ECA News

Exporting to China? Customs insights from a Chinese perspective

Liam Dilley - Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Exporting your goods overseas and getting them to your customer quickly and efficiently can be a real challenge. Equipping yourself and your staff with accurate and up-to-date information about trade procedures will minimise the chance of getting it wrong and maximise the chance of getting it right!

Recently the Export Council of Australia, the Centre for Customs & Excise Studies and the ACT Exporter’s Network, hosted a webinar which explored the topic of Chinese Customs and tips for importing into China. 

Guest presenter, Dr Li Li, Associate Professor, WCO accredited trainer expert and Commissioner of China Customs National Origin Supervision Committee, spoke about the Chinese customs system and offered participants some very valuable information and advice which is summarised below.

China’s customs management system is broken down into 3 layers;

  1. The General Administration of Chinese Customs (GACC), which is one of 16 institutions situated directly under the State Council - China’s top administrative body.

  2. Regional Customs

  3. Local Customs. In China there are 580 local customs offices!

Note: China also has customs offices around the world including Brussels, Moscow, Washington and Hong Kong.  

The basic customs clearance procedure in China requires imported goods to be declared, the documents to be examined and the goods to be physically inspected before taxes are collected and the good are released.

When exporting goods to China the following documentation is required:

  1. Declaration form

  2. Import contract

  3. Invoice, packing list

  4. Bill of Lading/Air waybill

  5. License for import goods under restriction and control

  6. Certificate issued by AQSIQ (Goods Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine Institution)

  7. Certificate of Origin and other related documents, account books

  8. Customs declaration agency agreement

  9. Processing trade registration manual, certificate for tax exemption and reduction and inspection exempt permit

  10. Other related documents

Many companies face issues because the customs requirements and processes can vary depending on your port of entry and which customs officer, in which location processes your goods. These delays can be costly and may even result in goods, particularly perishable goods, becoming unfit for sale. 

Dr Li suggests that these discrepancies occur because regional customs bodies have some degree of discretion, which results in slight variations in customs procedures and processes around the country. Moreover, as the GACC is located in Shanghai, it is possible that information and customs updates, which have to reach remote locations, far removed from Shanghai, can sometimes be slightly misconstrued.    

Recommendations for importing into China

Dr Li's recommendations when it comes to importing into China are:

  1.  Engage a broker legally registered with customs and who holds an AA or A classification. Regional customs classify the local customs brokers on a scale from AA to D.

AA and A rated enterprises have an excellent compliance record and are offered facilitation measures. Level B enterprises receive ordinary treatment and strict controls are placed on enterprises classified as C or D. If your broker has AA classification, your goods will receive special facilitation treatment, which includes:

- Credit guarantee

- Quick release for low risk goods

- Less intrusive inspection

- No bank deposit needed for AA level enterprises processing trade

- Have priority status in many customs areas including declaration, inspection and release

2.    Find a broker with good relationships with other government trade bodies.

3.    Have independent brokers in your key import regions, not the same broker for all points of entry, because as requirements vary across the country, only brokers local to your point of entry will be able to give you the best advice and service.

4.   You can import into Shanghai first, as Shanghai is the location of the GACC and therefore customs procedures are generally more consistent, and then tranship your goods to regional centres.


If you would like to dispute a decision made by the customs authorities, the matter must first be taken up with the Regional Customs Authority. Following the outcome of that appeal, if you want to pursue the matter further, you can appeal to the Independent Judicial Court. 

It is therefore important that, whether you are experience exporter, or someone who is just starting out, you equip yourself with up-to-date knowledge from experienced international trade professionals to ensure you avoid disastrous situations and successfully grow your international business. 

Why don’t you take some of the guesswork out exporting and sign up for a trade procedures course with the Australian Institute of Export today! 

Click here for more information about our courses and How to register.

A copy of Dr Li's presentation and the webinar recording is available in the members area of the ECA website.

About the AIEx

Established in 1957, the Australian Institute of Export (AIEx) has become the leading Australian industry body for International Trade. Through our various initiatives we have assisted tens of thousands of companies, of all sizes and across all industry sectors, to develop and grow their business in the international marketplace. We collaborate with the export and import community to ensure that Australian companies receive the support they need to successfully compete on the international stage.  

The Australian Institute of Export will continue to deliver education and training in International Trade:
  • Export Procedures & Documentation 
  • Import Procedures & Documentation
  • Understanding Documentary Credits
  • Online import and export courses
  • International Trade Law & IP
  • Accredited trade courses
  • Australian Export & Import Handbook & International Trade Procedures   
For further information please visit: 


Become A Member

Do you require an EMDG consultant to assist with your EMDG export grant application