China Daily: As we know, the Special ASEAN Plus Three Economic Ministers鈥 Meeting on COVID-19 response will be held soon. What topics will be covered? Could you give us a briefing?
Gao Feng: This afternoon, the Special ASEAN Plus Three Economic Ministers鈥 Meeting on COVID-19 response is taking place via video conference, attended by economic and trade ministers of the 10+3 countries as well as ASEAN Secretary General. Minister Zhong Shan also attends and addresses the meeting.
The meeting will focus on implementation of the consensus reached at the Special ASEAN Plus Three Summit on COVID-19. Ministers will discuss how to step up cooperation on epidemic response and trade, overcome the COVID-19 crisis, and restore the economic vitality in the region. Thank you.
Economic Information Daily: MOFCOM said it would facilitate business resumption of distribution enterprises, step up support for commercial circulation and restore and promote consumption in the normal context of epidemic prevention and control. How is the work going? Are there new measures to support small and mini businesses in circulation?
Gao Feng: According to our monitoring, as of June 1, over 95% of retailing businesses above designated size had restarted operation, and the 11 pedestrian streets identified by MOFCOM for upgrading pilot program saw 94.5% of shops reopened. The flow of customers and turnovers reached 80.3% and 81.6% of the level last year. In late May, the average daily sales of key retailers were up by 4.8% from mid-May. The NBS statistics show that business indicators for retailing and restaurants topped 55%. The business indicators of retailing and restaurant were above 50% for the third consecutive month and second consecutive month respectively, indicating the sound momentum of consumption recovery.
With respect to support for small and micro businesses, we will work together with relevant ministries to focus on helping small shops seek development through convenient, tailored and digitized services and put in place multi-layered small-shop economy of all sorts so as to create more jobs, boost consumption and revitalize the economy. Thank you.
Xinhua news agency: In order to help Hubei recover from the epidemic, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council has studied and decided on a package of policies to support Hubei's economic and social development and proposed to study and issue policies to speed up the development of China (Hubei) Pilot Free Trade Zone. What measures will be adopted by the Ministry of Commerce to be specific?
Gao Feng: In order to further increase support for Hubei's revival after the epidemic, the Ministry of Commerce recently studied and adopted a number of measures to speed up the development of the China (Hubei) Pilot Free Trade Zone. It introduced 24 specific measures in five aspects, including improving quality of trade growth, optimizing business environment, improving market operation mechanism, deepening international economic cooperation and trade, and strengthening institutional guarantee. It supported the Hubei Pilot Free Trade Zone as a testing field for comprehensively deepening reform and expanding opening up, vitalizing market players and enhancing new momentum of development, which mainly include the following:
First, foster new momentum for Hubei's foreign trade growth. We will support the Hubei Pilot Free Trade Zone in building a national base for foreign trade transformation and upgrading, conducting cross-border e-commerce retail import pilot projects, developing a comprehensive pilot zone for cross-border e-commerce in relevant regions, and creating model cities for service outsourcing.
Second, establish and improve the working mechanism of foreign investment promotion, investment service and investment protection. We would actively help resolve the difficulties of foreign-invested enterprises in Hubei Pilot Free Trade Zone, promote the implementation of key foreign-invested projects, support enterprises in returning to business, and continuously improve the business environment.
Third, support Hubei Pilot Free Trade Zone as a pioneer based on its development orientation, in exploring and establishing a C2M industrial base, and promoting the deep integration of industrial chains. We would support the relevant regions to carry out pilot projects on supply chain innovation and application, and improve the supply chain system for strategic emerging industries. We would also provide guidance for building international consumption centers and promote consumption and service upgrading.
Fourth, make use of bilateral economic cooperation and trade mechanisms, China International Import Expo, China-Nordic Trade and Economic Cooperation Forum and other exhibition, forum and other platforms, and let overseas business agencies play their roles. We will actively support Hubei Pilot Free Trade Zone in carrying out international economic cooperation and trade, such as international procurement, investment promotion and people-to-people exchanges.
Fifth, support Hubei Pilot Free Trade Zone in further doing a good job in the replication and promotion of institutional innovation achievements, carrying out in-depth differentiated exploration around strategic positioning, strengthening personnel exchanges and special training, and promoting high-quality development of Hubei Pilot Free Trade Zone. Thank you!
Phoenix TV: President Trump threatened at last week鈥檚 press conference to revoke preferential treatment for Hong Kong as a special customs territory. What鈥檚 the response from MOFCOM? How do you evaluate the impact of such move?
Gao Feng: The status of Hong Kong as a separate customs territory has its legal basis from the WTO protocol, is approved by the Chinese government and confirmed by the Basic Law of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People鈥檚 Republic of China. This legal status, established by the multilateral rules of the WTO, is recognized by other Members, not granted by a single Member.
The special economic status of Hong Kong is guaranteed by the Basic Law and acknowledged and respected by countries around the world. After Hong Kong was returned to China, the win-win economic and trade cooperation between Hong Kong and the mainland has kept deepening. Its status as a free port and separate customs territory has been preserved and consolidated, which proves that the high-level of autonomy is functioning well in Hong Kong.
The decision of the National People鈥檚 Congress to establish and improve legal system and enforcement mechanism to safeguard national security in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is meant to tackle actions that jeopardize national security. It will not erode the high level of autonomy in Hong Kong. Nor will it undermine the rights, interests, and freedom endowed to Hong Kong residents by law or the legitimate interests of foreign investors in Hong Kong. Conversely, it will contribute to the business and investment environment, the long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong, and the steady implementation of the One country, Two Systems policy.
Unilateralist measures taken in accordance with American domestic law, in disregard of the basic norms governing international relations, will be a violation the WTO rules and will not serve American interests. We will resolutely implement the One country, Two systems policy, strongly oppose foreign interference into Hong Kong affairs, support Hong Kong in preserving its status as a special customs territory and cementing its role as an international finance, trade, and shipping hub. Hong Kong鈥檚 prosperity and development will always have the backing of the country. Thank you.
Shanghai Securities Daily: It is reported by foreign media that global supply chains are moving out of China. Southeastern Asian countries like India and Vietnam are also relocating industries at a faster pace. What steps will China take to consolidate and improve China鈥檚 role in the global supply chain?
Gao Feng: The international supply chain is the product of business selection in the process of economic globalization, and features the advantages, specialization and cooperation of different economies. We have not seen foreign investment exit or relocation of industrial chains and supply chains out of China. On the contrary, we noted that many multinationals are planning to extend industrial chains in China because of the steady business environment, strong comprehensive competitive edges, enormous market and huge demand potential.
We will firmly press ahead with opening-up, further ease market access for foreign investment, expand the encouraged category for foreign investment, upgrade domestic industrial chains and supply chains, and see to it that domestic and international markets are mutually reinforcing. Thank you.
China Business News: The 29th round of negotiation on the China-EU Investment Agreement was held from May 25 to 29 with sound progress. Could you brief us on the negotiation and its future arrangements? Will China and the EU conclude the Investment Agreement as scheduled against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic?
Gao Feng: China and the EU held the 29th round of negotiation on the Investment Agreement via video conference from May 25 to 29. The two sides had consultations on the text and list offers of the agreement and made sound progress.
The 21st China-EU Summit held last year announced that the negotiation would be concluded in 2020. This goal has not changed. Both sides set store by the negotiation and hope the agreement could benefit businesses and investors from both sides at an early date. In particular, in the context of the impact of COVID-19 on the global economy, concluding the agreement at an early date will help deepen China-EU trade and economic cooperation and boost global economic recovery.
Over the past several months, the negotiating teams from both sides have overcome difficulties brought by the pandemic and advanced the negotiation by holding three rounds of fruitful negotiations from March to May. The two sides have already made arrangements for negotiations in the months to come. Thank you.
CNBC: We have heard some in the US and Europe blame China on the pandemic. Mr. spokesperson, what鈥檚 your take on the trend of China鈥檚 foreign trade development in the next stage? Will the trade and economic exchanges between China and the West be affected by international political frictions?
Gao Feng: We are also keeping a close eye on the future trend of China鈥檚 foreign trade. Now, there are still many uncertainties and instabilities. At the same time, China鈥檚 foreign trade has great resilience, strong potential and ample room for maneuver. The long-term upward trajectory of China鈥檚 foreign trade remains unchanged.
As regards your second question, China always opposes turning trade and economic issues into political ones. COVID-19 has dealt a body blow to global production and demand. In this context, countries should work more closely and take concrete action to restore growth to the world economy as soon as possible. China will continue to unswervingly expand reform and opening-up, widen market access, step up import and enhance international coordination and cooperation to contribute to the steady development of the world economy and trade. Thank you.
Economic Daily: It鈥檚 reported by some media that recently the UK would call for the establishment of D10 alliance with G7 members plus India, Australia and the ROK, in an attempt to shed reliance on China in the field of 5G. How does MOFCOM comment on that?
We have noted relevant reports. Chinese telecom equipment companies have years of operations in many countries including the UK, contributing to the economic and social development of host countries.
As the world economy is plagued by the immense challenges posed by COVID-19, it is important that countries unite together to strengthen cooperation and tide over difficulties. China opposes violation of WTO rules by any countries, as well as discriminatory practices against China and Chinese companies. Both China and the UK are important participants, supporters and contributors of economic globalization and trade liberalization. At this special moment, it is even more imperative for the two countries to jointly safeguard trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, and stand in firm opposition against any form of protectionism. Thank you!
Nihon Keizai Shimbun: At the Press Conference for the Third Session of the 13th NPC, Premier Li Keqiang said that China has an open attitude towards joining CPTPP. What are the specific measures to be taken by China with respect to CPTPP?
China stands for regional trade arrangements that are open, transparent and deliver mutual benefits and win-win results. China has a positive, open and welcoming attitude towards all regional free trade agreements including CPTPP, as long as they are consistent with WTO principles, open, inclusive, transparent, and serve to further economic globalization and regional economic integration, and contribute to the building of a community of shared future for mankind.
China will firmly uphold the multilateral trading system, and work to build a high-standard and globally-oriented
FTA network that covers neighboring countries and regions along the Belt and Road. We hope that all parties could, guided by the vision of a community of shared future for mankind, work together to further economic globalization and trade liberalization in the pursuit of mutual benefits and common development. Thank you!
That concludes today鈥檚 press conference. Thank you all.