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China to help exporters with fiscal, finance steps: ministry

BEIJING (Reuters) – China will help exporters hit by the coronavirus outbreak with fiscal, finance and export credit insurance measures and assist services firms speed up a return to work, the commerce ministry said on Thursday.

“The coronavirus epidemic is spreading across the world, and foreign trade enterprises may encounter weak external demand, declines in orders and other issues in the future,” Jiang Fan, an official with the ministry’s foreign trade department, said during a weekly briefing held online.

Jiang did not elaborate on what these measures are, but stressed they will be conducted in accordance with World Trade Organization rules.

Despite the foreseeable headwinds, ministry officials still cited China’s market resilience as reasons to be optimistic about the economy’s long-term prospects.

“We are fully confident of stabilizing trade,” Jiang told reporters.

China also has the confidence and capability to achieve full-year targets on foreign investment, despite potential shocks as the epidemic spreads globally, said another ministry official, Ye Wei, who is the vice head of the foreign investment department of the ministry.

Ye did not give details on what the targets are.

China’s factory production plunged at the sharpest pace in three decades in the first two months of the year as the fast-spreading coronavirus and strict measures to contain it severely disrupted the world’s second-largest economy.

The ministry also plans to issue a notice “in the near future” in a push to help services firms start normal operations as soon as possible.

The work resumption rate for services firms in China exceeded 60% as of March 16, but still lagged behind that for manufacturers, according to Zhu Xiaoliang, head of the market system development department of the ministry.

(Reporting by Yawen Chen, Judy Hua and Se Young Lee; Editing by Toby Chopra, William Maclean)