However, there are a lot of regulations when importing from China, especially from Germany. Because global trade is by no means as free as one might think. As an importer from China, you are obliged to observe numerous import restrictions and regulations. However, this is in your own interest, because it is by no means the manufacturer who is liable, but rather the person who imports a product into the EU – the so-called distributor, i.e. “whoever brings it onto the market”.
Do not rely on your Chinese business partners already familiar with the relevant regulations. The paragraphs and instructions are now so extensive and complex that most European entrepreneurs no longer have an overview. Chinese entrepreneurs are unlikely to be any better. Some may not take the regulations as tightly as we Germans are used to.
What can you import from China at all?
If you think you can import from China at will , you are wrong! For example, they are not allowed to import everything from China. In addition, there are many products from China that are subject to import monitoring, quantity restrictions or other restrictions, such as agricultural products, tobacco, weapons, textiles. The relevant regulations must be strictly adhered to here.
It should be clear that imports from China for pirated copies and plagiarism are prohibited. The problem: Even if you did not recognize the plagiarism as such, you are responsible for it. You are threatened with the destruction of the products (of course without financial compensation) and legal proceedings.
Further restrictions exist, for example, in the case of genetically manipulated organisms, the import of living animals or chemical products that contain certain substances such as mercury.
Restrictions on import from China
In order to maintain the competitiveness of European manufacturers, restrictions on imports from China were introduced, among other things. Restrictions applied to the import of Chinese textiles until 2008, but these have been lifted. Corresponding restrictions on shoes, porcelain, ceramics, tableware and kitchen items were lifted as early as 2005.
In addition, further “anti-dumping measures” are imposed on products from China in individual cases. For compact fluorescent tubes (so-called energy-saving lamps), a duty of 66.1% is due. Leather shoes are taxed similarly. And for bags made of PE you also pay a “penalty tariff” of 28.8% – although 130 producers have an exemption.
Ingredients in imported products?
Environmental protection and health are two issues that are taken very seriously in the EU. For example, there are provisions to limit the nickel content in products that come into direct contact with the skin, such as watches, jewelry, but also jeans buttons.
Since the beginning of 2007, certain phthalates (plasticizers) have been banned in PVC toys and children’s items. Clothing, shoes and leather items that contain azo dyes, from which aromatic amines can develop, are also prohibited.
In the foreground of environmental protection is, among other things, the Electronic Waste Ordinance, which stipulates that the importer must guarantee and pay for the return and disposal of old electrical devices – even after many years. Further guidelines prescribe limit values for dangerous substances. It must be taken into account that completely different directives can apply to very similar electrical products.
Certificates and certificates for certain imported products
There is of course a lot of written evidence relating to the safety of devices and products. A declaration of conformity is required for certain articles, which certifies that the products comply with the applicable regulations. You can submit this declaration of conformity yourself or have it certified by the TÜV if you want to be on the safe side. The products must then be marked with the CE mark and the address of the person responsible for the import from China carry to the EU. This applies, for example, to toys, pressure vessels, sports boats, elevators and much more. Caution: In case of doubt, the manufacturer or importer must prove that the item actually complies with the necessary regulations. This is then only possible via an independent test, e.g. at the TÜV. In case of doubt, customs may block the import of the goods and request an inspection.
Furthermore, there are certain standards in Germany and the EU that are not legally binding, but are regarded as standard in terms of buyer protection. These include, for example, DIN, ISO or BS. For example, a socket in Germany usually corresponds to DIN VDE. If this is not the case, it is a problem for the importer.
Quality of products from China?
In any case, check all certificates very carefully, e.g. by comparing the certificate number with the documents at the issuing test institute. Among other things, it is crucial whether the sample you have is identical in construction to the sample that was used for certification. However, the manufacturer’s permission is required for the test, otherwise the test report may not be viewed. In addition, most certificates (e.g. GS) have a limited term. This means that the certificate has to be renewed after five years. Therefore, make sure that the date of the certificate is current. Under certain circumstances it can even happen that certificates are simply forged.
What steps are advisable when importing from China?
If you proceed as follows when importing from China , you should be on the safe side:
- Communication with the producer is very important, get in touch with different producers and find out who is best for you
- On-site audits, take a look at the production facilities beforehand if possible
- Request samples (of the raw material, of the finished product, of similar products)
- Sample examination
- Raw material check
- Down payments are common, but depending on the product, they should not exceed 40%
- Inspection during production, keep in touch with the producer and keep up to date
- Final inspection, check the goods before you have paid full price, once you have paid your negotiating position is much worse.
- Familiarize yourself with the Incoterms, who will pay the shipping costs and transport
- Supervision of the loading and is responsible
All tests should be carried out by experienced persons who are familiar with the product and the current regulations.
The GS, TÜV-cert and ETL verified test marks, for example, include a regularly repeated factory inspection, which ensures that production is carried out with consistent quality and that the products are identical to the samples used for certification.
Liability for products imported from China
If the end customer has problems with the goods from China, the problem is with the importer, not the manufacturer in China. Because according to the Product Liability Act, the distributor in the EU, i.e. the importer, is initially liable. Even if you manage to prove that the manufacturer was at fault, it will be difficult to get them to pay for the damage caused. Therefore, make sure that the products are perfect in terms of health and environmental protection. Because here you will quickly have high financial losses in the event of a lawsuit!
Where can I find wholesalers and producers in China?
The easiest way to get to reputable dealers and producers is through contacts. However, not every importer will be happy to provide you with their sources for imports from China . In China in particular, there are also numerous trading platforms on which you can search for trading partners or producers. There you will find both large and small companies. Make sure that you are communicating directly with an employee of the company, because in China it is common for free sellers to acquire customers for large companies and then collect a commission. You will usually be charged for this.
How do I negotiate properly?
A good middleman, such as Paulsourcing, is helpful when it comes to figuring out what Chinese negotiators are really trying to say. For example, a Chinese will never clearly reject a proposal, but rather hide behind cloudy formulations. He wants to keep you from losing face. A good middleman helps to understand what is really meant by a statement and also mediates in the event of differences. However, the strong hierarchical orientation of Chinese society means that more attention is paid to social status than we are used to. Successful negotiations are often only possible among people of equal hierarchy. So if possible, be in contact yourself.
Negotiations between importer and producer are rarely straightforward. While we Germans are used to ticking off individual items on our to-do list one after the other, the Chinese look at the whole thing. It often seems insignificant how he jumps from one point to the other and tirelessly calls for the same questions to be discussed over and over again. It is important not to be irritated by this and also not to be tempted to want to shorten your import from China by making ill-considered and unnecessary concessions. Hold on and play along – your Chinese suppliers will admire and reward you for your perseverance.