A Guide to Exporting Goods to China

China is becoming a progressively more important export market for the UK. In 2023, total UK exports to China amounted to £37.5 billion – an increase of 11.9% on the year before. And the total value has continued to incrementally increase year on year since Brexit. The Chinese populace is becoming wealthier, the middle classes are growing, making Western imports increasingly popular. So, what do you need to know to make the most of this lucrative market?

Exporting Goods to China: What Do You Need to Know?

The rules and regulations

Now, in most other locations, getting to grips with rules and regulations is time-consuming but relatively straightforward. But China is renowned for its inconsistently implemented regulatory requirements. And in many areas – the food and beverage market in particular – regulatory changes are underway. This can make exporting goods into the country a bit of a minefield. But if you don’t take the time to become fully conversant with the regulations, you will very soon come unstuck. Working with a local broker can help.

The prohibited goods list

Like all countries, the People’s Republic of China has strict import restrictions. And a range of goods are prohibited from entering the country. It’s vital that you familiarise yourself with that list before investigating trade.

Prohibited items include the standard things that you would not expect to import anywhere without a government license, such as arms, ammunition, and explosives. But you also have trickier areas, such as printed matter, magnetic media, films, or photographs that are deemed to be detrimental to the political, economic, cultural, and moral interests of China. Food and beverages containing certain food colourings and additives are also blocked.

The benefits of working with a reliable freight forwarder

There are various ways to transport goods to China. But with sea freight typically taking around 40 days, air freight is becoming a popular option for many businesses. Especially those dealing in perishable items. And with the UK’s food and beverage exports to China increasing by 12% in 2023, it’s a good area to focus on. However, managing international air freight can be a complicated business. Which is why finding a reliable freight forwarder that is able to manage door to door delivery is always a good idea.

What admin you need to manage

When you are exporting goods to China, it is vital that you have the correct documentation in place. While some of the paperwork will depend upon the nature of your goods, every shipment will require the following documentation:

  • Bill of lading
  • Commercial invoice
  • Packing List
  • Sales contract
  • Proforma invoice
  • Certificate of origin signed by a local chamber of commerce
  • Customs declaration
  • Depending upon your goods, you may also need import licenses, an import quota certificate, and an import inspection certificate.

The importance of insurance

Cargo insurance can feel like such an unnecessary expense on top of an already expensive process. Especially as all reputable carriers have their own insurance. However, carrier insurance doesn’t cover everything. If something goes wrong and the carrier isn’t to blame – your cargo is dropped during loading, your packaging fails, an ‘act of god’ – your goods will not be covered.

China has never been the easiest market to work with for the UK. There is no Free Trade Agreement between our countries, and the regulations are arguably opaque. But it is a market with masses of potential that currently remains largely untapped. So, if you have the right produce and can find the right freight forwarder, exporting to China could well be worth the effort.

Get in touch with Plexus Freight to find out how we could help support your business export goods to China.


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