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In recent years, China has implemented stricter import regulations due to various reasons. The increased number of imported goods, domestic scandals and adoptions of Western standards are just some of them.
It’s important as an exporter to have a sufficient knowledge about governing organs, that introduce new regulations and standard. But, the truth is that many foreign exporters have a little or no knowledge about them.
In this article, I present one of the biggest quality management institute in China you should know about -AQSIQ.
What is AQSIQ?
AQSIQ is an abbreviation that derives from The General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine and grants approval for imports of a wide range of products.
Moreover, it controls inspections, quality controls and has a great power in decision making.
As an exporter, it’s crucial to be aware of the organs that control quality standards and certifications in the country where you export your products. As mentioned, AQSIQ is one of the major quality management institutes that every exporter should be aware before they ship goods to China.
In short words, AQSIQ is a big player when it comes to entry/exit inspections of goods, food safety for imports and exports, certifications and standardizations in China. The institute is governed under the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and controls other major subsidiary bodies as well.
So how’s the organization built up?
The organization consists of 19 departments, 15 direct affiliates and 10 associations. Almost 130.000 (!) people work within the organization, a number comparable with many companies listed on the Fortune 500 list.
For your reference, I’ve listed some of the 19 departments that operates within AQSIQ below:
- The department of Quality Management
- The department of Supervision on Health Quarantine
- The department of Legislation
- The bureau of Import and Export Food Safety.
- The bureau of Special Equipment Safety Supervision
- The department of Supervision on Product Quality
- The department of Supervision on Food Production
- The department of Law Enforcement and Supervision
- The department of International Cooperation (WTO affairs)
CNCA and SAC
Worth mentioning is that AQSIQ administers two other major entities in China:
- CNCA (The Certification and Accreditation Administration of the P.R. China)
- SAC (The Standardization Administration of the P.R. China)
The entities work with quality management and have major responsibilities for quality assurance of imported products as well.
Before you export to China, you need to make sure whether the AQSIQ certificate is needed for your products.
The certificate grants that your products are tested and satisfy the quality and environmental standards, if required. You might end up in troublesome and costsome situations if you become aware of this too late.
The Chinese customs can seize or demolish the goods if a certificate is required but missing. The following product segments can be obligated to have an AQSIQ certificate:
- Special equipment (e.g. pressure vessels, boilers, pressure pipelines, elevators)
- Products that have the CCC-mark
- Textiles and carpets
- Scrap materials
- Paper, printing and packaging
- Household goods, furniture and furnishings
- Food and drinks
Note! The list is updated continously. Be sure to collect the latest information before you start exporting any products.
And don’t forget:
Even if the certificate isn’t mandatory for your products, it can still help you to diverge from competitors, giving you an edge.
The certificate shows that you work pro-actively with production quality measures and meet environmental requirements.
The application process and fees
People often ask how they can receive the certificate. Well, the application process is not the easiest as you need to fill in 17 (including in the Chinese language).
Let’s review an example of the application process for a foreign company who wants to export scrap materials, for example:
- Submission of application to the department for supervision on inspection
- Examination of the application. Additional materials to be submitted within 30 days if you haven’t met the requirements needed. If the examination shows that you are not compliant to receive the AQSIQ certificate here, a Non-acceptance notice is issued
- If the examination shows you’re compliant to proceed, an Acceptance notice is issued
- A more detailed evaluation is executed. If the requirements are not met here, a rectification must be done within 30 days. A Notification of Failure is issued if you can’t meet the requirements, i.e. your registration is not compliant
- If the evaluation is okay, a certificate can be issued directly. Though, in some cases on-spot assessments are required prior to the certification
The cost you need to pay for the first application stretches from USD 0 to 3800, depending on what products you plan to export, and if you are a member of AQSIQ or ISO 9001.
A membership in AQSIQ or ISO 9001 requires the same application costs, except for food and cosmetics, where you need to pay 300 USD for the latter one (it’s free to apply if you are a member of AQSIQ whatsoever).
If you are not a member, the fees will be around 2-3 times higher in comparison with an enterprise that have an ISO 9001 membership. You get a discount of 20% on your second application and 35% on your third, in the long run you’ll save a lot of money.
CIQ – China Inspection and Quarantine Services
To manage entry/exit inspections and quality controls all over China demands a lot of work and administration. Therefore AQSIQ has set up 35 so called CIQ-offices (China Inspection and Quarantine services) in 31 of China’s provinces.
These offices support AQSIQ (the mother organ), for example, with inspections and quality controls.
The CIQ-offices have a vast network of laboratories (over 3000 to be more accurate) and make sure to secure the quality of products imported to China.
In addition to the CIQ offices, there are several hundreds of local offices and branches that operate close to harbors and airports to manage inspections and quality assurances.
You can find local CIQ offices by searching the internet
I recommend you to read my separate guide that explains more about CIQ.
FDA and AQSIQ’s operational agreement
I want to show you how important AQSIQ really is and how it’s cooperating with foreign organs outside the borders of China.
As you’ve probably heard, the US has an institution equivalent to AQSIQ called FDA (The US Food and Drug Administration).
The two entitites have collaborated since 2007, when their first contract was signed. The main purpose of the agreement is to establish a closer relationship between the entities, working more closely.
Hence, they can work continously to enhance the quality of food and other imported products that are traded between the countries.
The agreement includes the following points (And can be found on FDA’s website):
- Make it easier for FDA to classify high-risk products that are imported to the US from China.
- More focus on high-risk products that are frequently exported from China to the US.
- Improvement of inspection processes for companies that produce food.
Since the first agreement was signed, FDA has opened offices in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. FDA and local Chinese authorities have seen remarkable improvements in communications and cooperation since the establishment of the offices.
In the future, we will hopefully see more similar agreements between China and other foreign countries.
How can you help me take the next step?
Do you need help with AQSIQ, CIQ, CCC or setting up your first Tmall store? We work with leading consultants and service providers – that can help you through every part of the process:
a. AQSIQ, CIQ, CCC, labeling and laboratory testing
b. Shipping and customs
c. Selling on Tmall, JD Worldwide & other platforms
d. Finding retailers and distributors for your products
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