MINISTRY OF COMMERCE
PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA


Online Regular Press Conference of the Ministry of Commerce (April 23, 2020)
  

[Gao Feng]: Dear friends from the press,

Good afternoon. Welcome to the online regular press conference of the Ministry of Commerce. First, I have two pieces of information to release. ?
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The first is about the development of the national online retail market in the first quarter of 2020. ??
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In January-March this year, the size of the national online retail market stayed basically unchanged over the same period of last year. According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, the national online retail sales reached 2.2 trillion yuan, down 0.8% year on year, with the decrease rate down 2.2 percentage points from the previous two months. The role of online retail in promoting consumption was further enhanced, with online retail sales of physical commodities accounting for 23.6% of the total retail sales of consumer goods, up 5.4 percentage points over the same period of last year. ??

According to the monitoring of business big data, the national online retail market in the first quarter mainly showed the following characteristics: ??
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First, the market run smoothly in general. In terms of the categories, sales of medicines, tobacco, alcohol, grain, edible oil and foodstuffs increased by more than 20%. Sales of auto products, furniture, clothing, shoes and hats dropped significantly in January-February, and the situation eased somewhat in March, with the decline rate narrowing by more than 10 percentage points. In terms of the regions, sales in the eastern and northeastern regions increased by 2.8% and 8.7% respectively, while those in the central and western regions decreased by 8.7% and 4.8% respectively. ??

Second, the market supply was relatively sufficient. The 11 major e-commerce platforms had stable sales of daily necessities, with sufficient stocks of rice, flour, edible oil, pork, milk, vegetables and eggs. Judging from the monitoring data, the inventory of necessities showed a steady and upward trend.

Third, sales of agricultural commodities boomed. In the first quarter, the national online retail sales of agricultural products reached 93.68 billion yuan, up 31.0%, of which meat, poultry, eggs, grain, edible oil and vegetables grew rapidly, with growth rates all above 70%. The online retail sales of 832 national poverty-stricken counties reached 27.75 billion yuan, up 13.3%, 14.1 percentage points higher than the national online retail growth rate. ??

Fourth, the resumption of online stores has been steadily improved. E-commerce platforms, sellers on the platforms and logistics and express delivery service companies actively promoted the resumption of work and production, which effectively guaranteed the stable operation of the market. According to the commercial big data that monitors 3.5 million major online retail stores, till now, the work resumption rate of sellers on the platforms has been nearly 90%, up 20 percentage points from the end of February.?

Fifth, the "staying-at-home economy" has become a hot spot in the market. According to the monitoring of commercial big data, there were more than 4 million e-commerce live broadcasts in the first quarter, and more than 100 county heads and mayors did live broadcasts to “endorse” their local products. Household products, kitchenware, and fitness equipment were favored by consumers, with a year-on-year increase of more than 40%. Sales of home office products such as laptops, printers, and keyboards also increased by more than 10%.

The second message is about the recent national market supply of the edible agricultural products.

Recently, the national market supply of the edible agricultural products has been generally sufficient with the prices constantly dropping. According to the monitoring of MOFCOM, last week (April 13-April 19), the national market price of the edible agricultural products decreased by 0.1% from the previous week, falling for 8 consecutive weeks with an accumulative decline of 7.5%. In terms of variety, the price of meat generally showed a downward trend. The wholesale price of pork dropped by 1.3% from the previous week, falling for 9 consecutive weeks with an accumulative decline of 11.1%. The wholesale price of beef decreased by 0.1% and that of mutton grew by 0.2%. The price of poultry products increased slightly with the wholesale prices of eggs and chicken up 1.5% and 0.4% respectively. The price of aquatic products dropped slightly, with the wholesale prices of large hairtail, silver carp and large yellow croaker down 1.7%, 1.5% and 0.8% respectively. The prices of grain and edible oil fluctuated slightly. The wholesale prices of flour and rice grew by 0.5% and 0.4% respectively. The wholesale prices of peanut oil and rapeseed oil rose by 0.4% and 0.3% respectively and that of soybean oil dropped by 0.1%. The average wholesale price of 30 kinds of vegetables increased by 0.6%. The average wholesale price of 6 kinds of fruits increased by 1.3%.

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

China News Service: We have noticed that the month-on-month decrease of foreign investment absorbed by China in March is clearly lower than that of February by 11.5 percentage points. Could MOFCOM share the reasons behind it? Will this upturn trend continue in the future? As the COVID-19 alert still persists for Europe and America, what is the expectation of MOFCOM for foreign investment attracted by China this year?

Gao Feng: The spread of the COVID-19 in the world poses great challenges to China and the global economy. At present, the prevention and control of COVID-19 in China has been further consolidated. The economy and society are gradually returning to normal and the resumption of work and production by companies is gradually approaching or reaching the normal level. The tremendous resilience shown by China's economy, especially the gradual release of China's consumption potential, has effectively boosted foreign business’ confidence in and expectations for investment in China amid the current difficult global economic landscape.
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According to the arrangements of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, we will continue to expand opening up and optimize business environment to further enhance the confidence of foreign investors in long-term investment and operation in China, both keep the existing investment stable and attract more investment, and do our best to keep foreign investment stable this year. Thank you!

TASS: According to official statistics, the growth rate of the trade between China and Russia has decreased somewhat in recent months, and China's exports to Russia have shown negative growth. As the economic vitality of the world continue to decline, will the bilateral trade resume its originally optimistic growth? Will the trade volume between China and Russia in 2020 exceed that of last year?

Gao Feng: According to Chinese customs statistics, the trade volume between China and Russia in the first three months of this year was USD 25.35 billion, up by 3.4% year-on-year, with a second fastest growth among China's major trading partners. China imported USD 16.2 billion from Russia, up by 17.3% year-on-year, which is the fastest growth among China's major trading partners.
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It is fair to say that, with the continuous spread of the current international epidemic and the severe impact on the world economy and trade, the bilateral trade between China and Russia rose against the odds in the first quarter. Such hard-won achievements highlight the resilience and potential of economic and trade relations between China and Russia. However, on the other hand, due to multiple factors such as epidemic prevention and control, resumption of production by enterprises and exchange rate fluctuations, China's exports to Russia in the first quarter were USD 9.15 billion, down by 14.6% from the same period last year. In addition, the impact of the epidemic and the fall in international oil prices on trade will lag behind to a certain extent, thus the trend of bilateral trade throughout the year still needs to be followed.
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In general, however, Chinese-Russian cooperation continues to advance in traditional fields such as energy, chemical industry, aeronautical and space technologies, and equipment manufacturing, as well as in emerging fields such as e-commerce, scientific and technological innovation and bio-medicine. We believe that the impact of the epidemic is only short term. The fundamentals and long-term momentum of economic and trade cooperation between China and Russia remain unchanged, and the prospects for cooperation between the two countries are still promising. The relevant departments of the two countries will continue to work closely together to implement the important consensus reached by the heads of state of the two countries, jointly address the challenges of COVID-19 and continue to promote cooperation. Thank you!

China Business News: The 2020 State Export Report published by the US-China Business Council (USCBC) showed that the tariffs and uncertain business environment has led to a sharp fall in US exports to China. Nevertheless, China still remains the third largest market for US exporters of goods and services, and one of the top five markets of exports of goods and services for most states of America. How would China and the US make joint efforts to promote the sound development of bilateral trade in the future?

We have noted the report published by USCBC. The report suggested that China remained the fastest growing exporting market for the US before the trade frictions emerged between the two countries. From 2010 to 2017, the value of exports of goods from the US to China grew by as high as 41.8%, easily outpacing US exports to other regions (19.4%). Affected by the trade and economic frictions between China and the US, American exports of goods to China dropped substantially in the past two years, bringing down the growth of US exports of goods to China in the past decade to 16%, whereas US exports of goods to other regions in the world increased by 29% for the same period. This has once again proved that no one could win in the trade war, and China and the US stand to gain from cooperation and lose from confrontation.

China and the US should leverage the opportunity of implementing the phase-one trade agreement between the two countries to pull in the same direction, strengthen cooperation, manage differences, strive to reduce uncertainties in the bilateral trade and economic relations, avoid adopting any new trade and investment restrictive measures, and jointly promote the sound and stable development of bilateral trade and economic relations. As the COVID-19 sprawls across the world, such efforts are of great significance to maintaining economic stability for both China and the US and pushing global economy to emerge from the shadow of the COVID-19. Thank you!

Nikkei: The Indian government recently has revised its foreign investment polices to provide that “an entity of a country, which shares land border with India” can invest only under the government route. How does China comment on that?

We have noted the revisions made by India on policies concerning FDI. China has through the diplomatic channels, requested clarifications from India.

In the face of the global spread of the COVID-19, it is the time for us to demonstrate solidarity, strengthen cooperation and work as one to overcome adversity. We hope that India could work with relevant countries in the region to jointly tackle the economic challenges brought by the COVID-19 to the world and the region, create a favorable environment for the cooperation and development of companies in the region, boost confidence in regional economic development, and contribute to the steady advance in regional economic and trade cooperation as well as the pursuit of mutual benefits. Thank you!

21 Century Business Herald: The time to hold the online Canton Fair has been officially set. The time left for preparations is limited. What progress has been made in and what are the considerations about attracting exhibitors and buyers? What changes are expected in the client mix? Compared with the offline fair, the online Canton Fair transcends time and space limitations. Why is the online fair still held within a limited timeframe?

Gao Feng: In light of the features of the 127th Canton Fair to be held online, we have started work on attracting buyers and exhibitors, and smooth overall progress has been made. This year’s fair aims at achieving global coverage. Invitations have been extended to over 400,000 overseas buyers who attended the fair before. We will also try to attract buyers in a targeted manner through overseas partners of the fair, important international industrial and business institutions and multinational procurement enterprises. Besides, we will invite buyers who previously failed to make it to the fair for time, travel cost and other reasons and strive to attract more international buyers through multiple channels and means so as to create enabling conditions for enterprises to get orders and secure their market. At the same time, we are stepping up the invitation of domestic buyers and expanding the scope of invitation of professional buyers to actively expand import and promote foreign trade enterprises’ domestic sales of goods originally produced for export.
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As regards the limited timeframe, one important function of B2B exhibition is helping match enterprises with the market by intensively exhibiting and collecting information, coordinating resources and creating synergy within a short period of time. The Canton Fair held online will keep this feature and advantage. High-frequency interaction and adequate communication among tens of thousands of buyers and exhibitors within ten days will not only help buyers with one-stop shopping, but also help exhibitors optimize sales strategies and collect information on buyers’ demand in an intensive manner. Accordingly, buyers and exhibitors can both plan for their purchase or production and operation for the whole year or some time to come. From the perspective of the organizer, hosting the fair within a limited timeframe will help to intensively invite global buyers, attract wider attention, expand media coverage and bring exhibitors more business opportunities to discuss cooperation.
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We will step up online matchmaking during this year's Canton Fair. Buyers and exhibitors’ integrity background will be provided for the other side, with a view to replicating online the trade negotiation environment featuring mutual-trust in physical fairs; multi-language translation and interpreting support will be provided for matchmaking platforms to facilitate communication between buyers and exhibitors; an all-weather online live broadcast room will be set up for each exhibitor to enable face-to-face negotiation as well as presentation and promotion.
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Once again, we sincerely invite buyers and exhibitors from home and abroad to this year's Canton Fair. We hope all guests find their participation rewarding. Thank you.

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

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

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