New AQSIQ regulation to possibly suspend food imports of 94 product groups by October 1st, 2017. Delegations of German Industry & Commerce call for further consultation with trade partners
A new regulation, issued to the WTO on June 19th, 2017, by the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the P.R.C. (AQSIQ) could threaten food imports into China for 94 product groups, including commonly imported items such as chocolate and wine.
The regulation requires certification for every batch of food imported into China, stating that it is “produced, processed, stored, transported, and exported under the effective supervision of the competent authority of the country/region and that it is eligible for human consumption”. This suggests that foreign national-level authorities would be made responsible for the whole production and export process of food items, including transport outside of the countries’ own jurisdiction.
Further, according to the regulation, every batch of food needs to be assigned a container- and seal number. This suggests that food exports to China need to be sealed and cargo cannot be switched between containers at regional hubs, thus disrupting international trade practice.
If more than 10 cases of non-compliance or substandard paperwork from a certain country of origin are found by AQSIQ within 12 months, the relevant authority of the country will be suspended and reviewed, thus effectively blocking all food imports from the affected country.
On June 19th, 2017, AQSIQ issued the new regulation to the WTO, prompting a response from 39 WTO members, including all EU-member states, asking AQSIQ to amend the regulation. The members question the helpfulness of such strict regulation of low-risk food imports and “kindly ask China to explain how the Chinese food law ensures a similar level of control over every batch of low-risk foods produced domestically”.
The proposed AQSIQ measure is to take effect on October 1st, 2017. Since the establishment of a qualified certification authority would take sufficient time to prepare, implementation of the measure on the proposed date of October 1st 2017, less than four months after the WTO notification, could possibly suspend German food exports to China. This is a troubling prospect, considering German food exports to China amounted to 1.8 billion Euros in 2016, according to Destatis.
The Delegations of German Industry & Commerce are in full support of measures ensuring the safety of Chinese consumers. However, we believe that this can also be achieved without risking trade disruptions and significant administrative cost, as implied by the new measures. To achieve these means, we recommend the following:
- Evaluate alternative means of food safety assurance, such as manufacturers’ self-declaration of conformity
- Exchange opinions on the measures with trade partners under WTO mediation
- Revise the current draft and grant an 18 months transition period for trade partners, starting upon revision
We acknowledge the ongoing efforts of the Chinese government to address food safety in China. While we understand and support their commitment to emphasize food safety and protection, we are looking forward to entering into dialogue with the Chinese authorities about our concerns over the cost prohibitive effects of the new regulatory system and the worrisome burden placed upon our member companies’ daily business operations it entails.
 AQSIQ’s WTO notice implicates the following product groups: HS: 02; 0302-0307; 04; 0504; 0507-0511; 0712-0713; 0813; 0902-0910; 1210-1211; 130213; 1501-1503; 1506; 16; 17; 1801; 1803-1806; 19; 2001-2009; 2101-2106; 22. Click here for the original announcement.
 Comments from the European Union regarding notification G/TBT/N/CHN/1209: Joint Comments, §6. To view the comments, click here.
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