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Online Regular Press Conference of the Ministry of Commerce (April 9, 2020)

[Gao Feng]: Dear friends from the press, good afternoon. Welcome to the online regular press conference of the Ministry of Commerce. First, I have a piece of information to release.

It is about the national market supply of the edible agricultural products.

Recently, the national market supply of the edible agricultural products has been generally sufficient with the prices constantly dropping. According to the monitoring of MOFCOM, last week (March 30-April 5), the national market price of the edible agricultural products decreased by 1% compared with that of the previous week, falling for 6 consecutive weeks. In terms of variety, the grain price was stable in general, with the wholesale price of rice staying unchanged from the previous week and the wholesale price of flour up 0.3%. The price of edible oil fluctuated slightly, with the wholesale price of soybean oil down 0.4%, and the wholesale prices of peanut oil and rapeseed oil up 0.4% and 0.1% respectively. The price of meat fell at different levels. The wholesale price of pork dropped by 2.6% and the wholesale prices of beef and mutton decreased by 0.8% and 0.2% respectively. The price of poultry products fluctuated slightly with the wholesale price of eggs down 1.6% and that of chicken up 0.9%. The price of aquatic products dropped slightly, with the wholesale prices of carp and grass carp down 0.9% and 0.2% respectively. Vegetable prices fell seasonally. The average wholesale price of 30 kinds of vegetables fell by 0.6%. Fruit prices declined slightly. The average wholesale price of 6 kinds of fruits including apple, watermelon, banana, pear, grape and citrus fell by 0.1%.

The above is what I want to release. Next, I would like to answer the questions from the media. The floor is open.

Global Times: It is reported that the US is considering legal action against China, accusing it of preventing US manufacturers who make masks and other medical equipment in China from exporting those products to the US amid the spread of COVID-19. What is the response of MOFCOM?

Gao Feng: We鈥檝e noticed the reports and the statements made by certain American politicians.

The pandemic is a challenge for all mankind that should be addressed through global cooperation. China is willing to provide medical supplies to the pandemic-hit countries, regions and people within its best capacity. As of April 8, 58 countries (regions) and 4 international organizations have signed commercial procurement contracts with Chinese enterprises for medical supplies. 71 countries and 10 international organizations are negotiating commercial procurement with Chinese enterprises. Besides, cooperation between international buyers and Chinese companies is moving ahead through various channels. According to China Customs statistics, from March 1 to April 4, China exported RMB10.2 billion worth of much-needed epidemic prevention materials, including 3.86 billion masks, 3.752 million gowns, 2.41 million infrared thermometers, 16,000 ventilators, 2.84 million testing kits, and 8.41 million pairs of protective goggles.
We oppose distorting facts, shirking responsibility and politicizing the fight against the pandemic. We stand ready to work with countries and relevant international organizations to deepen international cooperation in pandemic prevention and control. We hope the countries and politicians concerned will abandon confrontation mentality in the face of the pandemic, take their responsibilities seriously and strengthen cooperation with the international community to combat the pandemic together. Thank you!

CBN: How is the recovery of retail, catering, tourism spending during the Qingming Festival according to MOFCOM statistics?

Gao Feng: As the situation continues to improve in China, the Qingming holiday saw sufficient supply of daily necessities, overall smooth operation of the domestic market, more buyers in shops and markets, as well as steadily recovering consumption.

First, there is a marked increase in merchandise sales. As more residents went out shopping, market sales grew significantly compared to before the festival. MOFCOM monitoring on the average daily sales of key retail enterprises shows an increase of 15.6% over the week before the holiday. Among them, communications equipment, clothing and daily necessities grow by 48.6%, 27.4% and 26.6% respectively. Sales of home appliances, cosmetics and food increase by 21%, 25.7% and 10.3% respectively.

Second, service consumption gains popularity. Food and beverage, tourism and leisure consumption have registered notable growth. During the Qingming holiday, the average daily turnover of the accommodation and catering industry in the country, as calculated by China UMS, increased by 11.5% and 10.0% respectively, compared with mid- to late-March, recovering to about 50% of the same period last year. According to China Tourism Academy鈥檚 survey, the total number of domestic tourists reached 43.25 million during the holiday, which is 40% of the same period last year.

Thirdly, daily necessities are available in sufficient quantity and at stable prices. Generally, they are in sufficient supply around the country and prices have stabilized and started to decline. On April 6, in China鈥檚 100 large wholesale markets, the prices of pork and beef were down by 1.1% and 0.1% respectively compared with those before the Qingming Festival (April 3, the same below); lamb prices were basically the same as before the festival; the prices of dressed chickens and eggs fell by 0.2% and 0.3%, respectively; the average wholesale price of 30 vegetables were basically the same as before the festival; the prices of grains and edible oils rose by 0.5% and 0.1%, respectively. Thank you.

Phoenix TV: Could you please brief us on the decline in orders received by foreign trade enterprises? How long do you expect the insufficient external demand to last? Will the impact of this pandemic on foreign trade outweigh that of the financial crisis in 2008?

Gao Feng: Foreign trade enterprises are now resuming operation and production in an orderly manner. Over 76% of key foreign trade enterprises have restored over 70% of their production capacity. The New Export Orders Index and Import Index of the manufacturing PMI in March rebounded by 17.7 and 16.5 percentage points, respectively, compared with those in February.
鈥傿ut, at the same time, we are gradually seeing the impact of the global spread of COVID-19 on the world economy and international trade. According to our investigation and study of key areas, sectors and enterprises, some foreign trade enterprises have seen their received orders postponed or cancelled, and their newly-signed orders affected. Enterprises in consumption sectors, such as the textile and clothing sector, are hit particularly hard in the short term.
We will closely follow and assess the impact on foreign trade. Earlier, we introduced a series of policies to stabilize foreign trade. Going forward, we will fully implement these policies, work to address the difficulties facing foreign trade companies as the changing dynamics require, strive to minimize the impact of the pandemic on foreign trade and stabilize the fundamentals of foreign trade. Thank you.

Bloomberg (US): How is China鈥檚 import and export in the first quarter? Do the pandemic developments overseas have an significant impact on China鈥檚 import and export in March?

Gao Feng: The GACC will soon publish data on the import and export in the first quarter. As reported by different localities and sectors, import and export in March have improved. Thank you.

China News Service: The executive meeting of the State Council on April 7 proposed to increase the capacity of such freight channels as the China-Europe block train service to support the stabilization of international supply chains, as well as the resumption of work and production. Generally speaking, has the capacity of the block train service been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak? What measures will MOFCOM take in using the service to stabilize foreign trade and investment?

Gao Feng: The CPC Central Committee and the State Council attach great importance to the development of the China-Europe block train service. The executive meeting of the State Council on April 7 proposed to increase the capacity of such freight channels as the China-Europe block train service, and make an all-out effort to transfer cargo from sea and air transport through these channels to support the stabilization of international supply chains, as well as the resumption of work and production.

Since the beginning of this year, the operation of the China Railway Express (CR Express) has been sound and stable. 1941 trips have been made from January to March, sending 174000 TEUs of goods, up by 15% and 18% year-on-year respectively. The CR Express made 809 trips in March alone, sending 73000 TEUs of goods, creating new records for the trips and TEUs in a single month. Compared with maritime and air transport, the CR Express has adopted a segment-based transportation mode and provided a series of 鈥渘on-contact services鈥across regions, which make it less vulnerable to the pandemic. Its 鈥渓oad-and-go鈥mode also appears to be more flexible. The CR Express has played a positive role in stabilizing the international supply chain between China and Europe, ensuring the transportation of materials used to fight the pandemic, promoting the resumption of work for companies and supporting the development of 鈥淏elt and Road鈥projects.

Moving forward, we would step up support for the CR Express. With 11 concrete measures put forward, for the coming period, MOFCOM would focus on the arrangements of the supply of goods, prioritizing the normal functioning of industrial chains and supply chains of businesses by virtue of the CR Express, exporting medical and living materials to Europe, and supporting the development of processing trade and new patterns and models of business of foreign trade. We would intensify international coordination to reduce unnecessary restrictive measures by the countries concerned. In the medium and long term, efforts will be concentrating in expanding the network of international logistics services with the CR Express taking the lead, strengthening cooperation with overseas cooperation parks, warehouses, transport hubs and ports, so that the CR Express could produce more benefits and higher returns. Thank you!

International Business Daily: It鈥檚 been reported recently that there are problems in the quality of the medical products China exported to some European countries. How does MOFCOM comment on that?

We have noted such reports. MOFCOM attaches great importance to it and has immediately contacted the governments of the countries and enterprises concerned for inspection.

According to the feedback we have received so far, these reports are not true. The so-called 鈥減roblems鈥mainly stem from the difference between China and Europe in terms of production standards and the environment in which the products are used. Some European users are not familiar with these products and misuses have even occurred.

The Chinese government has always taken seriously the quality and safety of medical products. Recently, China has introduced the rules to ensure the quality of medical products and regulate the export of these products, requiring that their export must be qualified by our drug regulation authorities and up to the quality standards of importing countries or regions.

As the pandemic continues to sprawl across Europe, the Chinese people could feel the same as our European friends do. We are ready to join hands with other countries to fight the virus and lend our support in any way we can. Instead of restricting the export of medical products, China would further enhance supervision on the quality of these products. The pandemic is the common enemy of humankind. We are convinced that as long as all parties spare no effort and unite to fight this battle, we will triumph one day. Thank you!

China Business News: Due to the stall of factories in Europe, the US, Japan and the ROK, certain high-tech intermediary compartments and new materials which Chinese foreign trade companies need are running out of supply. What should be done to address that?

Gao Feng: To address the impact of the spreading pandemic on global industrial chain and supply chain, it requires joint efforts from all governments, enterprises and industry associations.

At the government level, we will enhance macro-economic policy coordination with relevant countries and regions and further facilitate customs clearance and logistical links to ensure the unimpeded import of core compartments and materials as well as equipment for research and development, production and testing.

As for foreign trade companies, some of them, as we know, have been reinforcing their overseas operation by collecting international market information, stabilizing old channels and expanding new ones, while enhancing investment in innovation and bolstering weak links on their supply chains to avert relevant risks.

Industry associations can contribute as an innovative promoter of international exchanges and trade and as a bridge connecting the supply and demand sides for enterprises.

In a word, we will work with all relevant parties to safeguard an international supply chain that鈥檚 open, stable and secure. Thank you.

CNBC: Could you please talk about the work resumption of foreign-invested enterprises (FIEs)?

Gao Feng: The number and extent of FIEs resuming work are steadily increasing. Our monitoring shows that as of April 7, 71.9% of the key FIEs have resumed over 70% of their operation, up 5 percentage points from last week. manufacturing companies have picked up the fastest, with 76.8% of them resuming over 70% of operation, up 6.6 percentage points from last week, and with only 5.4% of them resuming less than 50% of their production capacity. FIEs in Hubei province have been picking up rapidly, with 75.9% of them resuming over 70% of operation, 9.9 percentage points more than a week before, approximating national average. Thank you.

South China Morning Post: Several provinces and municipalities have introduced consumption coupons and similar measures. Have such measures stimulated consumption? What are the current dynamics in China鈥檚 consumer market? Has it touched the bottom and stabilized? When is the estimated time of arrival of compensatory or 鈥渞etaliatory鈥consumption?

Gao Feng: So far as we have learned, over 20 prefectures and municipalities in seven provinces have issued consumption coupons in various forms to unleash potential consumption and boost consumption recovery, which has yielded progress in the short term. For instance, in Hangzhou, 樓220 million worth of consumption coupons have been spent, generating a total consumption of 樓2.37 billion, a multiplier of 10.7. In Zhengzhou, 樓11.524 million worth of consumption coupons, out of the 樓50 million total of the first batch, were spent in two days, generating a total consumption of 樓2.37 billion, a multiplier of 11.

As the epidemic is gradually brought under control, more businesses are resuming operation at a faster speed. Market consumption has also bounced back steadily. Over 95% of large agricultural products wholesale markets, large supermarkets, department stores, convenience stores, e-commerce platforms, and delivery companies have resumed business. Supply of daily essentials is adequate and the prices are falling steadily. The key retailers monitored by MOFCOM reported daily sales growth of 0.9% in late March from mid March, and of 3.2% from late February. With the implementation of central and sub-national policies to stimulate consumption, consumption is expected to recover. The epidemic will not reverse course of the long-term stability and upgrading of consumption in China.

China Media Group: Amid the rapid spread of coronavirus across the world, may I ask about the progress in business recruitment of the 3rd CIIE? In particular, how is the participation of medical device and pharmaceutical companies?
Gao Feng: Over 1,000 companies have registered for the third CIIE. Nearly 60% of the planned exhibition area has been booked. The exhibition area for medical devices and pharmaceuticals has doubled that of the 2nd session, with the focus on the import of drugs, medical devices, elderly care and rehabilitation, nutritional dietary supplements, and medical services. Over 80% of the planned area for this section has been signed up to by nearly 60 Fortune 500 companies and industrial leaders. Many companies will showcase anti-viral products such as ECMO, non-invasive ventilator, invasive ventilator, thermometer gun, and protective masks.

Going forward, we will create new ways of working and make full preparations for the third CIIE and make it an even greater success than the 2nd session, so that it continues to serve as a platform for international sourcing, investment promotion, cultural exchanges, and open cooperation.

21st Century Business Herald: Data show that as of 1 April, 124 countries and regions had placed restrictions on flights, trains, and ships. 71 countries and regions had closed in full or in part border ports or stepped up inspection. 179 countries and regions had placed restrictions on the movement of people. How will these measures weigh on China鈥檚 foreign trade? How will MOFCOM help international trading companies respond to these problems?

Gao Feng: The restrictions you referred to have caused delays in international logistics, pushed up customs clearance cost, and hindered business exchanges and meetings, making it harder for businesses to fulfill contracts or secure orders.
MOFCOM will step up communication and coordination with our trading partners, and push for joint actions to lift unnecessary restrictions to ensure an open, stable, and secure global supply chain. We will also, in conjunction with related authorities, take measures to ease logistics difficulties. We will leverage the role of cross-border e-commerce and other new forms and models of business, encourage businesses to secure orders through online conferences and virtual exhibitions, and to build international marketing networks and overseas warehouses in key markets. Thank you.

Gao Feng: This is the end of the press conference. Thank you.

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

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