China's new regulations on imported food to take effect
By Cao Chufeng
Food imports to China will soon face stricter regulations to ensure better food safety.
Two decrees announced by the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) earlier this year will take effect on January 1, 2022.
Decree 248 focuses on registration requirements while Decree 249 aims to bring food import safety measures up to code. The GACC said the new rules are in line with China's updated Food Safety Law.
"The two decrees will not only better protect food consumers, but also enhance the confidence of consumers in food imports and benefit the expansion of consumption. The two decrees also improve the food safety supervising system, clarify the stakeholders' responsibilities, and facilitate and promote a sustainable food trade," said Bi Kexin, director of Import and Export Food Safety Bureau of the GACC.
After Decree 248 is implemented, one significant change is that all overseas food manufacturers, processors, and storage facilities will need to be registered with the GACC. Among them, 18 categories of food, such as meat and aquatic products will be subject to the registration recommended by the competent authority of the home country.
Decree 249 will provide new enforcement tools for the GACC to inspect food imports, and suspend or prohibit food imports into China when violations are identified.
These rules have faced some opposition. Diplomats from seven countries have asked to extend the grace period for another 18 months, saying businesses need time to adjust. Now the customs authorities have started offering online courses in a bid to help businesses make a smooth transition.
The GACC also stressed these rules and their transition period fully comply with the requirements of international trade organizations. "China notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) of the two decrees in advance. We received comments from various parties, and adopted all reasonable suggestions from related stakeholders. The transition period fully complies with the requirements of the WTO. These two decrees are also highly consistent with principles advocated by WTO agreement," said Bi.
The implementation of the new rules may not be as hard as some have imagined.
"As far as I know from the businesses, the documents needed for registration were the same documents provided at the customs clearance in the past. The rules only mean these documents must be provided in advance, so it's not difficult to prepare for registration," said Yu Lu, vice president of China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce & Animal By-Products.
China's food import market is booming, having exceeded $100 billion in 2020. This year, it was expected to increase 20 percent.
Disagreeing with some diplomats and exporters viewing the new rules as trade barriers, Liu Baocheng, professor from the University of International Business and Economics stressed China's openness for business.
"20 years ago our tariff was more than 23 percent, and now is a little more than 15 percent. It's a substantial reduction in the imports of all food. Comparable to the average of the whole world, [it is] only one-quarter of their average tariff rate," said Liu.
China is also planning to lower tariffs on certain food products.