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Minister Zhong Shan Attends the Press Conference for the Two Sessions 2018 and Answers Questions from Journalists Domestic and Abroad on “Promoting to Build the New Pattern of Comprehensive Opening up and Promoting the High Quality Development of the Commercial Business”

  

On March 11, Minister Zhong Shan attended the press conference of the Two Sessions of 2018, and answered questions from the journalists domestic and abroad on “Opening up on all fronts and Promoting the High Quality Development of Commercial Business”. Here is the record:

Host: Good morning, friends from the media. Welcome to the Press Conference for the First Session of the 13th National People’s Congress. The theme of the press conference is “Opening up on all Fronts and Promoting the High Quality Development of Commercial Business.” Today, we are glad to invite Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan, Vice Minister and Deputy China International Trade Representative Wang Shouwen and Vice Minister Qian Keming, to answer your questions related to the theme. At first, let us welcome Minister Zhong Shan.

Minister of Commerce Zhong Shan: Thank you. In the past year, commercial work gained attentions and concerns from the friends of the press circle. Today, take this opportunity and on behalf of the Ministry of Commerce, I express our genuine gratitude to you.

Last year, under the firm guidance of the Party Central Committee with Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, the Ministry of Commerce successfully completed the tasks of reform. After the 40-year reform and opening up, China has become a large trader, accumulating experience and laying the foundations for becoming a strong trader. In this year, the Ministry of Commerce will, under the guidance of President Xi Jinping’s Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, deeply implement the spirits of the 19th CPC National Congress, insist on new development concepts, promote high quality development, implement the tasks and requirements in the Government’s Work Report, consolidate the status of a large trader, promote the progress of a strong trader, drive the commercial work to remain at the forefront and make more contributions. Next, together with my colleague, Vice Minister Wang Shouwen and Vice Minister Qian Keming, I will answer your questions. Thank you.

Xinhua News Agency: The report of the 19th CPC National Congress put forward that China’s economy has stepped from the stage of high-speed growth to the stage of high quality development, and the government work report also pointed out that China will vigorously promote high quality development. What’s the plan of Ministry of Commerce on domestic and foreign trade, as well as the opening up? Thank you.

Zhong Shan: Thank you for your questions. General Secretary Xi Jinping pointed out in the report of the 19th CPC National Congress that China’s economy has stepped from the stage of high-speed growth to the stage of high quality development. The government work report put forward specific requirements to promote high quality development. Promoting the high quality development of the commercial business is the mission and responsibility of Ministry of Commerce. Just now I mentioned that, China has become a large trader, mainly because that China’s consumption, foreign trade, foreign investment and outward investment are all at the top of the world. However, we should see that, China is still “large but not strong”. To become a strong trader, we should stick to the leading of innovation, and follow the road of high quality development.

Ministry of Commerce has come up with the general thought and specific measures to build a strong trader and promote the high quality development of commercial work, which could be summarized as “one goal, six tasks and eight plans.” One goal is to endeavor to build a strong trader in advance. We have made three stage goals for the strategic deployment of the 19th CPC National Congress; before 2020, further consolidate the status of large trader and promote the progress of the strong trader; before 2035, basically complete the building of the strong trader; before 2050, fully complete the building of the strong trader.

In order to reach this goal, we clarify the six tasks and eight actions in the next five years. Six tasks are shown as follows: 1. to enhance the fundamental role of consumption to economic development; 2. to improve the new superiority of foreign trade competition; 3. to improve bi-directional investment level; 4. to optimize the regional layout of opening-up; 5. to construct the new-type international economic and trade relations; 6. to intensify the ability of commerce serving people’s livelihood. Eight action plans are shown as follows: 1. consumption upgrading action plan; 2. trade power action plan; 3. foreign capital promotion action plan; 4. outbound investment innovation action plan; 5. the foreign aid action plan of integrated benefit improvement; 6. “Belt and Road” cooperation action plan; 7. multilateral regional economic and trade cooperation action plan; 8. business poverty relief action plan.

The above-mentioned tasks and plans always run through high-quality development requirements and they are practical measures to promote high-quality business development. Eight action plans get involved in 40 aspects and 150 measures. There are abundant and specific contents. Because of the shortage of time, I won’t expound them one by one. If friends from the press circles are interested in it, we would love to further exchange ideas with you. Thanks!

Phoenix Satellite Television: Minister Zhong, we are interested in China International Import Expo. We notice that the government work report of this year proposed to run this expo. Moreover, this is the important diplomatic event in China. We wonder what China’s considerations about this expo are and how the expo’s arrangements and progress are in the wake of global trade protectionism and the nervous trade environment overseas, such China’s trade relationship with the US for example. Thank you.

Zhong Shan: Thank you. In May last year, President Xi Jinping announced at Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation that China will hold China International Import Expo from 2018. This expo will be held yearly. It is a mechanism expo. The first China International Import Expo is determined to be held in Shanghai National Convention and Exhibition Center from November 5 to 10 this year. This expo will be one of four diplomatic events that China will host this year, which shows China’s full attention to it. Your questions include the current international economic situation. And I think this is one of objectives to hold this expo. Therefore, I want to introduce the main consideration about holding China International Import Expo. This is our original motivation and thoughts.

After the international financial crisis, the economic globalization has suffered setbacks. The multilateral trading system is challenged, resulting in rising protectionism. Under the overall background, it has the profound significance to hold such an expo. The China International Import Expo makes a significant decision for the central party committee to promote the high-level opening-up to the outside world. It is the great measure for us to open the market to the world. It is the practical action to support economic globalization and trade liberalization, showing the determination and confidence of China’s opening up in the new era and its self-confidence and responsibilities. The China International Import Expo is launched by China with the common participation of multiple international organizations and multiple countries. Therefore, we often think this expo is not China’s solo, but the chorus of all the countries. We will provide help and support for countries and enterprises that take part in the exhibition, offer exhibition convenience and waive exhibition expenses for the most undeveloped countries.

To hold the China International Import Expo is China’s development demand and also constructs the public platform for the global trade development, providing the international public product for developing open economy and constructing the community of shared future. Here, I want to introduce the preparation situations of the first China International Import Expo to everyone here. The import expo includes national image exhibition and enterprise commerce exhibition. At present, preparation work is smoothly and orderly underway, especially the work of investment drawing and expo inviting, which are actively participated beyond our expectation. The purpose of national image exhibition is mainly to showcase the participating countries’ economic development and international cooperation, not to make immediate transactions. We plan to invite 60 countries. Until now, more than 60 countries have applied. These countries include developed countries, developing countries and the least developed countries.

Enterprise commerce exhibition demonstrates that commodity services can be traded. Nowadays, more than 120 national and regional enterprises have applied for it. The reserved exhibition area is more than what our have planned by 20%, showing that global enterprises in each country are having high expectation for the import expo.

The work of investment drawing has been basically completed. It is predicted that 150000 international and domestic purchasers will come to the expo, showing that the import expo will be greatly welcomed by all the countries and enterprises. During the period of the import expo, we will hold Hongqiao international trade forum to discuss the new trend of international trade development and provide suggestion on promoting the economic globalization and constructing the open world economy. The speech guests include heads of state and heads of government, principals of international organizations, domestic and overseas famous entrepreneurs and famous experts and scholars. This forum is divided into the main forum and parallel ones. Based on the current preparation, it is predicted that 1500 people will attend it and more than 2000 people will take part in the three parallel forums. We have prepared some handouts for the specific situation of the import expo. If you are interested, you can get it from our workers in the venue. Thank you!

The reporter of Bloomberg News: the first question, we notice that there are some setbacks in the recent China-U.S. trade relations. I want to ask the director, what kind of plan will China apply to reduce the considerably large trade surplus between China and the U.S.? In terms of this year, will some temporary measures be adopted? The second question, there are some statements that the Chinese party will take some temporary plans to take some retaliatory actions against what the US have done, involving agricultural products of soybeans and corns or even large-scale products like airplanes. Is this true? The third question, when will the Chinese party restart the suspended comprehensive economic dialogue between China and the U.S.? Thank you.

Zhong Shan: I want to ask, you are an American reporter. Are you American? Are you an American citizen?

The reporter of Bloomberg News: I am a British.

Zhong Shan: it shows the American, the British and every here is concerned about this question. As is just mentioned by this reporter, there are some setbacks in the China-U.S. economic and trade relations recently. Whether a trade war will break out between China and the U.S. is the concern of the whole world and our Two Sessions. You just now asked many questions. I want to exchange idea with everyone here in terms of problems in the China-U.S. bilateral economic and trade relations.

In my opinions, there is no winner in a trade war, and it just brings a disaster to both China and U.S., as well as the world economy. China doesn’t want to attend a trade war or launch a trade war. However, we can cope with any challenge and insist on defending the interests of the nation and people. About the China-U.S. economic and trade relations, President Xi Jinping pointed out that the economic and trade relations are the “ballast stones” and “thrusters” in the China-U.S. relations. We have established diplomatic relations for 40 years. Our bilateral economic and trade relations are increasingly close. Take trade as an example, the trade scale in recent 40 years has been increased by 232 times. Friends, please image that, are there any other two countries increasing so much within 40 years? The bilateral investment of China and the US has exceeded 230 billion dollars, fully revealing that both countries have the strong economic complementarity and the large cooperative potential. Of course, there are some problems in China-U.S. economic and trade cooperation. Today, I want to seize this chance to exchange some hotspot issues with everyone.

Firstly, about the trade balance problem, there are differences in China-U.S. trade statistics. Chinese and American statistical working group conducts the comparative study on the China-U.S. trade statistical difference every year. The working group is composed of governmental institution experts and other experts. According to the calculation of this working group, American’s trade deficit to China based on the US official statistics is overrated by 20% every year. The work group has been operating for many years. According to the analysis result of this working group last year, the American deficit was overrated by 21%. The China-U.S. trade imbalance is structural. China has the surplus in cargo trade, while U.S. has surplus in service trade. I think that fundamentally trade competition is industrial competition. The China-U.S. trade imbalance is related to the American high-tech control on Chinese export. The American research institution reports show that if U.S. broadens the Chinese export control, the Chinese trade surplus can be reduced by 35%.

Secondly, about the market entrance. Since the development stage, industrial structure and social system of China and U.S. are different, both countries have some differences in finance, telecom, automobiles, and agricultural products. Both parties have their own appeal. Thirdly, about the safety inspection. China and U.S. have different opinions on network safety, intellectual property, and two-purpose items. These differences have an influence on their trade and investment.
Both parties have noticed these problems. In recent years, the member of CPC Central Committee Political Bureau and the director in central financial office Liu He visited the U.S. to give the honest constructive discussion about the China-U.S. trade problems. Just like the interruption of China-U.S. comprehensive economic dialogue, I think it isn’t interrupted. We will continue discussing it. The exchange channel in China-U.S. cooperation is never interrupted. Now we are discussing it and we will continue our discussion in the future.

Today I say that China and U.S. will continue the discussion and I think everyone is happy, because no one is willing to have the trade war. Everyone knows that trade war is harmful to others and does no good to oneself. We all want to see and hear a good result. However, we still have to complete many tasks. Such negotiation can’t be determined by one person. Instead, it needs the common efforts of both sides and further enhanced cooperation. President Xi Jinping emphasized for many times that cooperation is the only correct choice for China and U.S.. We are willing to reach a consensus through the heads of two countries, solve problems through cooperation, gain a win-win result, benefit people, and make a contribution to the stable global economic development. Thank you!

CBN: Minister Zhong Shan, how about China’s signing of free trade agreement? What is the relationship between China’s FTA negotiations and the multilateral trading system? How do you comment on the development of multilateral trading system in the future?

Zhong shan: It is a very important problem. The FTA strategy is the central committee’s major strategy. Our vice Minister Wang Shouwen is responsible for this part. Now welcome vice Minister Wang Shouwen to take this question

Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen: Thank you Minister Zhong Shan, thank you for the question. The negotiation and signing of free trade agreement is an important part of China’s opening-up and also a major opportunity for China to expand international communication and cooperation. Since the 18th CPC National Congress, MOFCOM has taken active moves to accelerate the construction of FTA network in line with the deployment of the central committee. I’m very glad to give you an introduction in this regard.

China has signed 16 free trade agreements with 24 countries and regions so far. We could say they are exerting the powerful influence of the e Belt and Road route with a strong foothold in the neighborhood so as to reach out to the world. That includes our neighbors like ASEAN countries, countries along the Belt and Road such as Pakistan and Georgia, and also other countries like Peru and Chile from Latin America. The FTA network has contained the developed countries like Australia and some developing countries as well. It has provided vast space for China to conduct international trade and investment cooperation and propel closer foreign trade and investment relations.

According to the statistics, China’s trade and investment relations with FTA partners grew faster than that with non-FTA partners. Take an example. China-ASEAN trade registered more than US$500 billion last year, 6 times of that when the China-ASEAN FTA was just put into effect. China has been ASEAN’s 5th largest trading partner before the FTA was implemented. And now China has been the largest trading partner of the ASEAN. Certainly, along with the FTA construction, the opening level needs to be further improved and the trade percentage increased. Entering into the new time, we will follow the deployment of the central committee to accelerate the FTA construction in line with the spirits of the 19th CPC National Congress.

You just mentioned the relations between the FTA construction and multilateral trade negotiations. As we know the WTO has 164 members, so it’s difficult to reach concensus with so many members. But one good point of the multilateral trading system is that it covers a wide range and one agreement could apply to 164 members. I believe that the FTA negotiation could promote the multilateral negotiations. It’s hard for one member to open its market to 163 members at first. But when it opens its market to some members through the FTA negotiations and if it’s beneficial and controllable, then it will be willing to be more flexible in the multilateral trading negotiations. Therefore, the FTA negotiations and WTO negotiations are mutually beneficial and complementary to each other.

The multilateral trading system does encounter some challenges. For example, the WTO negotiations face some difficulties at present, so does the dispute settlement mechanism. China has actively supported the WTO and served as a participant, builder and contributor of the multilateral trading system since its accession to the WTO. We have participated and contributed to the WTO ITA extended negotiations and trade facilitation agreement negotiation. We also played a part in reaching the agreement prohibiting agricultural export subsidy. In the future, China will continue to support the multilateral trade negotiations, including traditional topics like public security of grain storage and the fishery subsidy negotiations underway. Meanwhile, China also holds open attitude toward some new topics negotiations like e-commerce and investment facilitation. Regarding the problems for dispute settlement, we believe they are the WTO’s core functions and are in the common and long-term interests of all members. Therefore, we hope that all WTO members could take the overall situation into account and take active moves as soon as possible to make the multilateral trading system run smoothly. Thank you!

CGTN: My question is on China’s assimilation of FDI. China’s assimilation of FDI in 2017 hit a record high, but we can also hear some voice like China’s opening-up is not enough and there are still many restriction on foreign capital. How do you respond to those voices and what measures and plans will MOFCOM take to attract FDI? Thank you.

Zhong Shan: Thank you for your question. We have noticed some foreign-funded enterprises’ complaint about Chinese investment environment and their appeals, which shows that those companies’ concerns over China’s development and their confidence in Chinese market. If there are no complains, they will not be confident any more. We will genuinely listen to their advice and value their voice. Actually, China is constantly expanding its opening up. We have made continuous efforts to ease the market access and pay attention to the IPR protection. According to the report by the World Bank, China’s degree of business facilitation has risen up 18 places in the past five years. China’s assimilation of FDI last year registered US$136.3 billion, ranking the 2nd in the world and hitting a record high. That has shown that Chinese business environment is getting better and that China is still the hotspot of foreign investment.

General-secretary Xi Jinping has stressed more than once that China’s open door will get wider and wider. Next, we will focus on the work in five aspects: 1. deepening management system reform and improving investment facilitation level. The model of pre-access national treatment with a negative list will be carried out. Meanwhile, efforts will be made to accelerate the legislation procession for the basic laws of foreign capital. 2. Work will be done to ease market access, carry out moves made by the central committee, further open up the financial area, fully open up ordinary manufacturing and expand opening in telecommunications, medical care, education, elderly care and new energy auto sectors.3. Build an opening-up platform. Efforts will be made to upgrade the development levels of various economic and development zones, give the free trade pilot zones more decision-making power, explore to build free trade ports and create new highlands for reform and opening up. 4. Optimize the layout of opening-up. Further open up west China to smooth the transport, promote to develop new growth pole and develop west China from an end into the frontier of opening up. Upgrade the opening-up of east China and push central China to open up.5. Improve the investment environment. We will treat enterprises at home and abroad fairly, cement the IPR protection, safeguard the legitimate rights of foreign investors and create sound business environment. Thank you.

Nihon Keizai Shimbun: My question is on the Belt and Road. At present, the Japanese business circle is concerned about the Belt and Road initiative. Although some people doubted the transparency of the Belt and Road, more voices have shown their willingness to join the Belt and Road projects recently. What’s your comment? What cooperation could China and Japan have in the Belt and Road projects? Thank you.

Zhong Shan: Thank you for your question. I’d like to introduce you the construction of the Belt and Road initiative at first. The Belt and Road initiative is a major cooperation initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping, and it’s a China plan aiming to promote win-win cooperation across the world, which has been actively responded and participated by more than 140 countries and regions. We have sticken to the principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits since the initiative was proposed. Fruitful achievements have been made on the “Belt and Road” trade and economic cooperation in aspects as follows:

1.Create new platform for international cooperation. Efforts will be made to hold the 1st China International Import Expo and play the role of opening-up platforms such as pilot free trade zones, the economic and technological development zones and cooperation zones. 2. Make a pearl of the silk road. We will focus on major investment and cooperation projects and foreign aid projects to make exemplary projects with good performance and good effect and make shining peals on the silk road along the “Belt and Road.” 3. Develop E-commerce along the Belt and Road route. We will encourage enterprises to conduct e-commerce, big data, cloud computing and artificial intelligence service and help the countries along the Belt and Road route develop digital economy and integrate into economic globalization.4.Promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation. Efforts will be made to promote trade agreements, deepen cooperation in Customs clearance and negotiate on the signing of FTA with countries and regions with the same intention. 5. Implement major moves on foreign assistance. Efforts will be made to implement foreign assistance moves announced by President Xi Jinping.

The Belt and Road initiative is open and inclusive, and it’s also transparent. Japan has been keen on topics concerning the Belt and Road cooperation. Recently, I’ll meet with Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko and President of China-Japan Investment Promotion Agency Shoichiro Toyoda. China welcomes Japan to engage in the Belt and Road cooperation and we also expect to have further cooperation with Japan under the framework of the Belt and Road initiative. Thank you!

Economic Daily: We have noticed that China’s outward investment last year decreased, so what’s your view at China’s outward investment in the future? What measures will MOFCOM have in this respect? Thank you.

Zhong Shan: China’s outward investment decreased last year, and it’s mainly because that non-rational investment was effectively avoided. We have taken measures to make the outward investment more stable and rational. Generally speaking, China’s outward investment is good, it adapts to China’s development level and needs at present. It accords with the rules of economic development and is universally popular. I think the characteristics are as follows:

Firstly, the scale of outward investment is expanding. China has grown into a large investment source. China’s outward FDI in 2017 registered US$124.6 billion, ranking the top in the world. Secondly, structures of outward investment were constantly optimized. Regarding investment areas, we have transferred from mainly relying on labor intensive industry to relying on both labor intensive industry and technology and capital intensive industry. Regarding the investors, its composition has changed from SMEs to both SMEs and large enterprises. Regarding investment destination, it has changed from the developing countries to both the developing countries and developed countries. Thirdly, its contribution to the host country increased. Chinese investment has boosted the industrialization process of the host country, increased their financial revenue, promoted their economic development and improved the local people’s life. In 2017, the Chinese enterprises have turned in more than US$30 billion taxes to the host country and created 1.35 million jobs for the local people.

Next, we will focus on the construction of the Belt and Road initiative and mainly do the work in 4 aspects: 1. create cooperation platform. We will take the construction of overseas economic and trade zones as opportunity to optimize industrial layout, support infrastructure construction and upgrade cooperation zones. 2. deepen capacity cooperation. Efforts will be made to focus on major industries and key countries to push China’s advantageous capacity and latest equipment to go global. 3. expand the investor entity. Work will be made to encourage eligible business with good credit to expand international markets, upgrade transnational operation and improve the ability to prevent risks. 4. regulate operation behavior. Strength the check work of the truthfulness and regulation-and-standard accordance, continue to control non-rational investment. Chinese enterprises will be required to abide by laws and regulations of the host country and fulfill its social responsibility. To sum up, we will endeavor to provide better environment and services for enterprises, build the brand and good image of “Chinese investment.”

China Economic Weekly: The 2018 Summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation is about to be held. Minister Zhong, what is the progress of the implementation of the economic and trade measures proposed at the last Johannesburg Summit, including investment facilitation? What new initiatives will we put forward at the upcoming summit? Thank you.

Zhong Shan: Thanks for your question. Africa is China’s important partner, and President Xi Jinping put forward the 10 major China-Africa cooperation plans at the Johannesburg Summit in 2015 which have been promoted actively these years. Vice Minister Qian Keming, who is in charge of this, will introduce the detailed work to you.

Vice Minister of MOFCOM Qian Keming: thank Minister Zhong Shan and the journalist. Two years since the 10 major China-Africa cooperation plans were put forward, MOFCOM, together with related domestic departments and African countries, has negotiated with countries one by one, resolved tasks one by one and implemented projects one by one. So far, most tasks have been implemented and most projects have been completed ahead of schedule with remarkable results.

For example, in the field of people's livelihood, the 10 major China-Africa cooperation plans have brought tangible benefits to African countries, such as the elimination of interest-free loan debts of more than 20 African countries that expired at the end of 2015. In addition, we also provided several humanitarian emergency food aids to 18 African countries. In 2016, due to the El Nino phenomenon, over ten millions of people in East Africa, like Ethiopia, were starving. It was China that sent relief food the first time. For that, the Ethiopian Prime Minister took my hand with great excitement and said: “this is the first batch of food we have received, and China is our true friend.” Of course, in addition to food aid and debt relief, we also provide a lot of assistance in many areas of livelihood, including schools, hospitals, and clean water supply projects.

In the field of industrialization cooperation, we have successfully increased the special development loans. Back then President Xi Jinping announced to add the investment of US$5 billion, and we have accomplished it. We also newly added US$ 10 billion fund for China-Africa capacity cooperation, and offered training for the professional and technical personnel of 150,000 people in African countries. Besides, we also signed agreements with many African countries to establish economic and trade cooperation parks. You may have heard about Egypt's Suez Canal Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone. Since the establishment of this economic and trade cooperation zone, the output value has reached US$700 million, paying the local government taxes of US$58 million, bringing jobs to 3,300 people and 3,100 of them are local workers.

In terms of infrastructure, a number of highways, railways, airports, ports, etc. have been built. You may have heard of the Mombasa Port-Nairobi railway in Kenya. It is a railroad from Mombasa to Nairobi with a total length of 480 kilometers and is known as the “fortress” of the East African Railway Network. There is also the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway which is from Ethiopia's Addis Ababa to Djibouti. At that time, we also used this railroad for food aid. However, back then the railway was just finished and not available to trains, so we used our breacher to drive the first batch of food aid from China to the disaster area. There are many projects in the 10 major China-Africa cooperation plans and they have very rich contents and I won’t be able to introduce them one by one.

In general, the 10 major China-Africa cooperation plans went on smoothly with remarkable achievements, and our African friends were also satisfied with these results. We all know that the next Summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will be held in Beijing in September this year, and we will have two things done focusing on this Summit.

Firstly, we will continue to focus on the implementation of the 10 major China-Africa cooperation plans. Minister Zhong Shan defined it as a political task which should be fulfilled with full efforts and high quality on time. Meanwhile, we should concentrate on the evaluation of the 10 plans’ results and the conclusion of the experience in order to provide guidance for the designing of the economic and trade measures for the next summit. Secondly, we should design new measures for economic and trade cooperation. In fact, Minister Zhong Shan deployed this in the second half of last year, and he has already widely solicited opinions from various African countries. After the two sessions, we will also seek the opinions of the diplomatic envoys from various African countries so that the needs and cooperation willingness of Africa could be reflected in the new measures. The general outline of the new measures has already come out. I will not introduce more details here.

In general, there are three features: First, we need to further strengthen our strategic docking of the Belt and Road Initiative and Africa’s 2063 Agenda and focus on strengthening strategic docking at the AU multilateral level and at the bilateral level of each country. Second, we will further focus on Africa’s capacity building for self-growth and development, concentrating on the needs of Africa’s poverty alleviation, job creation, economic development, and the improvement of people’s livelihood. We will focus on helping Africa develop its own capacity for growth, especially creating jobs for young people and promoting their skills. Third, we will further strengthen multi-party cooperation. In addition to the cooperation with MOFCOM and other central ministries and commissions, we must also strengthen collaboration with provincial-level local governments, and the cooperation with enterprises besides the government. We should give play to the private enterprises as well as the state-owned enterprises. We also plan to cooperate with the third-party organizations including some international poverty alleviation and development agencies. Through mobilizing all resources, we will further increase investment in Africa and bring China-Africa cooperation to a new level. Thank you!

China News Service: we’ve noticed that the domestic consumption during the Spring Festival exceeded 900 billion yuan. What new measures will MOFCOM implement in further expanding domestic consumption and release its potential? Thank you.

Minister Zhong Shan: the prosperous Spring Festival market reflects people’s confidence in our country, in themselves and in their purchasing power. The Spring Festival market is an epitome of the national consumption development. China has become a big nation of consumption and enjoys the second largest consumption scale the world over. Consumption has become the first driving force for economic growth for four consecutive years. China’s economic growth has shifted from relying mainly on investment and export to being synergistically driven by consumption, investment and export. China still has big potential for the development of consumption. China is the home of almost 1.4 billion people with 0.4 billion of them becoming the middle-income group. With the continuous development of the economy and society, the people’s income has continued to increase and their living standards have continued to be improved. China’s consumption potential is very huge.

Of course, the development of consumption still has weak spots. The principal contradiction facing the Chinese society has evolved into one between the unbalanced and inadequate development and the people’s ever-growing needs for a better life. One example is that the supply of goods and services cannot meet the needs of upgrading consumption. According to the preliminary estimate, Chinese people spent about US$200 billion a year on shopping overseas. We can see both the high-grade goods as well as daily consumer goods on the shopping list. Our shopping overseas shows our supply for quality goods is insufficient and is pricy. In terms of service consumption, housekeeping, old people caring, education and healthcare are all China’s weak spots with insufficient supply. The news I saw this morning on my way here said that there are 0.24 billion people aged over 60 facing the choice of home-based care or society-based care. In fact, the health care for the elderly is a problem of service consumption. The serious shortage indeed exists.

Next, we will innovate circulation, expand consumption and increase effective supply. We will focus on three things. First, build platforms and promote consumption. In cities, we will upgrade and improve a bunch of vehicle-free promenades with high quality to uplift the consumption quality and the taste of cities in order to forge these promenades as the beautiful landmarks of cities. We will also optimize the layout of community commercial outlets such as convenience stores and food markets to create a convenient 15-minute life service circle and enrich the supply of “vegetable baskets”. In the countryside, we will speed up the construction of a number of featured trade and commercial towns and life service centers so that the villages can display a new look and allow farmers to enjoy a new life. We will also vigorously develop e-commerce and promote online and offline integration. In general, urban and rural residents should have more choices, more convenient services and more comfortable experiences.

2. We will expand opening up and promote consumption. We will largely broaden the market access, cut the import tariffs of cars and some daily consumer goods, expand the opening up of telecom, health care, education and elderly people caring and enrich domestic market supply and lower consumption costs.

3. We will improve the environment and promote consumption. We will constantly improve the consumption environment in urban and rural areas, fix online shopping and the rural markets and build traceability system for important agricultural products in order to make people consume safely and happily. Thank you!

International Commercial Daily: My question is about commercial poverty alleviation. It is known that the targeted poverty alleviation is one of the three major fights in the next three years decided by the CPC, and MOFCOM’s eight action plans for the commerce work in 2018 also cover the action plans for commercial poverty alleviation. Minister Zhong Shan, what are MOFCOM’s specific measures to alleviate commercial poverty successfully and what are the expected achievements? Thank you.

Zhong Shan: thanks for your question. Targeted poverty alleviation is one of the three major fights decided at the 19th CPC National Congress. The commercial work covers the urban and rural areas, home and abroad, and we will have a brilliant future in poverty alleviation. In recent years, we have done lots of work and made many achievements, which gains us certain experience and a new way for commercial poverty alleviation. Next, we will mainly alleviate poverty from five aspects:

1. Alleviate poverty through e-commerce. We will promote e-commerce to enter into rural areas and help high-quality agricultural products go out of the remote mountains for cities, and sell at good prices. We will nurture a group of bellwethers to become rich and form a batch of featured and advantageous industries. For example, there is a poor village in Guangan, Sichuan. Guangan is rich in red heart pomelo, but due to inconvenient traffic, the red heart pomelo doesn’t sell well. For the ordinary people, if they can't sell it at a good price, they can't increase their income. Thanks to the online sales, it is sold and even at a good price. The original 29 poor households in that village have been pulled out of poverty through selling the red heart pomelo online. In 2017, e-commerce poverty alleviation has covered 499 national poverty counties across the country. Next, we will still spread it to all eligible poor counties at the national level.

2. Alleviate poverty through home services. We put forward the program of alleviating poverty through home services, covering more than 100 cities and 10,000 villages to promote the docking between the central cities and the rural areas especially the poverty-stricken villages, so that farmers, especially farmers in poor villages, can be trained to become home service personnel. The demand for home service staff in cities is great large. Friends from media here may also find it difficult to find an hourly worker and domestic helper. At the same time, the surplus of laborers in rural areas, especially in poor villages, could not find a suitable job. In this regard, MOFCOM has the conditions and responsibilities to help connect the urban and rural areas. If 50,000 poor villagers could be arranged to work in home service in cities with an assumed average income of 40,000 yuan per person, it can bring a total increase of 2 billion yuan, which can not only lift 50,000 families out of poverty, but also satisfy the urban families’ need for home service.

3. Alleviate poverty through overseas labor services. We will encourage foreign investment and cooperation enterprises to recruit overseas laborers in rural areas especially in the poor areas. At present, the average income of the overseas labor service personnel is about 60,000 yuan per person per year. If we are able to send out 50,000 people, it can bring in an income of 3 billion yuan, which is also very significant for farmers.

4. Alleviate poverty through industries. We will organize the transnational companies to visit the western areas and strengthen international cooperation in poverty reduction. Last year, we provided free booths for enterprises at the Canton Fair from the national poverty-stricken counties to enhance the "hematopoietic" function of poor areas.

5. Alleviate poverty through border trade. The regional advantages of the border should be exercised to deepen the economic and trade cooperation with adjacent countries and develop cross-border trade and industrial cooperation. This is to increase income and alleviate poverty through opening up, strengthen the opening up of eastern and western areas, promote the opening up of border areas and increase the wellbeing and happiness of the people in the border areas. Thank you!

Host: Due to the time limit, one more question can be asked.

China.org.cn: we noticed that Minister Zhong proposed to work hard to promote the construction of a trade power this year in the "passage interview", and also mentioned that we are confident to complete the goals and tasks of foreign trade development identified in the government’s work report. What are the specific plans? Thank you.

Zhong Shan: Thank you. Today the issue about the foreign trade is proposed again, showing the foreign trade is a hot issue of common concern. This year, although the development of foreign trade still faces complicated and severe situation, we are confident to achieve the goal put forward in the government’s work report. We will stick to the new development concept and promote the “Five Optimization” based on high-quality development.

Firstly, we will optimize the layout of the international market. We will promote the smooth trade along the Belt and Road routes, boost trade liberalization and facilitation to create a wider network of trading partners with whom we will jointly expand trade. Secondly, we will optimize the layout of domestic regions. We will support the central and western regions to accept the transfer of export-oriented industries and to increase the opening up of the western region, tap the potential of foreign trade development in the central and western regions, and promote the coordinated development of the country’s opening up and foreign trade. The total economic output in the central and western regions accounts for about 45% of China's total, while imports and exports account for only 15%. The foreign trade development potential is still very large. Thirdly, we will optimize the main body of foreign trade operations. We support enterprises’ technology innovation, institutional innovation and management innovation, and will cultivate a group of internationally competitive leading companies and multinational companies. We support SMEs to develop international market and enhance the vitality of foreign trade development. Fourthly, we will optimize the commodity structure. We will focus on promoting the export of high-tech, high-quality, high-value-added products and equipment manufacturing products, and promote the foreign trade to develop in the direction of innovation and build a good foreign trade image of “Chinese brand” and “Chinese quality”. Fifthly, we will optimize trade methods. We will cultivate new commercial activities and formats of trade. We will vigorously develop service trade and promote the coordinated development of service trade and goods trade while actively expanding imports and promoting balanced and coordinated development of foreign trade. Thank you!

Host: Thank you. This is the end of the press conference.

Thank you! Thank you, Minister Zhong Shan and all Vice Ministers.

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