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MOFCOM Holds Online Press Conference on Measures to Support the Opening-up and Development of the Entire Oil and Gas Industrial Chain in the China (Zhejiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone

[Gao Feng]: Dear friends from the media, good afternoon. Welcome to the online press conference of the Ministry of Commerce.

The State Council has recently approved the Measures to Support the Opening-up and Development of the Entire Oil and Gas Industrial Chain in the China (Zhejiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone. To help you better understand relevant situations, we have invited Mr. Tang Wenhong, Director-General of MOFCOM Department of Pilot Free Trade Zone and Free Trade Port; Mr. Sheng Qiuping, Director of the Office of the Joint Meeting of the Zhejiang Provincial Government Pilot FTZ and Director-General of Zhejiang Provincial Department of Commerce; and Mr. Xia Wenzhong, Deputy Director of the Management Committee of the China (Zhejiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone to brief you on the relevant situations and explain the policies. I am the moderator Gao Feng, Deputy Director of MOFCOM General Office and spokesman.

Today, Director-General Tang Wenhong will first introduce the relevant situations about the policy, and then the three speakers will answer the questions from the media. Now, let’s welcome Mr. Tang to make an introduction first.

[Tang Wenhong]: Dear friends from the press! It is a pleasure to attend today's online press conference. First, thank you for your long-term attention to and support for the work of the pilot FTZ. Today, I will give you a brief introduction to the Measures to Support the Opening-up and Development of the Entire Oil and Gas Industrial Chain in the China (Zhejiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone approved by the State Council.

The construction of the pilot FTZ is a strategic move taken by the CPC Central Committee to promote reform and opening up in the new era, which is a milestone in China’s reform and opening up process. In March 2017, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council approved the establishment of the China (Zhejiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone in Zhoushan, Zhejiang, in order to take the size advantage of Ningbo Zhoushan Port which is the world largest port, the location advantage of Zhoushan that reaches rivers and sea and is close to international main channels, as well as its vast hinterland advantage next to the Yangtze River Delta. It is an important portal demonstration area of opening-up at sea in the eastern region, a forerunner for the liberalization of international trade in bulk commodities, and a resource allocation base with international influence.

Over the past three years of construction, Zhejiang Pilot Free Trade Zone has focused on the strategic position given by the central government, and leveraged its own strengths to further conduct differentiated exploration. Remarkable results have been achieved in various work, especially in actively carrying out pilot reforms in the high-quality and open development of the oil and gas industry. More than 6,000 oil and gas companies gathered here, and the trade volume of oil products in 2019 exceeded 320 billion yuan. It boasts the greatest concentration of oil and gas companies throughout the country. The diversified competition pattern in the oil and gas field has been constantly improved, and 27 pieces of pilot reform experience have been formed in related fields which has been replicated and promoted nationwide.

It is because Zhejiang Pilot Free Trade Zone has achieved positive results in the preliminary reform and exploration and has the basis and conditions for further pilot reforms that, according to the deployments of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council, the Ministry of Commerce and Zhejiang Provincial People’s Government, together with the relevant departments, have studied and proposed Several Measures. It mainly aims to better implement the requirements of the 19th CPC National Congress to grant more autonomy to pilot free trade zones to conduct reform, to support Zhejiang Pilot Free Trade Zone to continuously lead the country in the opening-up and development of the oil and gas industry, to improve China’s capacity for global allocation of resources, and to accumulate experience for the supply-side structural reform of the national oil and gas industry; at the same time, it aims to, through systematic and integrated innovation in specific industries, open up new paths for China's pilot free trade zones to further promote differentiated exploration and to achieve high-quality development.

Focusing on the development needs of the oil and gas industry in Zhejiang Pilot Free Trade Zone, Several Measures proposes 26 specific supportive measures in 11 fields including introducing international strategic investors in oil products trade, accelerating the transformation and upgrading of the petrochemical and refining industries, enhancing the market-based allocation capacity for the oil products circulation field, and improving financial services and regulatory levels in cross-border commodities trade. In the next step, the Ministry of Commerce will strengthen coordination, and work with relevant departments and Zhejiang Province to implement Several Measures with force and tenacity as a hammer drives a nail, and continuously improve the level of opening-up and development of Zhejiang Pilot Free Trade Zone. At the same time, we will firmly establish the holistic view of national security, improve the risk prevention and settlement mechanism, achieve the stable, safe and efficient operation of the zone, and hold firm to the bottom line that no systemic risks will emerge. Thank you!

[Gao Feng]: Thanks for Director Tang Wenhong’s introduction. Now we will move on to the Q&A session. Please ask questions around the theme of today's press conference. The floor is open.

Xinhua News Agency: What arrangements has MOFCOM made to support the opening up and development of oil trade in the free trade zone? What are the bright spots of the recently-issued Measures?

Tang Wenhong: Over the past few years, China has pushed for oil and gas reform and continued to improve oil trade administration. MOFCOM is actively promoting the reform of crude oil import. A crude oil import and operation system that features in diverse actors, orderly competition and strong stamina begins to taken shape, which contributes to ensuring the stable supply of crude oil in the country and enhancing trade facilitation. Since the master plan for China (Zhejiang) Pilot Free Trade Zone was published in March 2017, MOFCOM has worked with relevant ministries to build Zhejiang FTZ into an international oil products trading center, an international petroleum storage base and an international green petrochemical base. MOFCOM brings forward the implementation of the master plan and supports Zhejiang FTZ in leading the reform and opening up. We have formulated and issued the eligibility and procedures of application by the companies in Zhejiang FTZ for non-state crude oil import, granting eligible companies the qualification of non-state crude oil import and allowing the companies in Zhejiang FTZ to conduct the blending of bonded fuels, among others. This will boost Zhejiang FTZ’s efforts to gain greater international clout in oil and gas industry. Zhoushan has become one of the world's top 10 ports for bonded fuel oil supplies since 2019.

The Measures gives the pilot FTZ a bigger say in reforming and enhancing market allocation of oil circulation, lends further support to the pilot FTZ in moderately developing refined oil export, and allows existing qualified refinery-petrochemical integration enterprises in the zone to carry out the first trial of non-state trade export of refined oil. MOFCOM will fulfill its duty and make good efforts to implement the measures so as to support the opening up and development of Zhejiang FTZ and creating new paths and experiences in the reform of oil import and export administration. Thank you!

CCTV: Zhejiang FTZ is the only FTZ in China that focuses on the development of oil and gas whole industrial chain. What progress has been made in this regard?

Sheng Qiuping: Since its launching three years ago, Zhejiang FTZ has made reforms and explorations based on differentiated conditions in the oil and gas sector according to the positioning given by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council as an important maritime opening up gateway demonstration zone, a leading zone for international commodity trade liberalization, and an influential international resource allocation base. Our efforts have paid off. Its oil and gas whole industrial chain with international competitiveness has begun to take shape.

First, institutional reforms have produced a series of valuable outcomes. We have tested more than one hundred of new initiatives including the blending of bonded oil, non-state crude oil trade, refined oil wholesale, and paperless customs clearance for the first time in China. These experiments have distinct features and a strong clustering effect. Zhejiang FTZ’s role as the pilot ground is fully leveraged as 27 piloted reforms including cross-port supply of bonded oil are replicated and rolled out nationwide.

Second, Zhejiang FTZ has attracted a host of world-class oil and gas companies at home and abroad. We have hosted the International Petroleum and Natural Gas Enterprises Conference three times in a row. Saudi Aramco, BP, Trafigura, Honeywell, Total, Glencore and other international oil and gas giants participate in investment and construction in the zone. Over the past three years, Zhejiang FTZ attracted over 6,000 oil and gas enterprises to register in the zone, increasing 9.2 folds compared with before its establishment. The international reputation and influence have risen significantly, which contributes to stabilizing the fundamentals of foreign investment and foreign trade.

Third, a batch of landmark industrial projects have been implemented. The first 20 million tons/year project of the 40 million tons/year integrated refining and petrochemical complex Phase I of Zhejiang Petrochemical Co.,Ltd is up and running, which is the world’s largest single private-capital petrochemical project in terms of industrial investment. Zhejiang has become China’s largest and the world’s eighth largest supplier of bonded marine fuel. The ENN Zhoushan LNG receiving station Phase I, the first private-capital 10-million-ton LNG project in China, was built and put into use. Other major industrial projects that grab world’s attention have been landed successfully, which drive the local economic growth. Three years on, Zhejiang FTZ has built from scratch an oil and gas industry worth trillion yuan, created a new important platform for reform and opening up and blazed a new trail with Zhejiang’s characteristics. Thank you.

21st Century Business Herald: What is the difference between the Measures on developing the oil and gas industrial chain and the master plan of Zhejiang FTZ? What are the highlights?

Tang Weihong: The master plan is the blueprint that lays the foundations for the free trade zone. It clearly states the layout of the zone, the strategic positioning and development direction, among others. It sets the framework of pilot tasks of reform and innovation for the zone.

Centering on the strategic positioning, the master plan puts forth 123 reform initiatives including transition of government functions, investment facilitation and trade liberalization of oil and gas whole industrial chain, financial system, and customs clearance and regulation. Based on the master plan and given the progress over the past three years and the need for further reform, the Measures proposes targeted policies for oil and gas whole industrial chain. The Measures is in line with the master plan but has a clearer focus and more distinct features. The Measures will step up efforts in the following four aspects.

First, differentiation-based explorations. General Secretary Xi Jinping stresses repeatedly that the FTZs should make continued explorations based on differentiated conditions. The oil and gas industry is at the core of Zhejiang FTZ. Promoting the development of oil and gas whole industrial chain is an important task of Zhejiang FTZ. All reforms proposed by the Measures pivot on this idea, highlighting the strategic positioning and distinct feature of Zhejiang FTZ. While reflecting what we have achieved, it also points out the direction of differentiation-based explorations.

Second, integrated and systematic reform measures. General Secretary Xi Jinping emphasizes that the focus of reform should be integration, coordination and efficiency. Focusing on oil and gas whole industrial chain, the Measures proposes pilot reforms in key areas such as trade, storage and shipping, processing and circulation with integrated and systematic reform measures. In the meantime, it devises corresponding financial, fiscal, tax and information schemes and pays more attention to coordinated efforts in a bid to create a synergy for institutional reform.

Third, leveling the playing field. The CPC Central Committee emphasizes that the healthy development of the non-public economic sector should be supported, which should enjoy equal opportunities and rights and apply to the same rules on an equal footing. The Measures supports introducing international oil traders as well as the central-owned SOEs, local SOEs and private sector that are related to oil trade. It also encourages moderately conducting refined oil export business, unleashing the vitality of market actors, exploring market-oriented reforms in oil circulation, and further creating a level playing field for diverse players. Against the backdrop of the current situations, these measures will be conducive to stabilizing foreign trade and foreign investment.

Fourth, practicing the idea of green development. General Secretary Xi Jinping stresses that clear waters and green mountains are as good as mountains of gold and silver. The Measures draws up measures to promote the development of LNG and green and clean energy and improve the supply of low-sulfur fuel oil, among others. In the meantime, in order to protect the ecological environment of Zhoushan fishing ground and maritime and fishery resources, the Measures puts forth measures on strengthening maritime ecological conservation and pursuing sound and sustainable development. Thank you.

CGTN: Affected by COVID-19, the global economic landscape has become increasingly complicated. What role will the Measures play in developing the oil and gas whole industrial chain in Zhejiang FTZ?

Xia Wenzhong: The global spread of the pandemic has triggered cycles of reactions. The international oil market bears the blunt directly. Global oil demand is dented, which causes oil price to fluctuate, thus generating far-reaching effects on the world economy and China’s economy. The Measures issued by the State Council supports oil and gas investment, trade, transaction, financing and others with a top-level planning of the oil and gas whole industrial chain in Zhejiang FTZ. We believe it will play a facilitating role in the following areas.

First, it is conducive to deepening international cooperation in the oil-and-gas industry. The introduction of the Measures will attract more oil-and-gas investors, traders and financial and insurance market makers to Zhejiang. By enhancing cooperation with international oil-and-gas enterprises and through industry cooperation and third-party cooperation, the Zhejiang Pilot FTZ will gain many new opportunities in its pursuit of opening-up and development.

Second, it is conducive to promoting the reform of the management system for oil and gas. With continuous progress of the construction of the Zhejiang Pilot Free Trade Zone, some deep-rooted and structural problems have been resolved, but some new problems are emerging. The introduction of the Measures will further explore the potential of oil-and-gas reform in the Zhejiang Pilot FTZ, deepen the supply-side structural reform, improve market-based allocation of oil-and-gas resources, and accumulate useful experience for China's oil-and-gas reform in the new environment.

Third, it is conducive to promoting the construction of a complete industrial chain of oil and gas in the Zhejiang Pilot FTZ. In the construction of the international oil-and-gas trading center, futures and cash cooperation with the Shanghai Futures Exchange and other organizations will enhance the connectivity between the upstream and downstream of the industrial chain of bulk commodities. In the construction of the international petrochemical base, the Measures is of great significance to boost confidence in China's petrochemical industry, improve domestic oil demand, promote the refining industry, especially the super-large private refining and chemical integration projects in the Zhejiang Pilot FTZ, to resume production, and ensure the stable development of the economy and society. In the construction of the international base for oil-and-gas storage and transportation, the Measures provides important policy support for expanding the scale of strategic oil reserves and facilitates the development of the international base for oil-and-gas storage and transportation. In the construction of the international base for maritime services, the Measures will impact the complete industrial chain of oil and gas, including storage and transportation, refining, trade and transactions. The Measures will also further attract more international vessels and shipowners to the Zhejiang Pilot FTZ, thus driving the development of international maritime services such as the supply of bonded marine fuel oil, the supply of materials, ship maintenance and shipping transactions. Thank you!

China News Agency: After the Measures is promulgated, what steps will Zhejiang Province take to ensure its full implementation?

The Measures is tailor-made at national level to support the opening-up and development of the Zhejiang Pilot FTZ. It has made important institutional arrangements for the new round of high-quality development of the FTZ, and fully reflected the major requirements of General Secretary Xi Jinping, the CPC Central Committee and the State Council for the FTZ to carry out exploration based on its differentiated conditions, and demonstrated the great importance they attach to the development of the Zhejiang Pilot FTZ. Zhejiang will work conscientiously in implementing the Measures, seize the crucial opportunity brought by the policy, speed up the development and opening-up of the complete industrial chain of oil and gas, and repay the care and support of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council for Zhejiang with concrete actions and achievements. To be specific, there are three areas as follows:

First, we need to formulate as soon as possible a plan for the implementation of the Measures. We will stick to the policy introduced by the CPC Central Committee and the State Council to support to the reform of the Zhejiang Pilot FTZ, make urgent efforts to develop a specific implementation plan to push forward with the implementation of the support initiatives in the FTZ as soon as possible, in order to demonstrate with concrete actions what we call "Zhejiang efforts" and "Zhejiang speed". At present, we are mobilizing all parties to study and refine the initiatives set forth in the Measures in terms of operability. A preliminary implementation plan now has been put forward. Zhejiang Province will soon convene a joint meeting at provincial government level to review the plan, so as to ensure that the plan will be put in place at the earliest possible date.

Second, we need to strengthen communication with relevant government departments. The introduction of the Measures has been strongly supported by the Office of the State Council’s Inter-Ministerial Joint Conference on Pilot Free Trade Zones(i.e. the Ministry of Commerce), the NDRC, PBOC, GACC and other members of the Joint Conference, who have given guidance and support for the reform and trial of the Zhejiang Pilot FTZ in the oil-and-gas sector in terms of investment facilitation, trade liberalization, financial innovation services and so on. They have strengthened our confidence to dare to try. Therefore, in the process of concrete implementation of the policy documents, we need to further strengthen policy communication and coordination with relevant departments and timely report on the progress. For the new problems and issues emerging in the future course of opening-up and development of the oil-and-gas sector, we will take the initiative to report such matters to relevant departments and strive to gain support.

Third, we need to promote a new round of high-quality development. Since its inception 3 years ago, the Zhejiang Pilot FTZ has achieved initial progress in its pursuit of the reform-related pilot tasks specified in the General Plan. Moving forward, centering around the Measures, we will pursue the new round of opening-up and development for oil-and-gas sector of the Zhejiang Pilot FTZ. To be better-equipped to undertake the national strategic tasks, we will further explore new practices in oil-and-gas industrial upgrading, marine industry expansion and coordination between the coastal and inland areas, promote the Pilot FTZ to achieve a new round of high-quality development, in order to live up to the strong support and expectations of the CPC Central Committee and the State Council for Zhejiang. Thank you!

Due to time constraints, we'll take the last question.

China Business News: It’s been put forward in the Measures specific supportive polices to improve financial services and supervision of cross-border trade of bulk commodities. In particular, it has proposed to carry out in the Zhejiang Pilot FTZ a pilot project for cross-border RMB settlement facilitation for the trade of oil products. Could you tell us more about it?

The People's Bank of China and other financial authorities have been actively supporting Pilot FTZs in taking the lead to try new practices in terms of financial liberalization and innovation, as well as financial services in the real economy. In order to support the Zhejiang Pilot FTZ in making continued explorations based on its differentiated conditions and its strategic positioning, and promote the opening-up and development of the complete oil-and-gas industrial chain, the Measures have proposed eight support initiatives specifically to improve financial services and supervision of cross-border trade of bulk commodities, including exploring the pilot project for the integrated account system for local and foreign currencies, supporting the facilitation of foreign exchange payments for capital projects, and promoting RMB-denominated settlement of trade of bulk commodities. It also includes the exploration of a pilot project to facilitate cross-border RMB settlement of oil trade, as you mentioned, and in this regard, the financial authorities such as the PBOC will support the implementation of specific policies related to the Zhejiang Pilot FTZ.

First, we would support competent and trustworthy enterprises in completing related RMB settlement business directly with payment instructions. We would select competent oil trading enterprises with good corporate credit, standard conduct of business without bad records as "competent and trustworthy enterprises for cross-border RMB settlement of oil trade". We would support enterprises in directly handling RMB settlement of oil trade of goods and services (excluding transit trade) with "Cross-Border RMB Payment/Collection Confirmation Letter" or the list of payment information. Enterprises don’t need to submit proof of authenticity in advance on a case-by-case basis.

Second, we would support verifying the proof of authenticity for transit trades of oil products in accordance with international practices. Given the fact that it is difficult for enterprises to obtain and provide the original bill of lading and other proof of authenticity in a timely manner in the process of settling transit trades of oil products, banks are supported to, in reference to international practices, replace the original bill of lading with a LOI, WOT or BDN as the documentary proof for verification.

The pilot project on the facilitation of cross-border RMB settlement of oil trade in the Zhejiang Pilot FTZ will be conducive to promoting investment facilitation and trade liberalization in bulk commodities with the complete oil industrial chain as the core, speeding up the internationalization of RMB by prioritizing the trade of bulk commodities, and meeting the needs of enterprises in the Pilot FTZ to engage in transit trades of oil products and make settlement with RMB. Of course, while carrying out the pilot project, we will enhance risk awareness, improve mechanisms for risk prevention, control and management, and firmly uphold the bottom line to ensure that systemic risks will not occur. Thank you!

Thank you, Mr. Tang. This concludes today's press conference. As for other questions that you are interested in, we will respond in other ways after the meeting. Thank you to all three guests and fellow journalists!

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

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