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Chinese Customs and logistics expertise in China

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Presentation and organisation of the chinese customs

The General Administration of China Customs (GACC) located in Beijing is the national headquarters of Chinese customs. It manages all the country's customs administrations and reports directly to the State Council. Composed of 18 departments, 8 entities and institutions directly affiliated to Beijing, it also supervises several official associations (Customs Institute, Association of Customs Brokers, the Port Society of China and the Association of Free Trade Zones and Export Processing Zones). The Central Commission has also set up a disciplinary inspection office.

Since 1983, the Chinese Customs are a member of the World Customs Organization.

page WOFE en chine
[ Expert in China logistics and Customs advisory services in China]
Updated on
31 July 2020


Logistics and transportation in China
China warehouse and sorting

1. Chinese customs overview, figures and statistics

  • Restructured in 2018, the Chinese customs have 47 direct branches including provincial administrations in charge of regional customs offices, 2 supervision offices in Tianjin and Shanghai, 42 customs districts as well as 2 training centers.

  • 678 customs offices are assigned to processing import & export formalities and employ 100,000 Chinese customs officers, including an anti-smuggling customs police authority.

  • Customs collect Duties and Taxes, import VAT, Consumption Tax and tonnage taxes on cargo ships. A recent activity report shows the annual collection of more than 1.5 trillion RMB (CNY), increasing from 1.5% to 2% per year.

  • Chinese Customs also declare that, since 2010, the average import tariff has been adjusted below 10% against more than 15% before China's accession to the WTO (December 2001).

2. What charateristics make the Chinese Customs different?

A customs rating system for import export companies

  • All commercial enterprises engaged in import export activities established in China must also register with a Chinese International Trade Operators Office as well as the Customs Office of their respective municipality or district.

  • Chinese customs assign them a score that reflects their current status, business range and customs declaration behavior.

  • This rating system applies to all legal entities: domestic invested companies, foreign owned WOFE subsidiaries or Sino-foreign joint ventures. The global handling, benefits and the service efficiency differ according to each company's customs score.

An importer or exporter must be authorized and faces restrictions

  • Each company established in China has a business scope mentionned in its Business License as well as in a separate Customs Registration Certificate.

  • This business scope reflects the range of authorized business activities (import export, assembly, production, etc.) for the families of products mentioned in the scope.

  • For example, a trading company who has the import rights for cosmetic products cannot import electrical equipment or machines.

  • International trading companies engaged in export activities from China may also - based on the products sensitivity - have to apply for one or more export licenses, quotas or special permits.

Issues with customs inspections leading to contradictory conclusions

  • The same company that imports products in several Chinese ports can be inspected, at the same time or not, by the customs offices of several entry ports. The possible zeal of officers of the Inspection Department in these offices can lead to conclusions exactly opposed to those of their colleagues in other regions. In these cases, (long) contradictory procedures will have to be initiated because the preliminary conclusions of customs inspections have no binding force at the national level.

  • Not all Chinese customs offices allow an official classification of products according to their tariff heading or Chinese HS codes. It can be problematic to apply uniform customs clearance procedures at multiple entry points in China. Current regulations allow Chinese Customs to retoactively sanction customs declarations within 3 to 10 years!

  • Litigation files are transferred to the Customs anti-smugglind department, a specialized Customs department having police authority.

A Chinese customs classification and tariff codes different from European or US HS codes

  • China adopted the customs system of 10-digit HS codes in 1992. Since 2018, the Chinese system of HS codes has evolved into 13-digit codes (extension used for inspection and Quarantine matters).

  • Although the terminology HS ("Harmonized System") suggests a similarity of customs codes in the world, the customs tariff classification system and customs codes officially adopted by China often differ from the first 8 digits of the European customs codes that we know under the name of TARIC (Integrated Tariff of the European Union).

  • It is advised to importer or exporter to conduct preliminary HS codes checking not only for declarative and duties considerations but also to check the relevant chinese import regulations and ensure the company's compliance with the Chinese laws & regulations.

Denouncement is encouraged and paid for in China

  • In their comprehensive fight against corruption, the authorities have largely involved consumers in these measures, thus they encourage denunciation with dedicated hotlines!

  • While these provisions first affect the matters of daily consumption (counterfeits, imitations, expiration date, etc.), they have a strong impact on importers and exporters. A complaint or denunciation file often comes from a competitor, a customer or a unhappy employee. Whether justified or not, these denunciations remain an issue leading to inspections from the supervision authorities. Their findings and conclusions must be reported to the complainant.

  • Apart from administrative civil or criminal conclusion (fines & penalties, directors liabilty possibly engaged), the reputation of the company may also be damaged nationwide. Any administrative dispute and past infringements and bad records are disclosed as public information in the company's gobal Credit Rating.

Chinese standards and products certification

  • As a non-tariff barrier tool that is developing as China becomes a key player in international trade, the authorities have developed and extended a specific system of standards and certification in recent years.

  • The CNCA ("China and Accreditation Administration") controls the system of Chinese standards called GB Standards ("Guo Biao", for national standard). These standards constitute the only standard base of normative tests to be conductged so as to certify a product sold in China. If a GB standard does not exist for a product, the CCC ("China Compulsory Certification") certification is not required. However, the Chinese Customs do not recognize a foreign test report or a conformity certificate with UL, GS or NF markings.

Exports from China to the rest of the world remain tightly controlled

  • Except in special cases, an exportation coming from Europe or the USA is not subject to strong customs control in Europe or US. From China, the procedural export customs clearance procedures make it sometimes difficult to export products as it is to import them. Why?

    • First, because the export value of each exportation from China is subject to a (partial or total) VAT refund to the exporter. The refund rate level (from 0% to 13%) varies according to the kind of products and is subject to regular updates. Until recent years, the chinese Customs faced just too many wrong or false export declarations.

    • On the other hand, the Chinese authorities wish to tackle the export of copies and counterfeit products, a subject that tarnishes China's reputation. Since 2016, China has signed several cooperation agreements with the customs of many countries so as to participate to campaigns aimed to stop fraudulent, counterfeit or non-compliant products.

Our Customs & logistics advisory services in China

  • Comparisons of freight & logistics providers (air, sea, rail, road) on specific projects and support for shipper's bids for selecting freight forwarders or carriers.

  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOP): implementation of import and export customs clearance procedures, logistics flows, optimization of import and export processes, consolidation points, customs declarations into China or from China.

  • Advice and support on specific projects, temporary imports (regulations, handling of ATA logbook in China, temporary importationss for transformed products to re-export).

  • Cross-border e-commerce solutions: comparison of Chinese cross-border import solutions for B2C export sales of French and European products sold to individual Chinese buyers.

  • Compliance and certification in China: preparatory files for CCC marking and testing solutions compared with approved laboratories.

  • Export of machinery and industrial equipment to China: these specific subject deserves a special preparation as subject to pre-approval & conditions based on the equipment condition & components. We help preparing the import case with Chinese customs so as to streamline the import process by your subsidiary or your agent in China.

  • Implementation of storage and distribution solutions by product category (dry items, temperature-controlled products, regulated products, etc.)

  • Project negotiation or assistance during disputes with the Chinese administrations (customs autorities, port authorities, Investment parks, bonded and non bonded Logistics Zones.

  • Customs regulatory watch: Laws and Regulations, classification of China HS codes, negotiation & assistance in the management of disputes during inspections.

  • Conformity assessment advosiry services for dangerous or sensitive products

  • Health compliance matters for food, health & medical devices, hygiene and beauty products.

  • Assistance in managing the logistics function within a global project of sourcing or qualification of Chinese suppliers & distributors.
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