How is food in mainland China

Export to China

If you have not yet had any experience with exporting goods, you can read about general export provisions. The customs territory of the PRC includes the territory of China. Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan are not part of the customs area.


Please note that last-minute changes are always possible! Before signing a contract, find out about the latest regulations!


China's export control law will come into effect on December 1st, 2020


On December 1, 2020, the first national law on export control of the PRC comes into force. It gives the Chinese authorities new, far-reaching powers of control and will therefore have a significant impact on export trade. The law takes an extra-territorial approach and has a very broad scope: It applies to both the movement of controlled goods from mainland China to outside of mainland China and the provision of controlled goods by Chinese institutions to foreign institutions (Art. 2 Para. 3) . Also for the transit, handling, dispatch, re-export and export of goods from a bonded area or a special customs zone (Art. 45).


All goods that could endanger “national security” and “national interests of China” are subject to the Export Control Act. In the event of a violation, exporters and other parties involved in the export business face severe fines. Therefore, German companies should critically examine the compliance measures they have implemented for their Chinese business.


Would you like to know more about the Chinese export control law? Then visit our webinar on December 2nd, 2020 at 3 p.m.


China Issues Regulations for a "List of Unreliable Entities"
The Chinese Ministry of Commerce intends to take action against foreign companies, organizations and individuals if their business or related actions "damage China's sovereignty, security and development interests, violate market rules, cease contractual obligations with Chinese companies or individuals" or otherwise their legitimate interests seriously injure.
Specifically, companies and individuals who are on the blacklist are threatened with the following measures:

  • Restrictions or bans on trade with China (both in import and export),
  • Restrictions or bans on investing in China,
  • Withdrawal of work and residence permits and refusal of entry,
  • Fines.

The regulations have been in effect since September 19, 2020 and are published in English on the website of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce:
To implement this, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) said an office would be set up to investigate and decide cases of companies or individuals suspected of violating the new rules. What is important here is that there is no immediate decision, but a process that is intended to give every organization or person being investigated the opportunity to defend themselves and, if necessary, to adjust their behavior. Companies already on the list can be removed if they "correct" their behavior and take timely action to negate the consequences of their actions.
The move was announced in May 2019. Although the rules are not officially directed against any country or entity, they are classified in response to the US Entity List or US efforts to contain Chinese tech companies. According to initial assessments, the general formulations and the associated lack of transparency could also have a negative impact on German companies' willingness to invest.
So far, there are no known cases of German or European companies in connection with the "List of unreliable entities". If member companies are affected or problems arise in connection with the list, we ask that you inform us.


Changes to the rules for customs declarations in February 2019
At the beginning of 2019, the Chinese customs administration changed the rules for customs declarations. The German translation of the regulation can be found here. The Chinese variant "Regulation No. 18 of the Chinese Customs Administration"


Warning: Chinese Customs Administration Steps Up Customs Compliance Checks (2019)
The Chinese customs administration plans to reform the surveillance model for the country of origin. The country of origin is an important part of the additional tax list in the trade war between the USA and China. If importers are unable to meet the requirements of the chines. To meet customs regulations regarding the country of origin, a significantly higher import duty is set. Transfer pricing could be increasingly examined by the customs administration in 2019. Transfer prices may be refused by Chinese customs. The customs value of all shipments in the past year could be calculated as a whole. This could result in a huge import tariff debt for importers. Violations of the rules for transfer pricing can result in criminal penalties. Compliance with the HS Code is a difficult task and will be subject to more customs audits, which could have a significant impact on export controls, import duties and export tariff benefits. The Chinese customs administration monitors compliance with export controls using the HS codes. On January 22, 2019, a change in the law was passed affecting 31 articles of the registration rules of the GAC (General Administration of Customs). The tariff code consists of 10 instead of 13 digits. Other changes have also been made. The Chinese customs authorities recently made extensive changes in terms of organization and functions. Changes have also been made to the monitoring by customs and AQSIQ.

China is also planning a new export control law. Due to the trade war and the Corona crisis, however, it has not yet been adopted (as of April 2020). It would also affect European companies. Because, similar to the US regulations, the Chinese export control laws would have extraterritorial validity. The penalties for violating Chinese export control law would be considerably higher in the future.

Author: Matthias Merz, managing director of Awa Außenwirtschafts-Akademie GmbH, Münster


Customs declaration
Since June 1, 2018, new regulations for customs declarations have been in effect in the People's Republic of China. You can find this in the "China Customs Advanced Manifest (CCAM)" which is for air and sea freight with a view to import and export. Forwarders, senders and recipients are affected.
According to the AHK Shanghai, the following information is required for the CCAM registration:
• Company code, sender's phone number
• Company name, address of the recipient
For German companies, the company code is the sales tax identification number (UST-IdNr.).
Companies that do not have a VAT ID no. use "9999 + commercial register number", natural persons
"ID + ID number" or "PASSPORT + passport number". For Chinese companies, the
Company code the “Unified Social Credit Code” (tax number). As in the past, Chinese exporters must also provide their customs identification number (CR number). In the future, Chinese customs will ensure a complete and accurate description of the goods,
Collective names for the type of goods are no longer permitted. Hong Kong is not affected by these changes.

Since January 1, 2009, transport companies in the area of ​​cross-border goods and passenger traffic, border crossings and goods traffic have to register in advance. The registration deadlines vary depending on the type of transport. For example, the registration deadline for container shipping is 24 hours before loading and for air freight it is 4 hours before arrival. An application for customs treatment must then be submitted within 14 days. This can be done electronically via the China E-Port system.


Required accompanying documents
For customs clearance in China, commercial invoices (2 copies) with signature and all customary information, for example:

- Name and address of the consignee and the seller
- Exact description of the goods
- HS customs tariff number
- Single and total price
- FOB value, CIF cost and CIF value
- information about the transport
- Terms of payment and delivery
- Brand, numbers, number and type of packages
- Net and gross weights
- Country of origin (in the case of Germany "Federal Republic of Germany")

Attention with the commercial invoice: In 2019 there were some problems with the value information on commercial invoices. The Chinese customs recently demanded an assessment of the individual parts instead of the system components. Furthermore, there is more and more

excessive reviews of transfer prices and contracts.


Be careful with the designation of origin "Origin of goods Taiwan"
Since mid-2019, the customs authorities of the People's Republic of China have been paying more attention to compliance with the requirements of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) when importing goods originating in "Taiwan".

According to announcement No. 41/2005 of the CCPIT, the following applies to products from Taiwan that require any form of certification by the CCPIT - this applies in fact to almost all goods:

Only the following designations are permitted:


The following designations are prohibited:

The words TAIWAN or TAIPEI alone


Failure to comply can lead to difficulties with customs clearance in China. The formulation requirements concern both designations in IHK certificates of origin, as well as product markings and packaging labels.
Note: Hyphens or slashes are not allowed. Commas may be used to separate them.

In principle, all five of the above-mentioned variants specified by the CCPIT as permissible can be used. The specifications relate to shipments with the destination PR China. For shipments that go to other target markets, the previously used designation "Taiwan" can be retained.


Leaflet on the commercial import of goods

In 2019 the GTAI (Germany Trade and Invest) published a leaflet "Customs and Imports compact".


Business partner search - Where can I find business partners?

Finding the right business partner to sell the goods in China is not easy. Here, too, the AHKs (Chambers of Commerce Abroad) in China help. The AHKs offer a chargeable dating service.


In the iXPOS database you can search for partners for your business and set up searches for partnerships yourself. The community can also help you with your search.


Various German trade associations and journals have their own offices in China and may be helpful when looking for business partners. Here are some examples:

VDMA - Association of German Mechanical and Plant Engineering

ZVEI - Central Association of the Electrical and Electronics Industry


Certificates of origin

In the past, certificates of origin were generally not required. In recent years they have been requested more and more frequently. It lies
also on the missing goods marking. In some cases, certificates of origin are no longer required for each shipment, but for each country of origin. Therefore, several certificates of origin may be required per shipment if these contain goods of different origins. Occasionally, certificates of origin are questioned if the goods of origin are not dispatched from the country of origin (example: certificate of origin from Germany, goods originating in Japan). The requirement to submit certificates of origin directly from the country of origin can hardly be met due to long supply chains and also a violation of international agreements (including the revised Kyoto Convention). The details should be clarified with the importer.


If a certificate of origin is required, the country of origin must be "Federal Republic of Germany (European Community)" or just "European Community".


ATA carnet

The time has come: since 2019, ATA carnets have also been possible for professional equipment and samples. China has signed the Professional Equipment and Samples Agreement. The following requirements must be observed:

  • Clear description of the goods
  • Additional accompanying documents as evidence of the intended use:
    • Exhibitions and trade fairs: copy of the registration form or a copy of the confirmation letter for the exhibition stand
    • Professional equipment: Approval letter from the relevant government agency or contract stating the name of the Carnet holder and the activity
    • Sample of goods: Letter of approval from the relevant government agency or contract stating the name of the Carnet holder and the activity / use
  • Transit sheets recommended, especially if several trade fairs are to be attended within China.
  • If necessary, ask for an extension of the re-export date entered by customs on import.

It is still being clarified with the Chinese guarantor and customs authorities whether the import license requirement also applies to carnet goods. The following still applies: anyone who temporarily imports goods into China using the ATA Carnet must note that the Carnet data must be electronically recorded upon import so that they can be used in the Chinese customs IT system. Registration takes place via the Chinese customs guarantor CCPIT / CCOIC. He enters the data into the system and sends it to the Chinese customs. This service costs 130 RMB (around 15 euros) per carnet.


Carnet ATA: China in connection with Corona (as of 5.5.2020)

Here you can find current information on the special rules of the ATA China Carnet in connection with Corona



Since January 1, 2006, the international IPPC standard PSPM No. 15 has been required for the import of wooden packaging into the PRC. Recently (2019) the Chinese plant protection service has been checking compliance with ISPM 15.


This essentially contains the following regulations: Goods must be free of bark and bark parts and have been heat-treated, fumigated (with methyl bromide) or treated against pests in another way recognized by the People's Republic of China before being exported. Wooden packaging must have a marking that provides information about the treatment method, location and implementation company. Due to the high toxicity of methyl bromide, its use in the EU is only permitted in exceptional cases. In fact, only heat treatment comes into question. In addition, an official phytosanitary certificate is required, which serves as proof of the type of treatment. The issuing is carried out by the responsible official plant protection agency.


Additional import duties

1.5 percent for goods subject to tariff-free tariffs. Four different sales tax rates have existed since 2019: 13%, 9%, 6% and 0%. The assessment basis for sales tax is the customs value plus customs amount plus other consumption taxes.


The fee for handling outside the office is 50 RMB per day per handler. Handling of up to 4 hours is calculated as half a day.


CCC - Certification / Product Approvals / Licenses, Product Markings - What do I need for my products? Who can help?


Import licenses

A fundamental distinction is made between goods that are forbidden, subject to import licenses and goods that are restricted. According to a notice from MOFCOM (Ministry of Commerce People's Republic of China), a number of goods require import licenses. Depending on the product group, different product certification obligations and licenses are required.


You can find initial information on import licenses for China here. You can search for the licenses you need for your product in the Market Access Database.


The licenses must be applied for from the responsible authorities by your Chinese importer or a Chinese importing company. In most cases, the German exporter is not authorized to apply. Therefore you should find out about the required licenses from your Chinese importer in advance. You can also obtain further information from the local AHKs in China (destination of the export business in China).


Used machines

There is basically a good market in China for used machines. Until the beginning of 2015, there were high hurdles when it came to exporting second-hand equipment. The Chinese importer used to require an import permit to import used machines. This is no longer the case. The exporter can use the customs tariff number to determine whether it is possible to import a used machine or system and what further steps are necessary for importing.



Advertising materials, such as brochures or catalogs, with no commercial value can be imported duty-free.If a commercial value is to be affirmed, 7.5% duty and 13% sales tax are to be paid. Samples with no commercial value up to a value of 400 RMB can be imported duty-free. Samples that are re-executed can be introduced for up to 6 months after a security deposit has been deposited.


Import bans exist for:

- weapons, including counterfeit ones, ammunition and explosives,

- counterfeit money and counterfeit securities,

- deadly poisons,

- Documents / media with a harmful effect on the culture, economy, morality or politics of the PRC,

- narcotics (opium, morphine, heroin, hashish, etc.),

- Animals and plants and goods made from them that contain dangerous bacteria, pests and other pollutants,

- industrial waste.


CCC Certification- "China Compulsory Certification"

Since 2002, certain goods sold in China must be certified under the China Compulsory Certification (CCC) product certification system. The CCC certification system is intended to create a uniform standard so that domestic and foreign companies and their goods are treated equally in accordance with WTO rules. You can find out whether your product falls under this certification in the Market Access Database using the customs tariff number under “specific requirements”.


The following goods groups are affected, among others:

  • electric wires
  • Small engines
  • electric tools
  • IT equipments
  • Lamps
  • Car tires
  • Safety glass
  • Agricultural machinery

The prerequisite for the issue of the mark is product testing by a laboratory that is accredited by the responsible Chinese body CNCA (Certification and Accreditation Administration of the People's Republic of China).


The period from application to receipt of the CCC certification is an average of three months. Effort and costs depend on the product. In principle, the certification process can be handled directly with the CNCA without involving third parties. If you need a service provider, please feel free to contact the CCC for further information.

The issuing of the CCC certification includes the following steps:

  1. Application to the Chinese authorities
  2. Type testing in an accredited laboratory in China (duration approx. 6 weeks)
  3. Inspection of production facilities by Chinese inspectors
  4. Certificate creation
  5. Approval to use the certification mark or purchase stickers
  6. Annual follow-up inspections

The extensive technical documentation required for the application should be in Chinese.


China Energy Label

The CEL (China Energy Label) is an energy efficiency label and applies to certain products. This labeling requirement applies in particular to household appliances such as refrigerators, air conditioning systems, televisions, microwaves, copiers, etc. Here, too, an accredited Chinese laboratory is usually tested. The declaration of energy efficiency must also be included in the operating instructions for the product and must be marked on the respective product.


The issuing of the CEL includes the following steps:

  1. Application to the Chinese authorities
  2. Product test
  3. Issue of labels
  4. Registration with CELC


China RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances)

The labeling requirement Restriction of Hazardous Substances applies to electronic products. The aim of this label is, similar to the EU equivalent, to prevent the spread of dangerous substances.


CFDA (China Food and Drug Administration) - Food and Cosmetics

When exporting food to China, it should be noted that the exporter and the domestic recipient of the goods have had to register in a database since 2012. Registration can be made in English. Only the section on the Chinese trading partner has to be completed in Chinese. However, this can easily be copied into the registration. After registration you will receive a registration number. This is valid for 4 years and can be extended one year before it expires. The exporter must indicate the registration number on the packaging of the export goods.


For some product groups such as meat, additional regulations apply, such as the hygiene certificate (application to CNCA).


Food is under the control of the CFDA. Special certifications are usually required, especially for meat and dairy products. In addition to food, the CFDA is also responsible for the certification and registration of medical products and devices, as well as cosmetic products.


Import sales tax and free trade agreement


Import sales tax and import duties

The assessment basis is the customs value of the imported goods. This is usually the CIF value. The following costs may be deducted from this, provided they are listed separately in the invoice: Fees for construction & installation in China / transport and insurance costs after the first unloading location in China / import duties and taxes. For some high technologies and key components, the customs and import sales tax may be waived.


German-Chinese standard contract for delivery transactions

A standard contract for delivery transactions has existed between the Federal Republic of Germany and the PR China since November 1995, which takes the interests of both contracting parties into account. The standard contract is to be used for exports to and imports from China. With regard to the large number of use cases on which the contract model is to be based, the standard contract contains alternative suggestions and blanks that must be used or filled in by the parties project-specifically and individually. This model contract applies to the delivery of movable machines and goods. The contract (order no. 8885) can be obtained from GTAI, Tel. 0221 2057-0, email: [email protected]


Terms of payment / collection procedure

A delivery contract with a Chinese company should contain precise provisions on payment methods. Various payment guarantees are available for exports to China: Prepayment - as the safest form of security - Chinese customers will rarely accept. As a rule, exports are therefore processed using irrevocable letters of credit, which are not confirmed. One should make sure that letters of credit are only issued by the four major Chinese banks (Bank of China, Agricultural Bank of China, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China or China Construction Bank). With other banks - without international correspondent banks - caution is advised. In China, there is usually a higher risk of default. China exporters therefore often additionally hedge their payment risk. Letters of credit claims against Chinese banks can be insured against payment default. In the case of ongoing business relationships with the same customer, a Hermes export guarantee can be considered with which all claims against this customer are insured up to a certain amount.

China / Hong Kong Free Trade Agreement (CEPA)
With the entry into force of the CEPA Agreement (Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement) with Hong Kong and Macao on January 1, 2004, a gradual reduction in tariffs was initiated. Details on the CEPA can be found on the Hong Kong Trade Development Council website.

In 2008, an innovation of the CEPA came into force: All products that were produced in Hong Kong can be exported to China duty-free. Hong Kong-based companies from eleven different service sectors are largely allowed to operate in China without any restrictions under the new regulation. Furthermore, facilities for companies based in Hong Kong who want to expand into China have been created in the areas of tourism, banking and trade fair business.


Further information: Details on the CEPA agreement


Sources: Germany Trade and Invest, Zoll, AHK China, HKTDC

Status: January 2020