreign trade forms should be supported for rapid development. We should actively expand imports, improve the level of trade facilitation, effectively help reduce the burden on foreign trade enterprises, and strengthen communication and coordination with economic and trade partners to create a good domestic and foreign environment for foreign trade development. We should fully stabilize the basic foreign trade, and make contributions to completing the building of a well-off society in an all-round way.
Thank you錛 br>
[Gao Feng]: Thank you Director Li Xingqian for your introduction. Next, I would like to brief you on the recent operation of the daily necessities market.
At present, the national daily necessities market is generally well-stocked, and the prices are stable with a slight decline. According to the monitoring of the Ministry of Commerce, on March 11, the wholesale price of grain in the 100 large-scale agricultural and sideline products wholesale markets was basically the same as that at the end of February, and the wholesale price of edible oil fell by 0.3%. The wholesale prices of pork and mutton both fell by 0.1%, and the price of beef fell by 0.4%. The prices of chicken and eggs dropped by 1.6% and 3.0% respectively. The average wholesale price of 30 kinds of vegetables fell by 5.1%, and the price of 6 kinds of fruits increased by 0.6%.
The market supply of daily necessities in Hubei and Wuhan is generally sufficient and the market operation is basically stable. As of March 11, inventories of rice, flour, oil, meat, egg, milk, and vegetables in key retail enterprises in Hubei and Wuhan significantly increased compared with that at the end of January, showing that their ability to ensure market supply has been significantly enhanced. Recently, the sales of pork and vegetables in Wuhan's major supermarkets have basically remained stable; dynamic inventories have been at a high level; the overall supply has been guaranteed. The nine-province joint supply guarantee mechanism continues to increase its support for Hubei and Wuhan. Relevant provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities continue to transfer products such as rice, flour, oil, meat, poultry, eggs, and milk to ensure the supply of daily necessities for the people in Wuhan and Hubei. Since January 23, more than 55,000 tons of daily necessities have been transported to Hubei, including more than 45,500 tons of fruits and vegetables, more than 5,800 tons of rice and flour, more than 3,000 tons of edible oil, and more than 600 tons of convenience foods.
This is the information we need to let you know. Next, we are willing to answer questions from the media.
The floor is open now.
China News Agency: China鈥檚 foreign trade fell by 9.6% year-on-year in the first two months of this year. Exports contracted sharply by 15.9%. Can MOFCOM explain why? When will foreign trade recover and grow? Besides, expect ASEAN, China鈥檚 traditional trading partners including the EU, the US and Japan have seen the value of trade with China dropping. Will China step up efforts to support businesses in exploring new markets?
Li Xingqian: The performance of foreign trade in January and February indicates that China鈥檚 import and export, especially export, saw a decline as the foreign trade companies resumed production later than in the previous years due to the epidemic and seasonal factors in the Spring Festival. In order to blunt the effect on foreign trade, MOFCOM has worked with local governments and other ministries to release a string of policies to stabilize foreign trade, support resumption of work and production of foreign trade companies and do the utmost to secure their market and orders. These policies have produced good outcomes. Companies are moving faster with resumption of production and their ability to fulfill contracts is improving.
鈥 br>In the meantime, we鈥檝e noticed that Director General of the WHO believed covid-19 can be characterized as a pandemic. More than 110 countries and territories have confirmed cases. The pressure of global economic downturn builds up, so does the uncertainty of the external environment of China鈥檚 development.
Given the changes in supply and demand, the Chinese government鈥檚 policies center on ensuring a stable fundamental of foreign trade. We will conscientiously follow through the arrangement of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, focus on the implementation of policies, make every effort to support business resumption of manufacturers and restore normal market order. Our priority work includes four aspects. First, strengthening mechanisms. We will make the most of bilateral trade and economic cooperation mechanisms, accelerate the development of free trade areas, negotiate and sign high-quality FTAs or trade working groups with more countries, and foster an enabling international trade environment. Second, stepping up policy support. We will further improve the export rebate policy to ease companies鈥 burden, issue more foreign trade credit to meet the financing needs and help companies that have markets and orders to maintain fulfill their contracts. We will further expand the coverage of short-term export credit insurance and push for a reasonable cut of rate. Third, optimizing public services. We will support local governments, industrial organizations, and trade promotion agencies to build public services platform in order to provide legal services and information they need and help companies attend trade promotion events at home and abroad. Fourth, encouraging innovation. We will give play to the role of new trade forms and models such as cross-border e-commerce and market purchasing in boosting import and export, encourage companies to build a batch of high-quality overseas warehouses and improve their international marketing networks.
Economic Daily: Companies in many places have run into problems with resumption of work and production due to the disease. Will the epidemic have an impact on the agenda of FTZ reform? What measures have been taken in FTZs to help address difficulties in business resumption and what progress has been made?
Yuan Yuan: General Secretary Xi Jinping noted during his visit to Hubei Province that the prevention and control of covid-19 is a test for China鈥檚 system and capacity for governance. In the face of the test, great efforts have been made to learn and carry out the important instructions of General Secretary Xi Jinping in FTZs, which are the test field and pacesetter of comprehensive reform and opening up at a deeper level in China. In accordance with the plan of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, FTZs have leveraged the advantage of institutional innovation and pilot ground to continue with improvement of governance capacity with resolute and flexible measures, and play a leading and exemplary role in coordinating efforts to prevent and control the disease and build new ground of opening up. It is fair to say that the pace of reform, opening up and innovation in FTZs becomes ever firmer, rather than slowing down.
For some time, the Ministry of Commerce, as the Office of the Inter-Ministerial Joint Conference of the Pilot Free Trade Zones of the State Council, has actively provided services and guidance to the respective pilot free trade zones on implementing the decisions of the central government to get firms back to business on a region-specific, graded, and targeted basis and to stabilize the fundamentals of foreign trade and investment. According to our research, the respective pilot free trade zones, focusing on six areas, have taken multiple measures and policies in a targeted manner.
The first is to take proactive actions to address the shortage of protective supplies. For example, the Yantai area of the Shandong Pilot Free Trade Zone sent designated personnel to mask and related testing equipment manufacturing enterprises to help solve such problems as shortage of raw materials and workforce, and to ensure that the enterprises can start production at full capacity. The Luoyang area of the Henan Pilot Free Trade Zone has opened a 鈥済reen channel for examination and approval鈥 which allows companies to obtain a new 鈥淏usiness License of Hazardous Chemical Production鈥 only 30 minutes after producing a letter of commitment, thereby making it easier for them to purchase related stock disinfectant solutions. The Hainan Pilot Free Trade Zone introduced 鈥渃omprehensive insurance products for epidemic prevention and control for firms resuming work and production鈥 thus addressing the concerns of these enterprises.
The second is to use information technology to make administrative processes less difficult for business. For example, the government service centers of many pilot free trade zones, including those in Guangdong, Jiangsu and Shandong, have adopted such 鈥渃ontact free鈥 forms of administrative processes as to process business-related matters 鈥渙nline, and via mobile and landline telephone鈥 In the Dongjiang area of the Tianjin Pilot Free Trade Zone, 鈥渘on-face-to-face鈥 approvals already accounted for 98% of all approval business. In the central area of the Shaanxi Pilot Free Trade Zone, it took the Fresh Hema Operation Center project only one day to obtain an electronic license.
The third is to adopt the 鈥渃loud- and Internet-based model鈥 to make it easier to attract investment. For example, at the end of February, the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone organized a 鈥渃loud-based signing鈥 for 21 foreign investment projects with a total investment of more than US$1.7 billion. The Nanjing area of the Jiangsu Pilot Free Trade Zone has held two online contract-signing sessions since mid-February through investment platforms such as cloud intelligence, involving 10 projects, with a total investment of RMB16.8 billion. In the Nansha area of the Guangdong Pilot Free Trade Zone, an 鈥渙nline + offline鈥 contract signing was organized in early March, involving 59 projects, with a total investment of RMB160 billion.
The fourth is to facilitate communication between labor suppliers and employers to ensure the adequate supply of workforce. For example, in the Honghe area of the Yunnan Pilot Free Trade Zone, governments at multiple levels, i.e. districts, counties, townships and villages, have been working in unison to put together job-seeking migrant workers and escort them directly to the employer鈥檚 facilities, and let them visit the sites and negotiate compensation packages, thus creating a 鈥渃ircle of job opportunities at doorstep鈥 The Lingang New Area of the Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone has worked together with relevant parties to build a cross-industry service platform for employee sharing. This platform, now joined by more than 10 companies, has provided a flexible allocation of human resources, and alleviated the hiring difficulties that some companies face.
The fifth is to reduce costs and solve 鈥渇inancing difficulties鈥 through "blood transfusion鈥 In the principle of equal treatment for domestic and foreign investors, a number of pilot free trade zones have brought down business operating costs by reducing or exempting rents, taxes and fees. For example, in order to help polypropylene (a raw material for non-woven fabrics) manufacturers to rapidly expand production capacity, the Fuzhou area of the Fujian Pilot Free Trade Zone has coordinated with the bank to expedite the process for this urgent matter and completed loan approval for RMB100 million in one day.
The sixth is to provide legal services to facilitate contract fulfillment. For example, the Xiamen area of the Fujian Pilot Free Trade Zone has worked together with the Lujiang Notary Office of Xiamen to provide free notary and legal services such as force majeure evidence preservation for service companies in the zone. The Legal Service Center of the Shaanxi Pilot Free Trade Zone has set up a legal service task force for epidemic prevention and production resumption to provide legal assistance services on issues such as labor employment that enterprises may encounter.
In addition, many localities have issued relevant documents that specifically support the development of pilot free trade zones in the course of epidemic prevention and control.
At present, the pilot free trade zones have responded to the demands of the enterprises through adopting pragmatic measures and addressed their 鈥渦rgent needs鈥 achieving positive results in getting these enterprises back to business in an orderly manner. According to relevant surveys in various regions, as of noon today, except for Hubei, about 90% of the enterprises above a designated scale in the 17 pilot free trade zones are back to business, and in over 20 of the 55 areas of the pilot free trade zones, the rate of return to work has reached or is close to 100%.
Phoenix Satellite TV: At present, it鈥檚 a daunting task to stabilize China鈥檚 foreign trade and foreign direct investment. As new high grounds for opening up, how can pilot free trade zones play a demonstrating and leading role in the current situation?
Yuan Yuan: The 4th Plenary of the 19th Party Congress sets forth to accelerate the development of pilot free trade zones and free trade ports as new high grounds for opening up. In 2019, FTZ imports and exports accounted for 13.1% of the national total, utilizing 15% of China鈥檚 total FDI. It can be said that the FTZs, as new high grounds of reform and open-up, are also key bases for foreign trade and FDI stability. To our understanding, FTZ imports and exports have remained stable, with the smooth implementation of foreign-invested projects and advantages of export-oriented economy further unleashed. For example, foreign-invested enterprises in Qingdao of Shangdong pilot FTZ have largely returned to work, while 100% of those in Pingtan of Fujian pilot FTZ have resumed work. Large-scale foreign trade companies in Suzhou of Jiangsu pilot FTZ have all reopened, with the contract signed for the world鈥檚 largest ophthalmological medicine manufacturing base of Santen, a Japanese pharmaceutical company.
MOFCOM will continue to implement the decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council and work with related departments and localities to keep expanding open-up, and promote reform, development and innovation through open-up, so as to explore new paths for comprehensively deepening reform, accumulate fresh experience for developing new institutions for an open economy of higher level and make new contributions to foreign trade and FDI stability in the current situation.
First, we鈥檒l support in-depth institutional innovation in pilot FTZs. We鈥檒l push the FTZs to further expand open-up and innovative development with increased support for differential exploration of the FTZs and institutional innovation of multi-system integration in specific areas.
Second, we鈥檒l further upscale the stress tests for open-up. Benchmarking high-standard economic and trade rules, we鈥檒l further reduce the negative list for foreign investors in the FTZs and explore the negative list approach for cross-border services in the FTZs with vigorous exploration in institutional open-up of rules, regulations, management and standards.
Third, we鈥檒l ensure the continued success of replication and dissemination. Through timely summary, we鈥檒l harvest more quality outcomes of institutional innovation for roll-out on a larger scale to unleash nationwide institutional dividends of deepening reform and expanding open-up and drive the continuous optimization of China鈥檚 business environment.
Fourth, we鈥檒l continue to strengthen guidance and services for the FTZs. Through the communication and liaison mechanisms with the FTZs for outbreak prevention and control and regular channels, we鈥檒l follow up on the implementation of pilot tasks, gather information of business requests in a timely and rounded manner and bolster policy research reserves. We support the FTZs鈥 implementation of policies to stabilize foreign trade and FDI, foster and expand export-oriented economy, and unleash the vitality of market entities for greater clustering effect of foreign trade and foreign-invested companies in the FTZs.
CNBC: Could you tell us more about the foreign trade companies returning to work?
Li Xingqian: In order to support foreign companies returning to work, the Ministry of Commerce is guiding local commerce authorities in preventing and controlling the NCP while working on four areas. First, focusing on priorities. The focus is placed on major areas closely integrated to industrial chains, leading foreign trade companies and key steps. A list helping major foreign trading companies returning to work is introduced in order to offer targeted help. We are also coordinating the authority responsible for approving work resumption to speed up production resumption in the upstream and downstream of the industrial chain and ensure that the industrial and supply chains for foreign trade are operating smoothly. Second, making full and best use of policy tools. Export tax rebate, export credit insurance and other policies are used to reduce the cost of export for companies. The coverage of export credit insurance is further expanded and short period premium rates reasonably reduced to support companies with orders for goods enhancing the abilities to honor their contracts. Third, improving services. We streamline foreign economic and trade administration procedures and guide companies in applying paperless import and export licenses. We support Chambers of Commerce and Industry Associations in issuing factual proof of force majeure for free to foreign trade companies. Fourth, making good use of new forms of business and new models to support the innovative development of companies. We guide cross-border e-commerce comprehensive pilot zones in offering information and services about overseas warehouses and help companies expand export. We support the integrated development of market purchase trade and cross-border e-commerce.
At present, all work enjoys sound progress. As for the general work resumption of local foreign trade companies, more than 80% of foreign trade companies in the eight provinces and municipalities, including Shandong, Anhui and Liaoning, have resumed production; as for the general work resumption of major foreign trade companies, 100% or nearly 100% of major foreign trade companies in the 19 provinces and municipalities, including Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Shanghai, have resumed production.
The NCP is spreading fast in some foreign countries and regions. In the short term, its influence on global economy and industrial chain is inevitable and global economic and trade growth is under some pressure. Chinese foreign trade companies will be influenced to some extent in resuming production and getting new orders of goods, and global industrial and supply chains will be under certain influence. However, China enjoys a complete and competitive industrial chain supporting foreign trade, with close and strong cooperation with global supply chains. We will follow the development of NCP and the production resumption by companies closely, enhance analysis, research and judgment, implement legal compliance and supportive policies and support companies in stepping up production resumption to reach their designed production capacity. We will also enhance global cooperation against the NCP and strive to minimize the impact of NCP on China鈥檚 foreign trade and world trade.
Reuters: The rate of work and production resumption is gradually increasing for China鈥檚 foreign trade companies. However, at present, the NCP continues to spread overseas, exerting an impact on the global supply chain. We learned that upon returning to work, businesses in some sectors are faced with inadequate imported raw materials and huge pressure for international purchase. How could China avoid such impact on its foreign trade?
Li Xingqian: The global industrial chain is under the influence of NCP and thus will require a joint global effort. Based on the realities of China鈥檚 foreign trade, MOFCOM is further improving the mechanism for stabilizing foreign trade and promoting sound interactions between the government, industry and companies to forge synergies. The market will fully play a decisive role in allocating resources and the roles of the government will be better leveraged. First, the government would facilitate the work and offer more policy support. MOFCOM has issued a notice on the matter to support companies in expanding the import of goods, including raw materials, and guided local commerce offices in organizing such work. The government has taken various measures to streamline the review and approval procedures for import, further improve the level of facilitation, shorten the timeframe of review and approval and facilitate business import. Second, industrial organizations would optimize their services and better match information. They would actively serve companies and offer information on supply and demand, strive to enhance international exchanges and serve as a bridge and bond to help companies tackle the influence of NCP. Third, companies would take active steps to innovate business models, fully leverage the advantages of new forms of business in foreign trade, collect information on the international market, expand sourcing and make use of the overseas storage and international transportation resources of cross-border e-commerce companies to enhance the efficiency of purchase and delivery.
Shanghai Securities News: It has been around two years since General Secretary Xi Jinping鈥檚 remarks on the development of Hainan Pilot Free Trade Zone (Hainan Pilot FTZ) on 13 April 2018. What has MOFCOM done to advance the development of Hainan Pilot FTZ? What鈥檚 the progress so far? Could you also talk about the development of the Hainan Free Trade Port (Hainan FTP)?
Yuan Yuan: In April 2018, President Xi Jinping announced support for the development of a pilot free trade zone in Hainan and support for Hainan to gradually explore and steadily advance the development of a free trade port with Chinese characteristics. Over the past two years or so, Under the direction of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, MOFCOM has been speeding up the development of Hainan Pilot FTZ and explored in great depth policy and institutional frameworks of Hainan FTP, and positive progress has been made in these two aspects.
Since the release of the master plan for Hainan Pilot FTZ, MOFCOM has initiated special coordination meetings and joint inspections, among other actions, to push for the implementation of pilot projects under the master plan. Meanwhile, we have shown active support for Hainan to further explore. MOFCOM, together with other 17 authorities, announced that 30 policies that have been implemented in other pilot free trade zones would be introduced to Hainan as well. MOFCOM has also released 35 additional measures to support Hainan Pilot FTZ.
Overall, Hainan Pilot FTZ is under smooth development with significant outcomes. First, pilot projects have been well implemented. 97% of the projects in the master plan have by far been carried out. Second, institutional innovation has been delivering. Hainan has published 71 cases of institutional innovation in 6 batches. Third, the business environment has been under improvement. 85% of the government services items can be handled without being in person, enterprises can be set up in three working days at most, and in 2019, customs clearing has been 69% and 97% faster from 2017 for export and import respectively. Fourth, market entities have been clustering faster. The number of market entities in Hainan grew by 70% in 2019 year-on-year. 28 of the Fortune 500 companies and the Big Four accounting firms have set up their branches there. With these outcomes, Hainan FTP is set at a faster pace.
In combatting the COVID-19 epidemic, Hainan has launched full epidemic prevention and control and assisted businesses to resume operation and production, which has yielded remarkable results. Identified as a low-risk region, it has taken a series of measures popular among companies, including epidemic prevention and control insurance packages for companies that have resumed operation.
We will continue to advance high-quality development of Hainan Pilot FTZ so as to generate and share more institutional innovation results to the rest of the country. Following the direction of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, we will highlight trade and investment liberalization and facilitation when implementing policy and institutional systems for Hainan FTP, with the aim of quickening its development as a pacesetter for opening-up at a higher level and with a better business environment and stronger influence.
National Business Daily: The General Administration of Customs (GAC) issued foreign trade statistics for January and February 2020, which show that ASEAN has taken over the EU as China鈥檚 largest trading partner. What鈥檚 your comment? What鈥檚 your forecast about China鈥檚 trade?
Li Xingqian: On 31 January 2020, the UK formally left the EU, setting off a transition period for the relations between the two sides. Therefore, the GAC compiled and released the trade data with the EU and the UK separately.
China and the EU are important trading partners to each other. The EU has been China鈥檚 largest trading partner for 16 years in a row since 2004. In 2019, China-EU two-way trade bucked the mounting downward pressure on global economy, reaching a record US$705.1 billion.
Since the beginning of this year, the COVID-19 outbreak has affected trade development of the whole world, including China the EU, to different extents, and has disturbed global industrial chains. Yet despite so, China's economy will remain sound in the long run, and China-EU trade will keep its positive momentum. With mutual respect and win-win cooperation in mind, we will deepen practical cooperation with the EU to realize sustained and sound growth of China-EU trade.
Russia Today RIA NOVOSTI: To what extent will the outbreak affect China-Russia trade and economic cooperation? Will China cut natural gas import from Russia because of the outbreak?
Li Xingqian: China-Russia trade and economic cooperation has come a long way over the years. China鈥 customs statistics show that China-Russia trade reached USD17.2 billion in the first two months of this year, up by 5.6% year on year, outpacing other trading partners of China. Russia now stands as the ninth largest trading partner of China, up by one place from 2019.
It鈥檚 true that the COVID-19 outbreak has an impact on China-Russia trade and economic cooperation, most notably on service trade, such as tourism. Goods trade, investment and project contracting in Russia have also been adversely affected. But in general terms, the impact will be short-lived, as the fundamentals sustaining sound long-term trade and economic cooperation have not changed. Energy cooperation, including China-Russia east-route natural gas pipeline, is moving forward.
鈥 br>At present, China and Russia are having close communication to minimize the impact of the outbreak on trade and economic cooperation, and taking joint measures to turn the crisis into opportunities for the steady and healthy development of bilateral trade and economic cooperation.
Gao Feng: Given time, we will take the last question.
21st century business herald: Many countries face huge shortage of masks and personal protective gowns as the virus spreads across the world. China is an important supplier to these countries. Could you please give an overview of China鈥檚 trade on masks, protective gowns, disinfectant, and thermometers in recent years? What are the considerations in assisting other countries in face of the outbreak?
Li Xingqian: Please check the import and export data of medical products with China Customs. We noted that many countries face supply shortage of masks and protective gowns and looks to China for help or import. Since the outbreak began, the Chinese government has take decisive measures to help businesses resume operation, get back to full capacity, or even increase capacity or switch production to the much-needed supplies. As a result, the production capacity of medical supplies grew rapidly, and the overall supply shortage has been eased. But the supply of masks and some medicines is still squeezed in China, given 1.4 billion people and big crowds in production facilities and public places. To shoulder the responsibility that befits a country as large as China, we have lent timely support to countries in need to support the joint efforts of all countries to fight the epidemic. Always bearing in mind the sincere help we received from some countries and international organizations in times of difficulties, we will continue to expand international and regional cooperation and share our experiences in outbreak control. We will assist affected countries, especially the hardest-hit countries and regions to the best of our ability, while overcoming our own difficulties. The Chinese government will continue to encourage exporters to orchestrate supplies of masks and other medical equipment, as part of our contribution to the global fight against the outbreak.
Gao Feng: This is the end of the press conference. Thanks to the two speakers and friends from the press. We will respond to other questions that interest you afterwards. Thank you.