China is a complex market to understand, especially when it comes to Chinese import regulations. The first barrier for Western companies looking to sell in China is to pass the initial product registration before exporting to China. For many Western businesspeople, trying to understand the rules and the application procedures is extremely confusing and often slows down their entry into the Chinese marketplace. Rather than explaining what the initial product registration entails, I will share the following tips to help Western companies overcome the barrier more quickly.
Why is the import registration so confusing?
1. Chinese regulations are ambiguous and conflicting. For instance, dietary supplements have different definitions in the U.S. than they do in China. In the U.S., dietary supplements usually refer only to vitamins or minerals, while in China they can include vitamins, herbs, amino acids, or other specialty nutrients. In fact, there is no definitive list of how an ingredient might be classified—food, dietary supplement, TCM (traditional Chinese medicine), or drug. Approvals are made on a case-by-case basis and rely heavily on how the registration paperwork is filled out.
2. Complex rules and procedures. Although many major authoritative bodies, such as the State of Food and Drug Administration and the Certification and Accreditation Administration, have published in English a good deal of information online, the lengthy application process and the large amount of required paperwork have made many Western businesspeople cringe. Furthermore, there is no easy way to estimate the cost associated with the application.
How do you deal with the initial Chinese import registration and certification?
1. First find out if your product is regulated and which agency oversees your product. The Chinese government may actually regulate your product. You want to find out right away if you need any import registration and certifications for your product. I have referenced major agencies overseeing a large variety of products and industries at the end of this article.
2. Outsource to a specialist, which can make your life easier.
As I mentioned earlier, Chinese import regulation and procedures in your industry can be complex and confusing. You may want to consider outsourcing the task to an expert who deals with these issues on a regular basis. There are two types of specialists that can help you: 1) import regulatory requirement consulting services that do nothing but deal with government agencies and application paperwork and 2) specialty logistics companies, such as import and export custom brokerage houses, which specialize in clearing these types of goods and take care of the entire process for you.
3. Your distributor/importer in China should be able to help you with regulatory requirements. If, for instance, you are a premium packaged food manufacturer in the U.S., it is likely that the distributor you are seeking in China has had experience representing foreign products in your category. They have likely dealt with all sorts of import regulatory requirements in the past. With their support, you may find that you can overcome the burdensome import registration and certification compliances.
State of Food and Drug Administration—regulates imported medical device registration, drug/health food registration, and pharmaceutical packaging
Certification and Accreditation Administration—regulates a large group of products, such as electrical wires and cables, circuit switches, electric devices for protection or connection, low-voltage electrical apparatus, low-power motors, electric tools, welding machines, household and similar electrical appliances, and more
State Administration of Radio Film and Television—regulates the network access license and CAS/SMS certificate for television and radio broadcasting products
China Railways Product Certification Center—regulates the CRCC certificate for railway and locomotive products
Ministry of Industry and Information Technology—regulates many electronic information products, the network access license for telecommunication products, and the SRRC license for radio frequency (RF) and satellite products
Ministry of Public Security—regulates the sales permit of computer information system security hardware and software products
China Certification Center for Fire Products—regulates the pattern approvals of various fire products, such as fire extinguishing agents, fire extinguishers, fireproof doors, fire hydrants, fire nozzles, fire couplings, fire emergency lamps, gas detect & alarm equipment, fireproof materials, etc.