Mr. Wang Wentao

Secretary of the CPC Leadership Group of the Ministry of Commerce of PRC and Minister


Minister Wang Wentao Attended State Council Information Office Press Conference to Brief Reporter on Speeding up High-Quality Development of Commerce and Serving the Building of the New Development Paradigm

Chen Wenjun (Director General of the Press Bureau and Spokesperson of the State Council Information Office): Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon. As China has entered the stage of high-quality development and is building the new development paradigm, commerce work plays a very important role in this process. Today, we are honored to have with us Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao, Vice Minister of Commerce and Deputy China International Trade Representative Wang Shouwen, and Vice Minister of Commerce Qian Keming to meet you and take your questions. Now, I’d like to invite Minister Wang to make his opening statement.

Wang Wentao: Thank you, moderator. Good afternoon, friends of the media, it's a great pleasure to meet you here. First of all, on behalf of the Ministry of Commerce, I would like to express heartfelt thanks to you for your interest and support for our work.

In 2020, we were faced with severe and complex international situation, especially the impact brought by Covid-19. Under the strong leadership of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China with Comrade Xi Jinping at the core, MOFCOM struck the balance between epidemic prevention and control on the one hand and economic and social development on the other. We took concrete steps to ensure stability in employment, financial operations, foreign trade, foreign investment, domestic investment, and expectations and went all out to ensure security in job, basic living needs, operations of market entities, food and energy security, stable industrial and supply chains, and normal functioning of primary-level governments. We stabilized the fundamentals of foreign trade and foreign investment, promoted recovery in consumption, and made new breakthroughs in bilateral and multilateral trade and economic relations. Trade and economy have returned to a stable upward track, which is better than expected, thus making contributions to national economic and social development.

This year, MOFCOM will follow the guidance of Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, have an accurate understanding of the new development stage, follow through the new development concepts, and accelerate the building of the new development paradigm, and strive to promote high-quality development of commerce. As we embark on the new journey, we will get the first step right, demonstrate new vitality, and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC with an excellent score sheet.

My colleagues Vice Minister Wang Shouwen, Vice Minister Qian Keming and I would like to take your questions.

China Business News: There are various assessments on the situation and pressure China’s foreign trade faces this year due to multiple factors including Covid-19. What’s your view on China’s foreign trade this year? In addition, what policy measures will MOFCOM take in the future to help foreign trade companies stabilize their industrial and supply chains? Thank you.

Wang Wentao: Thank you. You asked me how to assess the situation of China’s foreign trade this year and what measures we will take to stabilize foreign trade. Let’s look back at the last year. In 2020, President Xi Jinping made important plans on stabilizing the fundamentals of foreign trade and foreign investment. The State Council introduced a series of policy measures. Relevant ministries, local governments, and in particular Chinese foreign trade companies pulled in the same direction to meet the difficulties head on. In a nutshell, for China’s foreign trade, last year was an extremely extraordinary year with remarkable achievements. Let’s look at some figures. Last year, the import and export of goods totaled 32.2 trillion yuan, up by 1.9%. It tells us three things. First, China is the only major economy in the world with positive growth in trade. Second, the volume and international market share of China’s foreign trade hit record high. Third, China strengthens its position as the world’s biggest trader in goods.

Having said that, we think the situation of China’s foreign trade this year remains grim and complex. From the demand side, obviously there are still uncertainties about the pandemic. That’s why we say the situation can be grim and complex. In terms of the supply and industrial chains, destabilizing factors keep evolving. We will stand firm to stabilize the fundamentals of foreign trade and foreign investment. This remains unchanged as our goal for 2021. Our primary goals this year are optimizing imports and exports, integrating trade and industry and facilitating trade connectivity. Let me explain in details.

First, we will further step up policy support. We will work with local governments and other ministries to ensure policy continuity, stability and sustainability. We talk with exporters on a regular basis to know their concerns and needs, such as blockage in international logistics and high logistics cost, and raising export credit insurance, among others. We will keep policies consistent and stable while making timely adjustment according to latest developments.

Second, we will ensure stable and smooth industrial and supply chains for foreign trade. We will make a great effort on trade-industry integration, approve a batch of foreign trade transformation and upgrading bases, and build a number of industrial parks for processing trade. We will also create a series of demonstration zones to expand import and enhance the competitiveness and efficiency of relevant industries.

Third, we will help exporters secure orders and grow markets. In this connection, we will leverage the role of platforms. We have some good platforms. This year we will continue to make the most of them. We will strive to make the fourth China International Import Expo and the 2021 China International Fair for Trade in Services a success, make good use of the Canton Fair and the first China International Consumer Products Expo, among other important expos, to help companies secure orders and expand markets. In the meantime, we will leverage both online and offline resources as the pandemic evolves. We will also step up efforts to build the international marketing system, especially the upgrading of overseas warehouses, to promote integration of domestic and foreign trade. We will also discuss with more trading partners, especially countries along the Belt and Road, to establish working mechanisms on trade connectivity in a bid to create an enabling international environment for Chinese exporters.

Fourth, we will actively foster new business patterns and models of foreign trade. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, new business patterns and models have played an important role in foreign trade, such as cross-border e-commerce and market procurement trade. In 2020, the import and export via cross-border e-commerce hit 1.69 trillion yuan, up by 31.1% and export via market procurement trade reached 704.54 billion yuan, up by 25.2%. Going forward, we will further enhance support for these forms and models and contribute to stable development of foreign trade this year. Thank you for your questions.

CCTV: The Fifth Plenary Session of the 19th CPC Central Committee put forward that the modern distribution system should be improved and business distribution costs should be reduced during the 14th Five-Year Plan period. The recent meeting of the Central Committee for Deepening Overall Reform reiterated the need to build a modern distribution system. What are the plans of MOFCOM for implementation? How to build a modern commercial distribution system? Thank you.

Wang Wentao: As we all know, distribution connects production and consumption. Since the 18th CPC National Congress in 2012, China's commercial distribution has developed rapidly, with diverse players and patterns, as the landscape for open competition has basically taken shape. However, we also have much to improve in distribution. For example, the ratio of total social logistics costs to GDP in 2020 is a figure often compared with that of other countries. This ratio is about 14.7% in China, which is generally about 6 percentage points higher than that of developed countries, thus our logistics costs are still relatively high. Take another indicator as an example, our cold chain logistics is a shortcoming out of all the shortcomings. The damage rate of agricultural produce in developed countries is less than 10%, while the damage rate of meat in China is about 12%, and that of fruit and vegetables is even higher, about 18%, or more than 20% according to some studies. This shows that we still have many logistics constraints. In addition, Chinese distributors are not internationally competitive enough.

General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasized that an efficient modern distribution system is essential for both domestic and international circulations. Just now, you asked about our plans. We would establish a problem-oriented modern distribution system featuring “six improvements”.

First, improving the distribution network layout. If the distribution network is compared to blood vessels of human beings, the backbone network would be the main artery, so we should first improve the backbone network, and then keep the basic network smooth before we unblock the microcirculation and establish a sound network system. When it comes to the distribution network, we should focus on the backbone network, by formulating a good plan for commodities distribution centers, integrated logistics parks and public delivery centers. After the backbone network is improved and becomes smooth, we will ensure microcirculation is smooth till the last mile.

Second, improving the distribution infrastructure. Compared with developed countries, there are still many gaps in our distribution infrastructure, with the main gap now in the “last mile”. Just now, I mentioned the establishment of the backbone network, and in the next step, we need to ensure smooth microcirculation, especially for the “last mile”. The important thing is that we need to go down to community levels. How to do that in the city? We should provide residents with access to convenience stores, vegetable markets and community service outlets nearby. In other words, we should focus on creating a fifteen-minute community service circle. How to do that in the countryside? Rural areas should focus on improving the commercial system, transforming the commercial distribution network at the county, township and village levels, improving the logistics distribution network, and ensuring smooth access to industrial products in the countryside and agricultural produce in the city. We have set a target that by 2025, every county should have chain supermarkets and logistics distribution centers, towns and villages should have business centers, and villages should have access to express delivery. We would mainly focus on the community level in cities and rural areas, and keep the “last mile” smooth.

Third, improving the competitiveness of distributors. As I said just now, compared with developed countries and large international distributors, there are still much to catch up with. However, the application of new technologies, such as 5G, Internet of Things, big data, cloud computing and artificial intelligence, has provided a good opportunity for distributors to catch up. We will also encourage and guide distributors to seize this opportunity for leapfrog development in digitalized, network-based and intelligent circulation.

Fourth, improving the patterns of distribution development. Shopping malls, supermarkets, and grocery stores can be found all over urban and rural areas. We should encourage and guide innovation and transformation, which is based on digitalized and intelligent transformation and cross-industry integration as mentioned above. We visited some grass-roots organizations and found that some grocery stores are not only consumption outlets, but also serve the last mile of logistics. They have started cross-industry integration as they both sell goods and provide express delivery services. At the same time, we should also develop green distribution.

Fifth, improving the modernization level of supply chains. We would focus on supply chain innovation and introduce models of application, and promote the deep integration of distribution innovation and industrial transformation.

Sixth, improving the integration of domestic and foreign trade. To unblock the chokepoints of domestic and foreign trade distribution and create a smooth pathway for domestic and international markets, the key is to promote the alignment of domestic and foreign trade in laws and regulations, regulatory system, quality standards, certification and accreditation, etc. The alignment and the smooth connection of domestic and foreign trade could be improved. Some localities have taken the initiative and found that only about 10% of domestic and foreign trade can be connected. In the next step, we should expand the connection of laws and regulations, regulatory system, quality standards and certification and accreditation. We have been promoting this work, and this year we would step up efforts to enhance the integration of domestic and foreign trade.

I have answered this question from these six perspectives. Thank you.

China Review News Agency: How does MOFCOM view the prospect of China-U.S. trade and economic relations in the next stage? The international community is keeping a close eye on the communication and engagement between China and the United States, especially whether the two countries will re-establish mechanisms for bilateral trade and economic dialogue. What comments would MOFCOM make?

This question is of great concern to many. In their phone call on February 11, President Xi Jinping and President Biden had an in-depth exchange of views on the development of China-U.S. relations and pointed the way forward for the bilateral trade and economic ties. It’s always China’s belief that China-U.S. trade and economic relations are mutually beneficial. With deeply intertwined interests, the two countries stand to gain from cooperation, and lose from confrontation. Cooperation is the only right choice. In 2020, the coronavirus epidemic has dealt a heavy blow to international trade, but China-U.S. trade managed to buck the trend amid such difficulties. China is the largest trading partner of the United States. Bilateral trade and investment cooperation have contributed to economic recovery in both countries. This fully demonstrates that trade and economic cooperation is a strong driver to the bilateral relations and has brought tangible benefits to both sides.

In their phone call, President Xi Jinping stressed to President Biden that China and the United States should re-establish all kinds of dialogue mechanisms to get a good understanding of each other's policy intentions and avoid misunderstandings and miscalculations. China stands ready to strengthen trade and economic exchanges and work with the United States on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, to the benefit of the two peoples and the world at large. In the next stage, guided by what the two leaders said in the phone call, I hope to make concerted efforts with American colleagues. We should strengthen communication, enhance mutual understanding, focus on cooperation, manage differences and bring the bilateral trade and economic relations back to the track of cooperation. Thank you.

MNI: After signing the RCEP Agreement, China said it would favorably consider joining the CPTPP. What are you going to do in this regard? Have you set up a timetable? What are the challenges for China's economic development in joining the CPTPP? For example, challenges on labor and environmental standards, or on intellectual property protection. Thank you.

Wang Shouwen: Thank you for your question. On November 20, 2020, President Xi Jinping announced at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting that China will favorably consider joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). In December last year, the Central Economic Work Conference proposed once again to favorably consider joining the CPTPP. As you just mentioned, the CPTPP covers a wide range of issues. We are now working on two fronts. First, internally we are doing our homework, that is, carrying out assessment, research and in-depth analysis on all CPTPP provisions, including those you just mentioned. Second, externally, we have already had informal contacts with some of the 11 members of the CPTPP, and plan to have further informal contacts with other members to communicate at the technical level on issues involved, so that we can have a more accurate understanding of the agreement. Thank you.

Phoenix TV: My question is about WTO reform. As we all know, this year marks the 20th anniversary of China’s accession to the WTO. However, the WTO is still faced with multiple challenges and problems. What will China do to push forward reforms of the WTO? Thank you.

Wang Shouwen: Thank you for your question. This year marks the 20th anniversary of China’s accession to the WTO. Over the past 20 years, China has worked actively to fulfill its obligations as a WTO member. We have opened up our market and delivered on our commitments. We have also been actively engaged in and made contribution to a number of WTO negotiations, including the negotiations on the Trade Facilitation Agreement, the negotiations on the expansion of the Information Technology Agreement, and the negotiations on eliminating agricultural export subsidies. China has notified in an active manner the WTO of our reforms and policy changes, and received seven trade policy reviews of the WTO, with our eighth review scheduled for this year. We have launched the China program to work with the WTO Secretariat to help the least developed members to integrate themselves in the WTO institutions.

As we all know, since the paralysis of the Appellate Body of the WTO dispute settlement mechanism, China, together with other members including the EU, have worked to establish the Multiparty Interim Appeal Arbitration Arrangement. With these efforts, China, as a WTO member, has made its own contribution to upholding the authority and effectiveness of the WTO. As you have just mentioned, the WTO, beset by some difficulties, needs to be reformed. The authority of the WTO has been undermined by unilateralism and trade protectionism. The Appellate Body has been paralyzed. Little progress has been made in the WTO negotiations. Under such circumstances, China supports necessary reforms of the WTO. In this regard, as you have noted, the WTO selected Dr Okonjo-Iweala as new Director-General on 15 February. China will support Dr Okonjo-Iweala in fulfilling her duties as Director-General. We hope that she can promptly resume the normal functioning of the Organization, including delivering a successful 12th Ministerial Conference this year, and reaching agreement on the fisheries negotiations.

With respect to reforms of the WTO, China has published its position paper and notified the Secretariat of our proposals on the WTO reforms. We believe that to reform the Organization, we need to, first and foremost, resume the normal functioning of the Appellate Body, so that we are able to effectively resist unilateralism and trade protectionism. Meanwhile, we think that there are excessive subsidies on agriculture which need to be addressed properly through reforms. In particular, some developed countries have very high subsidies on agriculture. Developing countries are also very concerned about the public stockholding for food security purposes. We believe that these should be priority issues for the WTO reforms.

In addition, we know that the WTO was founded 25 years ago. Over the past 25 years, tremendous changes have taken place in global economy, international trade and cross-border investment. For instance, trade in services, which was at a low level 25 years ago, has grown substantially in these years. So did cross-border investment. E-commerce, which was in its infancy in the 1990s, now is flourishing. We hope that the WTO can keep pace with the times, and reach consensus in such areas as domestic regulations on services trade, investment facilitation and e-commerce.

Before long, the World Economic Forum held an virtual event of the Davos Agenda , in which President Xi Jinping delivered a special address. In his speech, he stressed that we should build an open world economy, uphold the multilateral trading regime, advance reform of the WTO, and protect the development rights, interests and opportunities of developing countries. At a new stage of development, China is moving faster to build a new development paradigm. In this process, we will open up wider and stand ready to work with other WTO members to continue to enhance the authority and effectiveness of the WTO. At the same time, as the world's largest developing country, we are also willing to fulfill our obligations and make more contribution as our capacity permits on the basis of balanced rights and obligations. Thank you.

CNBC: To accelerate the high-quality development of commerce, what special considerations will be given to the e-commerce industry? Are there any special policies? Thank you.

Thank you for your question. E-commerce has flourished in recent years. In the new round of technological revolution and industrial transformation, China leads the world in e-commerce development. E-commerce has profoundly changed our way of production and life, which is especially true during the pandemic. Online shopping has now become an important channel for consumption, with online retail sales of physical goods accounting for nearly a quarter of total retail sales in 2020. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, e-commerce has played a prominent role in our efforts to ensure supplies, resume work and production, and recover consumption, making itself a stabilizer for economic and social development. Recently, MOFCOM, in collaboration with other ministries, helped launch the “2021 Chinese New Year Shopping Festival”, during which online retail sales reached over 900 billion yuan. It helped to ensure steady market supply during the Spring Festival and served people who didn’t travel home during the Spring Festival.

As the regulator for the e-commerce industry, MOFCOM has all along worked on the promotion and regulation of e-commerce hand in hand, and kept improving the environment for its development. This year, our priority will be as follows:

First, top-level design. Currently, MOFCOM is drafting the 14th Five-Year Plan for the development of e-commerce. Based on the new development stage, new development philosophy, and new development paradigm, we will put forward the objectives, main tasks and support measures for the high-quality development of e-commerce in the next five years, so that it can add momentum to the comprehensive development of a modern socialist country.

Second, innovative development. We will promote new types of consumption, foster new business models more rapidly, such as live-stream e-commerce and fresh food e-commerce, and build consumption upgrading platforms such as the Brand and Quality Shopping Festival to enrich items and scenarios of online consumption. We will promote the integration of online and offline business, support digital transformation of physical entities, and encourage e-commerce platforms to empower small and medium-sized enterprises. We will also deepen the development of rural e-commerce. As Minister Wang said, rural e-commerce can play a critical role in the construction of rural commerce system. We will focus on the smooth transition from poverty eradication to rural revitalization, coordinate public and private resources, advance the strategy to “boost rural development through digital commerce”, build new infrastructure for rural e-commerce, expand the coverage of e-commerce in rural areas, and help farmers increase income through e-commerce. We will also promote cross-border e-commerce, expand pilot retail imports of cross-border e-commerce, grow the Silk Road e-commerce partnership by deepening e-commerce exchanges and cooperation with Belt and Road partner countries and share the new development opportunities in the digital era.

We should also be aware that while e-commerce is thriving in China, issues like unfair competition and suspected monopoly have raised public concerns. MOFCOM will strengthen regulation of the e-commerce industry. On the one hand, we will providing positive guidance, strengthen the e-commerce credit system, press e-commerce players to make commitments on business integrity, keep a credit record and strengthen industry self-discipline; on the other hand, we will reinforce supervision, by pushing for improvement of e-commerce laws and regulations, supervising the compliance of platform enterprises, preventing disorderly capital expansion and working with other departments to level the playing field. Thank you.

Jiemian: My question is about stabilizing foreign investment. In 2020, China saw its paid-in foreign investment grew against headwinds and became the world's largest FDI destination. According to statistics, year on year growth in paid-in FDI in January this year was even faster than that in 2020. Will such a trend continue? What’s MOFCOM’s take on FDI utilization in 2021? In addition, the global competition for investment will surely intensify as countries roll out their vaccine inoculation programs and stimulus packages. What measures will MOFCOM take to stabilize foreign investment? Thank you. 

Wang Wentao: Let me answer this question. As you said, last year, paid-in investment in non-financial sectors in China grew by 4.5%, making it the largest FDI destination in the world. The trend in January this year was also relatively reassuring. However, just like what I said on stabilizing foreign trade, we are faced with a complex and challenging task in stabilizing foreign investment because of some uncertainties. As you just mentioned, for one thing, some of the uncertainties relate to the Covid-19 pandemic and economic recovery. For another, countries compete more fiercely for foreign investment. But there are also opportunities. Some institutions have made their assessment. For example, the UN Conference on Trade and Development predicted that this year, global FDI would further drop by 5-10% on the basis of last year’s 42% decline. The situation is indeed challenging. But we believe that there are also opportunities. Following the decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, we will channel major efforts to stabilize total FDI inflows into China, and improve the structure and quality of inbound FDI. Specifically, we will work in the following three aspects.

First and foremost, opening up wider and resolutely. General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed that China will only become more and more open. Commerce departments will work to lower the threshold for foreign investment access and fully implement the 2020 version of the three negative lists for foreign investment nationwide, free trade zones (FTZs) and the free trade port. At the same time, we will also implement the newly-published catalogue of encouraged foreign investment industries to create more investment opportunities. 127 items were added to the newly-published catalogue to enable foreign enterprises to share in the dividends in China’s reform and development.

Second, making the most of opening-up platforms. Commerce departments will do a good job in developing FTZs, the free trade port and national economic development zones as these are important platforms and vehicles for FDI attraction. We will develop high-quality FTZs and free trade port, improve the distribution of FTZs as well as implement the Master Plan for the Development of Hainan Free Trade Port and policy measures to achieve trade and investment liberalization and facilitation. In addition, we now have 217 national economic development zones. Going forward, we will open up wider, transform and upgrade these development zones and create new pacesetters in reform and opening-up in order to further contribute to the new development paradigm. We will also expand the integrated demonstration zone for greater openness in the services sector and guide pilot zones in taking bigger, bolder steps as trailblazers and explore different approaches.

Third, creating a more enabling business environment. As you all know, through our unremitting efforts, China's ease of doing business ranking in World Bank’s report has risen significantly, to the 31st in 2019. Under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, we will further improve the business environment, implement the Foreign Investment Law and its implementing regulations, and formulate, revise and abolish supporting regulations as needed. We will push forward the reforms to streamline administration, delegate powers, improve regulation, and strengthen services. We will implement the Rules on Handling Complaints of Foreign-Invested Enterprises, step up protection of legitimate rights and interests of foreign investors and continue to foster a market-oriented business environment under the rule of law and up to international standards so that foreign investors in China will enjoy a better environment, more robust development and bigger gains. Thank you.

International Business Daily: China and the European Union (EU) have substantively concluded the negotiations on the China-EU investment agreement. When will the agreement be signed? What’s your view on the future of China-EU economic and trade relations? Thank you.

Wang Wentao: The China-Europe relationship is built on a solid foundation, featuring close high-level exchanges and fruitful economic and trade outcomes. Last year, President Xi Jinping held 23 videoconferences and phone calls with leaders of the EU and European countries; this month, he and leaders from central and eastern European countries co-chaired the China-CEEC Summit; last year, Premier Li Keqiang chaired the 22nd China-EU Leaders’ Summit. These high-level exchanges enhanced our mutual trust, providing a solid foundation and a clear direction for China-Europe economic and trade ties.

Amid the pandemic in 2020, the close economic and trade ties between China and Europe demonstrated enormous resilience and potential. China-EU trade totaled US$649.5 billion, up 4.9%, making China the EU’s largest trading partner for the first time. Our investors’ confidence remained high, with EU direct investment in China reaching US$5.7 billion, and Chinese direct investment in the EU US$4.7 billion. The China-EU agreement on geographical indications will also enter into force on March 1 this year.

As you mentioned, negotiations on the China-EU investment agreement were concluded at the end of last year, as scheduled. That is a landmark, or a milestone, as the EU calls it, in our economic and trade ties. This high-standard, balanced and mutually beneficial agreement will create many opportunities for our investors and lead to a more favorable business environment. It will benefit not only China and the EU, but also the recovery and growth of world economy at large. Everyone will benefit from this scenario. As previously agreed, legal scrubbing and translation of the agreement is now underway for it to be signed at an early date.

I would like to stress again that China and the EU are partners, not rivals; our cooperation far outweighs competition. We should expand our common interests through cooperation and overcome difficulties in pursuing development. China is ready to work with the EU to strengthen cooperation in Covid-19 response and promote practical cooperation in economy and trade, green development and digital technologies, so as to stabilize global industrial and supply chains and contribute to economic recovery and growth in the post-pandemic world. Thank you.

Bloomberg: My question is about Australian trade. What has to happen for China to end the ban on importation of Australian coal and for the removal of other impediments to exports from Australia to China? Thank you.

Wang Shouwen: Thank you for your question. China and Australia enjoy a very sound foundation of trade and economic relations. There is a free trade agreement between the two countries. In the past 12 years, China has remained Australia’s largest trading partner, export market and source of imports. Australia runs a surplus with China in trade in goods and services and two-way investment. China makes more investment in Australia than Australia does in China. Thus it is fair to say that China-Australia trade and economic relations have brought huge benefits to Australia.

Take last year as an example. We all know that the pandemic has left the world economy in recession. Australia’s foreign trade was in decline, yet its trade with China was on the rise. Australia’s exports to the rest of the world plunged by as much as 8%, whereas its exports to China only dropped by less than 3%. We can see that the commercial relations between the two countries have brought benefits for both sides. We believe that such relations are mutually beneficial and should be cherished by both countries.

Unfortunately, however, some people in Australia have stigmatized our trade and economic relations, our investment projects and normal commercial cooperation activities. They have adopted restrictive or even discriminatory measures which have ruined the cooperative atmosphere between us. We always believe that the sound and stable bilateral relations are very conducive to our trade and economic cooperation and serve the common interests of the two countries. We hope that Australia can do more to enhance trust and facilitate cooperation in the spirit of China-Australia comprehensive strategic partnership, and work toward the sound and stable development of the bilateral commercial relations. Thank you.

China News Service: We notice that recently there have been reports, saying some Chinese companies may face a relatively high risk of default because Covid-19 hinders the construction of some Belt and Road projects. In a complex and changing international landscape, what measures will MOFCOM take to better guide businesses in going global and contributing to the Belt and Road initiative? Thank you.

Qian Keming: Thank you for your question. Since President Xi Jinping put forward the Belt and Road initiative, China and participating countries have adhered to the principle of pursuing shared benefits through extensive consultation and joint contribution, kept deepening practical cooperation in various fields, and achieved fruitful results. The Belt and Road initiative has become a popular international public good attracting global attention and made very important contribution to the building of an open world economy and a community of shared future for mankind.

Last year, despite the Covid-19 pandemic and other unfavorable factors, China and participating countries reached out to each other in the trying times and made further progress and new achievements in Belt and Road cooperation. In 2020, trade in goods between China and countries along the Belt and Road amounted to US$1.35 trillion, up 0.7% year on year. Non-financial direct investment in countries along the Belt and Road registered a higher growth rate and reached US$17.79 billion, up 18.3% year on year. Major projects such as the China-Laos railway, Jakarta-Bandung railway and China-Belarus industrial park, to name a few, have made sound progress.

The Fifth Plenary session of the 19th CPC Central Committee made new plans on Belt and Road cooperation, charting the course for our future work. MOFCOM will resolutely implement the decisions and plans of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, focus on trade and economic cooperation to help foster the new development paradigm and pursue high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. This year we will mainly focus on four aspects.

First, improving the quality of trade. We will strive to expand two-way trade with countries along the Belt and Road, especially to increase imports of high-quality products, so that more countries can share in the dividends of China's huge market. At the same time, we will develop Silk Road e-commerce by promoting integrated development of the Belt and Road initiative and such new business forms and models as cross-border e-commerce, injecting new momentum into the development of the China-Europe block train services, the new land-sea corridor and other trade corridors. At the same time, we will also build high-standard FTZs to foster a free and enabling international environment for Belt and Road cooperation.

Second, developing new ways of investment cooperation. By developing new ways of outbound investment cooperation, upgrading overseas project contracting and expanding third-market cooperation, we will build a number of high-quality cooperation projects, implement a series of foreign assistance projects to improve people’s well-being and encourage competitive Chinese enterprises to go global. At the same time, we need to attract more investors from countries along the Belt and Road to China to foster mutually beneficial supply, value and industrial chains.

Third, building platforms. We will do our best to organize a host of major exhibitions such as the fourth China International Import Expo and 2021 China International Fair for Trade in Services. We will give full play to a number of exhibition platforms, including the Canton Fair, China-ASEAN Expo, China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo, China-Arab States Expo, China-Russia Expo and China-CEEC Expo. With these efforts, we aim to foster more robust platforms to support Belt and Road trade and economic cooperation.  

Fourth, developing better mechanisms. We will actively push for the alignment of strategies, plans and mechanisms with countries along the Belt and Road, set up more working groups on trade facilitation and investment cooperation under joint and mixed bilateral economic and trade committees and improve working mechanisms on trade in services and e-commerce to provide institutional support for Belt and Road cooperation. Thank you.

Chen Wenjun: Last question.

Hong Kong Bauhinia: What is the role of the 21 pilot free trade zones (pilot FTZs) in building the new development paradigm? Is there any detailed plan? What measures will be taken to further develop Hainan Free Trade Port? Thank you.

Wang Wentao: Thank you for your question. I would like to take this question. General Secretary Xi Jinping stressed the need to link the new development paradigm with the national strategy for balanced regional development and pilot FTZs, as we nurture new pacesetters of reform and opening-up. As you said, the 21 pilot FTZs established over the past seven years form a nationwide framework for reform, opening-up and innovation. Together they have shared 260 institutional innovation outcomes with the rest of the country, becoming effective testing grounds in deepening reform across the board and expanding opening-up in all areas. This answers your question about the role of the pilot FTZs. In building the new development paradigm, this role will only become more significant.

Our plans in the next step can be summarized into four “connections”, namely connection of markets, connection of rules, connection of industries and connection of innovations. Let me elaborate on them.

“Connection of markets” means enhancing market connectivity through in-depth reform. We will grant pilot FTZs greater autonomy in reform and put forward more reform items they can experiment with, so as to make reform the tool to unclog the connection between domestic and international markets. We will further improve the business environment based on market principles, under the rule of law and up to international standards to tap into the vitality and momentum of market entities. Meanwhile, we will encourage more innovation outcomes and share them nationwide as they become mature.

“Connection of rules” means promoting alignment of rules through high-level opening-up. We will commit to both opening-up in terms of institutions and flow of factors of production. We will encourage pilot FTZs to align themselves with high-standard international trade and economic rules, based on which we will develop the negative list for cross-border trade in services of pilot FTZs. We will further institutional opening-up in terms of rules, regulations, management and standards. As I said before, we need to work on both factor flows-oriented opening-up and institutional opening-up, improve rules, regulations, management and standards through pilot FTZs to advance institutional opening-up, thus achieving higher level of opening-up across the board.

“Connection of industries” means accelerating industrial integration through opening-up of industrial chains. The 21 pilot FTZs spanning across China are located in different areas endowed with different resources and industrial characteristics. We encourage these pilot FTZs to cultivate their own features in reform and opening-up by taking account of the strategic positioning and resource endowment of their own areas. In particular, they can foster competitive industries with their own characteristics, focus on superior market players, lead domestic industries in the transformation and development, improve the level of industrial and supply chains, and realize high-quality development.

“Connection of innovation” means pushing for innovation through pooling together high-end resource factors. We will support pilot FTZs in bringing together more domestic and foreign resource factors, especially talents, capital, technology, and data, stepping up international exchange and cooperation, focusing on basic research and original innovation, and building themselves into breeding ground of scientific and technological policies, so as to boost innovative development at a high level.

Here I’d like to say a few words about Hainan Free Trade Port, which has received wide attention. Hainan Free Trade Port serves as a benchmark in our reform and opening-up endeavor. It is also a ground-breaking and major step by China. Last year, after releasing the Master Plan for Hainan Free Trade Port, some encouraging news followed. According to the figures reported by Hainan Province, both its GDP and total imports and exports of goods outperformed the national average levels, up 3.5% and 3% respectively. Particularly, after the release of the Master Plan, the polices began to pay off. In 2020, a total of 310,000 market players were created, up by 30.9%; 1,005 foreign-invested enterprises were founded, up by 197.3% year on year; 122,000 talents were introduced to Hainan, up by 177% year on year. Thanks to the offshore duty-free shopping policy, the offshore duty-free daily sales in Hainan averaged more than 120 million yuan by the end of last year, more than double year on year. All this shows bright prospects of Hainan Free Trade Port.

Moving forward, we will earnestly study and implement President Xi’s important instructions on the building of Hainan Free Trade Port, and work hard to carry out the tasks, implement the policy measures and reach the targets identified in the Master Plan with a focus on the overall national development and major national strategies. We will commit to greater trade and investment liberalization and facilitation, and strive for further progress in the development of Hainan Free Trade Port. Thank you.

Chen Wenjun: Thank you, Minister Wang Wentao, Vice Minister Wang Shouwen and Vice Minister Qian Keming. Thank you, all the friends from the press. This concludes today’s press conference. Thank you all.

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