South China Morning Post: It is reported by Australian media that China is considering high tariffs on barley imports from Australia in light of worsening China-Australia relations. What鈥檚 the response from MOFCOM? Can you confirm it?
Gao Feng: Upon request from domestic industries, MOFCOM initiated anti-dumping and countervailing investigations into barley originating from Australia from 19 November to 21 December 2018. The investigation period can last for 18 months at maximum according to the law. In the process, we fully protected the legitimate interests and rights of all stakeholders and widely collected comments, including from Australia. After the investigation comes to a conclusion, China will make the final ruling in an objective, impartial, and fair manner taking into account the comments from all stakeholders. Thank you.
MNI: Some research showed that China鈥檚 export in April was better than expected largely because of increased export to Southeast Asia. What are the projections for foreign trade in May? Will the sound momentum be maintained? Will trade expansion with Belt and Road countries be hindered by the epidemic?
Gao Feng: Multiple factors were at play in the increased export in April. From the supply side, since China has made strategic progress in combatting the COVID-19 outbreak, business resumption has accelerated and production capacity have recovered, laying a solid foundation for export to increase. From the demand side, China鈥檚 export to Japan and South Korea rose sharply in April, as their market demand recovered relatively swiftly. ASEAN market remained by and large stable. China鈥檚 export to ASEAN in April registered above-average growth. In the first four months, China鈥檚 export to ASEAN grew by 3.9%, accounting for 15.6% of the aggregate and up by 1.5 percentage points, making ASEAN our largest export market.
As for trade with the 鈥淏elt and Road鈥 countries, from January to April this year, the total value of China鈥檚 trade with the 鈥 Belt and Road鈥 countries was 2.76 trillion yuan, up 0.9%, 5.8 percentage points higher than the growth rate of foreign trade in the same period, with a share increasing by 1.7 percentage points to 30.4%.
The epidemic continues to spread around the world, posing challenges to China's trade and economic cooperation with the 鈥淏elt and Road鈥 countries. In the short term, the epidemic has caused inconvenience to the flow of goods and personnel exchanges, and the link between the industrial chain and the supply chain is not very smooth. However, in the long run, China's trade and cooperation with relevant countries has a solid foundation and still has great potential.
This epidemic highlights the necessity and urgency of deepening the joint development of the 鈥淏elt and Road鈥 Initiative. At the beginning of the outbreak, many 鈥淏elt and Road鈥 countries offered China assistance in many ways on their initiative, such as epidemic prevention supplies. With China's domestic epidemic prevention and control improving and the production capacity of epidemic prevention supplies increasing, China has also done its best to provide large amounts of medical supplies to several 鈥淏elt and Road鈥 countries. The epidemic prevention and control cooperation featuring mutual assistance and solidarity clearly reflects the spirit of the 鈥淏elt and Road鈥 and a joint effort to build a community of shared future for mankind.
In the next step, we will continue to strengthen cooperation with the 鈥淏elt and Road鈥 countries to jointly combat the epidemic, consolidate the good momentum of economic and trade development, further improve the level of facilitation, and promote the steady and healthy development of trade and economic cooperation. Thank you!
Economic Daily: The upcoming China Processing Trade Products Fair will go online for the first time. Will "cloud鈥 exhibitions be a trend? As an important production and sales matching platform for exporters shifting to domestic market, the online Fair is expected to help foreign trade enterprises to make inroads into the domestic market. What does MOFCOM think of foreign trade enterprises shifting to domestic market through online platforms against the backdrop of the pandemic?
Gao Feng: Participating in exhibitions is an important way for foreign trade enterprises to obtain new orders. MOFCOM would like to see more online exhibitions and encourages government-sponsored exhibitions to take the lead in putting them online and explore new ways to organize exhibitions with synchronized online and offline interaction and integration in order to address the impact of the pandemic. These online exhibitions can use modern information technology to deliver better results in display, outreaching and negotiation, and help enterprises to get orders, secure customers and expand market shares.
China boasts an enormous domestic market. The pandemic-battered demand is coming back at a faster pace. The China Processing Trade Products Fair and other exhibitions provide an opportunity for communication and integration online and offline, which contributes to connecting production and demand, helping foreign trade companies explore the domestic market and better meeting consumer demand in the country. Thank you.
Xinhua News Agency: What do you make of the recovery of export in April? Does it mean the external demand is improving? Will it last? April also saw a slower decrease in China鈥檚 export and import. What鈥檚 your forecast of the performance and trend of foreign trade this year?
Gao Feng: I have given an introduction on export in April just now. With regard to the situation of foreign trade this year, China still faces severe risks and challenges and increasing downward pressure due to the heavy shock on the world economy and trade and global industrial and supply chain by the pandemic and rising uncertainties and destabilizing factors. In particular, small and medium-sized foreign trade enterprises and labor-intensive industries may be more affected.
Going forward, MOFCOM will work with relevant ministries and local governments to go all out to implement the existing policies and measures, look into and release more targeted alleviation measures, stabilize foreign trade so as to help foreign trade enterprises proactively explore the international market, translate the crisis into opportunities and make greater progress in quality development. Thank you.
AFP: It鈥檚 been reported recently that some foreign businesses have received notice allowing senior staff to apply for return to China. Could MOFCOM confirm and share more detailed information? What companies are able to apply for exemption? What foreign employees are able to return to China? Do they need to be quarantined and tested after entry into China?
Gao Feng: It is understood that related departments are leading the efforts to explore with some countries and regions the fast track for urgent personnel exchange. If foreign companies in China meet with any difficulty related to the entry of foreign staff, they can report to MOFCOM. We will actively coordinate with related departments. Thank you.
CNR: Recently, three ministries, including MOFCOM and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology launched the promotion campaign of the 2nd quality and variety on-line shopping festival. How did it go? What are the highlights? How did it promote consumption at the time of epidemic?
Gao Feng: From Apr. 28th to May 10th, MOFCOM, together with the MIIT, the State Post Bureau and China Consumers Association launched the promotion campaign of the 2nd quality and variety on-line shopping festival.
The event attracted 115 e-commerce businesses, over 100,000 brands and a million plus online stores, registering total sales revenues of RMB 182.51 billion, up 1.37 times from the first edition and driving over RMB 430 billion in national online retail sales, up by 20.8% year-on-year. Of these, the sales of physical goods exceeded RMB 380 billion, up 33% year-on-year. The approval rate of the commodities on offer shot over 98%, effectively promoting consumption makeup and unleashing potentials. The event has the following features.
First, national brands did extremely well. Consumers, especially young shoppers, are increasingly identifying with national brands. On some e-commerce platforms, over 500 time-honored Chinese brands booked more than RMB one billion in sales. New arrivals on several crowdfunded e-commerce platforms grew by over 60%. Some e-commerce operators introduced reversed customized new products under national brands, with a three-fold increase in sales year-on-year.
Second, new trending products kept emerging. Throughout the shopping festival, the sales of motion sensing-enabled gaming consoles and energy-saving appliances increased by thirteen times and two times respectively; massage chairs and rowing machines had their sales doubled; smart products and green food saw a 20%-plus growth in their sales. On one Chinese e-commerce platform, the sales of smart digital products and 5G-enabled phones surged by 113% and 90% respectively.
Third, pressure on products for export was mitigated. E-commerce platforms set up special sections and launched special events for products originally produced for export to help foreign trade enterprises offset declining overseas demand. Nearly 10,000 foreign trade businesses started to operate on e-commerce platforms, some of which were able to make 16,000 deals a day, seeing a 300% increase of daily sales from before such events.
Fourth, urban-rural two-way flow was realized through poverty alleviation and support for rural areas. Rural consumer market potential was further unlocked, with a 40% year-on-year increase in online sales in rural areas and a 50%-strong one in state-level poverty-stricken counties. Meanwhile, the shopping festival has helped bring agricultural products to urban markets, as evidenced by a growth of over 70% in online sales of agricultural products nationwide.
Fifth, livestreaming greatly promoted sales. Sellers and platforms expeditiously leveraged new promotion settings, including livestreaming, resulting in over 700,000 livestream sessions that attracted 2.9 billion viewers. One participating enterprise worked with automobile manufacturers and sold over 4,000 new cars, generating more than RMB600,000 million in revenue. Another worked with mainstream media to offer public-interest livestream promotion, which yielded a revenue above RMB500 million in three hours.
Sixth, online shopping also reinvigorated offline consumption. The shopping festival boosted online consumption in consumer services, which has spilled over into offline stores. The online sales of catering and tourism products increased by 68% and 150% respectively over the last month. And on some e-commerce platforms, online catering sales in Wuhan during the Labor Day holiday witnessed a whopping leap of 113% than a week ago. Thank you.
Gao Feng: This is the end of today鈥檚 press conference. Thank you.