Webinar: Belgian Customs and its activities in China – 24 November 2021

The Flanders-China Chamber of Commerce and the Province of East Flanders – with the support of Flanders Investment & Trade – organized a webinar focused on 'Belgian Customs and its activities in China'.

Ms Gwenn Sonck, Executive Director, Flanders-China Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the participants to the annual webinar on Customs formalities in exporting to China and introduced the speakers.

Ms Isabelle Bedoyan, Counselor and Customs Attaché at the Belgian Embassy in Beijing, focussed on the procedures and regulations of the Chinese Customs related to import and export. Ms Bedoyan has been representing the Belgian Customs in Beijing since 2018, covering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao, which each have separate Customs administrations. The Customs Attaché in Beijing has strong ties with the local Customs administrations to develop bilateral relations and solve some cases. There are only five Belgian Customs Attachés, stationed in Brazil, Russia, India, China and Indonesia.

An important task of the Belgian Customs Attaché is assisting and informing economic operators and individuals regarding Customs and excise regulations. The emphasis is on prevention because it is always cheaper and quicker to prevent problems, but the Attaché can also help in problem solving and act as intermediary between Belgian operators and Chinese Customs. However, the Attaché cannot be your lawyer or Customs broker and will always operate respecting national laws and local authorities. Representing Belgian Customs in China and building a professional network is also important. Attention points in China are the language and cultural barriers and the procedures before import and at the border. You also need to be aware of changing legislation. China Customs is becoming more and more a true gatekeeper, not only on border control, but also on market access. Customs issues with China can be very complex.There are several scenario's: exporting to China; producing in China; sourcing products from China; Belgian investments in China and Chinese investments in Belgium. In all these scenario's there is often a Customs aspect involved. In times of pandemic Customs can be even more important.

The General Administration of Chinese Customs (GACC) is a full ministerial-level agency and a true gatekeeper. It took over many responsibilities of the former quarantine agency and the registration and supervision of overseas manufacturers of imported food. Customs also integrated functions of the departments of health quarantine, animal and plant quarantine, export food safety and commodity inspection. Two other important players are the State Administration of Market Regulation (SAMR) and the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Affairs (MARA), which also took over some important responsibilities.

The Chinese commodity code (13 digits) is different from the international harmonized system (6 digits), so you should always check that you use the correct Chinese code, which might be linked to licenses and other procedures. VAT rates on imported goods decreased over the past years and are now between 9% and 13%. The consumption tax is comparable to our excise tax on tobacco and alcohol. Regarding Customs duties between Belgium and China we refer to the MFN duty rate for WTO members. But if you trade products from another country, it is usefull to look at the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) that China has with other countries. Sometimes there are different rates for certain quota or during a certain time. In times of pandemic tariffs might also change when China needs certain products. The China Compulsory Certification (CCC) covers more than 150 types of products which need to be tested by a recognized Chinese laboratory.

China's single window for Customs will be the gateway for import and export, integrating more than 18 categories of basic services, more than 739 service items and 25 ministries. In the future even more features might be added. The year 2021 was much influenced by the pandemic, with an exponential growth in the prices of container transport, mostly outgoing from China. The container shortage also became a problem. We saw increased Covid controls on the cold chain, in the ports and there are many separate loops. There was disruption of maritime and air connections due to the pandemic, with the temporary closure of ports. There were also new regulations on the registration of overseas producers of imported food. Despite the new challenges there are resources to help you: chambers of commerce, the embassy and consulates and the regional representatives, including FIT, and the Customs and agricultural attachés.

Mr. Leslie Lambregts, Director International Affairs at FAVV-FASFC, focussed on the support to companies exporting to China. The Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) is the competent authority in Belgium for the food chain and animal and plant health. The Department is also handling the requirements for the export of Belgian foodstuffs, animals and plants to countries outside Europe. All export requirements are published on the Department's website. If you need a certificate, you need to contact the local contact unit of the food agency. Currently, not only the Covid situation, but also the political situation between Belgium/Europe and China, is a real burden for the export files. For example, Belgium is for a long time free from African swine fever but the embargo to export Belgian pork to China is not yet lifted, while China is an important market for our meat industry. The department is also still waiting for answers from the Chinese colleagues to open the market for Belgian feed companies.

Ms. Annabelle Schreiber, Agricultural Attaché at the Belgian Embassy in Beijing, focussed on the new Chinese registration requirements for foodstuffs. The GACC Decree 248 regulates the registration and administration of overseas producers of imported food, entering into force on January 1, 2022. It replaces the Administrative Measures for Registration of Overseas Producers of Imported Food (Decree 145). Export instructions can be consulted on the FASFC website.

There are four possible situations depending on the product category:

1. No registration needed: continue as usual.

2. Registration via cifer.SINGLEWINDOW, without validation by the Belgian competent authority. Access https://cifer.singlewindow.cn and log in or create an account. You will need to input an “approval number”, which is the FASFC registration number you find on www.foodweb.be (Not the enterprise number). Register, choose your product category, and fill in the required information.

3. Registration via cifer.SINGLEWINDOW, with validation by the Belgian competent authority: submit a form and declaration for registration to AFSCA. This is valid for 14 product categories. Establishments that already export meat and meat products; aquatic products; dairy products or bird's nest, do not need to take any action.

4. Modalities not clearly defined: contact your importer to know under which situation your product falls.

The validity period of the registration is five years and to extend it a new registration request has to be submitted in Cifer within 3 to 6 months preceding the end of the registration's validity.

Concerning labelling, for all categories except meat products, fishery products and special dietary products, there are no particular rules concerning the size and format of registration numbers on the label as long as it respects the Chinese Food Safety Law. Registration numbers may be affixed to packaging in bonded warehouses. The label must comply with the labelling requirements for products produced after January 2022. At first the Belgian registration number may be used.

A Q&A Session concluded the webinar.


Customs Attaché in Beijing: isabelle.bedoyan@minfin.fed.be

Economic support team of Belgian Customs: da.mf.es@minfin.fed.be

Website: https://finance.belgium.be/en/customs_excise

Agricultural Attaché in Beijing: annabelle.schreiber@favv-afsca.be