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By Wanxia Lin
     BEIJING (MNI) - China's import and export growth in the first two months of
2020 is likely to fall sharply as the coronavirus epidemic poses severe
challenges to foreign trade, said Li Xingqian, head of the Foreign Trade
Department of the Ministry of Commerce at a briefing on Friday. 
     "The impact on foreign trade in the first quarter should not be
underestimated, but it is still tolerant," said Li, adding that the ministry is
confident and remains moderately optimistic in its outlook for the year. 
     Here are other key points from the briefing: 
     - Some countries have imposed restrictions on the import of live animals,
animal products and certain food products from China, which have caused negative
impacts for China's related exports. 
     "We hope relevant countries will respect the opinions of WHO experts, and
not adopt excessive trade restrictions," said Li. 
     - There will be no large-scale layoffs by foreign trade companies, based on
the continuous monitoring of key regions and sectors, said Li. 
     - Over 80% of major foreign companies in Shanghai, Shandong and Hunan
province have resumed operations. Operations in most locations are expected to
resume by the end of February, said Zong Changqing, head of the Foreign
Investment Department at MOFCOM. 
     - Over 95% of large-scale supermarket chains nationwide are open, as are
80% of convenience stores, said Zheng Wen, head of the Circulation and
Development Department at MOFCOM. At the same time, about half of department
stores and shopping malls remain closed, he added.
      - "Belt and Road" projects overseas are generally stable with no
significant project delays, said Chu Shijia, head of the Comprehensive
Department at MOFCOM. 
--MNI Beijing Bureau; +86 (10) 8532-5998; email: wanxia.lin@marketnews.com
--MNI Sydney Bureau; +61 405322399; email: lachlan.colquhoun.ext@marketnews.com
[TOPICS: M$A$$$,M$Q$$$,MGQ$$$]