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Import Regulations in China

Commerce (MOFCOM) or its authorized local offices according to the Foreign Trade Law and the Measures on Filing and Registration of Foreign Trade Operators in 2004.

All companies (Chinese and foreign) have the right to import most products but a limited number of goods are reserved for importation through state trading enterprises.

What to Import

China classifies imports into three categories - prohibited, restricted and permitted categories. Certain goods (e.g. wastes, toxics) are banned from being imported, while select products in the restricted category are subject to strict restrictions by requiring quotas or licenses.

Most goods fall into the permitted category. Importers are free to decide how much and when to purchase. MOFCOM implements an Automatic Licensing system to monitor the import of part of these goods (e.g. machinery, electrical products). A detailed list of merchandise categories can be obtained from MOFCOM or through the one of Canada’s missions in China.

Import Tariffs

China charges tariffs on most imports, primarily ad valorem. These tariffs are assessed on the transaction value of the goods, including packing charges, freight, insurance premiums and other service charges incurred prior to the unloading of the goods at the place of destination. Many tariffs have been lowered since China’s accession to the WTO. The average tariff dropped from 15.3% in 2000 to 9.8% in 2015.

Special Trade Zones

In China, there are many special trade zones (e.g. bonded zones, economic development zones etc.); these special zones provide exceptions to the usual customs procedures and allow for preferential tariff and tax treatment. All forms of trade conducted between companies in the zones and areas in China outside the zones are subject to the usual rules that would apply to imports into China.

Export Processing

Special provisions (e.g. refunds of VAT and duty) apply to goods imported under export processing trade arrangements involving manufacturing contracts where all of the manufactured goods are exported. All such arrangements must be approved by MOFCOM or its local offices.

Import Licences

The importation of certain goods requires an import licence. Generally speaking, applications for import licences are submitted to MOFCOM or its authorized local offices. For some goods (e.g. machinery, electrical products), the licence is issued automatically to all applicants and is only used to track imports more accurately. In other cases, approval is not automatic. Such non-automatic import licences are used to control the importation of dangerous goods and to implement tariff rate quotas (i.e. two-stage tariffs, where the right to pay a lower tariff is granted to importers up to a certain total quantity of goods).

Tariff Rate Quotas (TRQs)

TRQs (i.e. two-stage tariffs, where the right to pay a lower tariff is granted to importers up to a certain total quantity of goods) are in place for wheat, corn, rice, sugar, wool, cotton, certain fertilizers, and wool tops. Chinese companies seeking to import at the lower TRQ tariff rate must apply to MOFCOM for an allocation between October 15 and 30 each year (or for re-allocations of unused TRQ, between September 1 and 15 each year).

Import Inspection/Certification

Complex inspection and certification requirements are in place, requiring certain goods to be inspected on arrival and/or to be accompanied by formal certification recognized by the Chinese government (e.g. CCC and RoHS for electrical goods or pest-free certification for certain agricultural products). Goods that fail to pass the required inspections and/or that are not accompanied by the required certification may be confiscated. Certification requirements may include factory inspections in Canada.

In some cases, China recognizes certification provided in Canada (e.g. by the Canadian Standards Association or the Canadian Food Inspection Agency). In other cases, testing needs to be conducted in China to obtain the necessary certification. For some goods (primarily agricultural goods and electrical/electronic products), it may also necessary to have the Canadian factory or processing facility certified by the Chinese government (which may require site visits by Chinese inspectors paid for by the Canadian company).

Labelling/Packaging Requirements

China has a range of labelling and packaging requirements in place that are particularly important for consumer goods. In some cases, goods that do not meet these requirements will be refused entry to China.

Currency Controls

Chinese importers may freely convert renminbi [yuan] to foreign currencies for the purpose of purchasing goods for import, but must complete the necessary formalities with the State Administration of Foreign Exchange to demonstrate that all of the foreign currency is being used to fund imports and is not being transferred abroad for other purposes.
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