In a press conference held Thursday, China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) refuted some recent media reports claiming China had banned the export of face masks and related raw materials, thereby causing a shortage of masks in other countries.
"China is a major producer of face masks in the world. Usually, 70 percent of total masks produced in China are exported," said Li Xingqian, head of MOFCOM's Foreign Trade Department.
"Since the outbreak of coronavirus, the commerce ministry, which is in charge of China's foreign trade, has not banned the export of face masks and their raw materials. The production companies can conduct trade according to market rules," Li said.
Producing about half of the world's masks even before the epidemic, China has expanded massive production to meet the explosive growth in demand. Official data shows that China's daily output of face masks reached 116 million pieces by the end of February – 12 times the figure at the start of the month.
"The outbreak is still severe in Hubei Province and Wuhan, the virus' epicenter. China's capability to produce masks has been enhanced rapidly recently, but as many companies are resuming operation, the domestic demand of masks is still high, with a big gap between supply and demand. Many countries helped us earlier, so we are willing do our best to help related countries with protective medical products, while overcoming our own difficulties," said Li.
With the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Japan and South Korea, Li talked about the outbreak's impact on the countries' trade with China.
"China and these two countries are important trading partners. The supply and industrial chains are merged. The outbreak has been adding difficulties to their trading companies in terms of operation resumption, shipping, personnel's return to work and the stability of supply chain," Li said. "But we believe this impact is only temporary. The positive trend of the economic cooperation between China and these two countries won't change."
Li said China's imports and exports in the first two months of this year fluctuated because of the coronavirus outbreak, but the impact is temporary.
"Chinese trade's long term positive trend isn't changed because Chinese trade and commerce is resilient and competitive, and those companies have a strong capacity for innovation and market expansion."
Li said MOFCOM will work with other departments to stabilize China's trade and commerce through the treasury, finance and insurances. Many companies have resumed operation, he added.
"We will help trade-related companies to resume operation and production, and secure their markets and orders. The operation resumption has been faster than before nationwide. Hundred percent of the key trade companies in Zhejiang Province and Tianjin Municipality have resumed operation. More than 70 percent of the major trade companies have resumed operation in the provinces of Guangdong, Jiangsu and Shandong as well as municipalities of Shanghai and Chongqing," he said.
Li also said that the national imports and exports showed the trend of restorative growth.