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Before you export to China, it’s important that you make sure that your products meet local Chinese regulations and standards.
This is mandatory before you can even clear the customs and sell the products to local consumers.
If you don’t have the certificates and documents needed, you’ll risk that the customs seize your goods, get heavy fines or get kicked out of the Chinese market.
In this article I explain about GB standards, what these are, why you need to comply with them and more.
What are GB Standards?
GB is an abbreviation of Guobiao (国标) which translates to ‘National Standards’ in Chinese.
The standards are used for all kinds of products and most of them have derived from the ISO standards we use in the West.
This is good for one reason:
As your products already comply with ISO standards used in the West, there’s a big chance you’ll have less issue to meet the local GB standards.
For some products, especially those that are edible, used by humans (like cosmetics) or have that an impact on the safety, more and stricter GB-standards apply.
Not only are the standards used for the product quality, but also for labelling, usage, storage and more. For example, if you want to export wine to China, there are specific GB-standards explaining how the bottles should be labelled.
Information required on the label, according to the GB labelling standard, can be to show:
- Location of manufacturing
- Expiry date
- Storage instructions
- And more
GB testing for CCC and other certification
I’ve worked with Sales in the Automotive industry for years.
When receiving an RFQ (Request For Quotation) from customers, there’s always a document attached including technical prerequisites for products.
Not only do clients want you to produce products according to their needs, the products also need to comply with national regulations (related to emissions for example).
That’s why the EU uses ISO standards. Before you’re able to put the CE mark on your products, you first need to do product testing, showing that you meet the ISO standards required for that product (industry).
The same it goes in China, where the equivalent of CE is called CCC (China Compulsory Certification). If you want to get your products certified with the CCC mark, which is required for many products before you can even sell them in China, you first need to meet the GB standards required to get the CCC.
Do I need to have a CCC mark if my products have GB-standards?
No, you don’t necessarily need a CCC mark just because there are GB-standards for your products.
As mentioned, there are GB-standards for everything from labelling of meat products to usage of lipstick. Still, these products don’t require a CCC mark.
Which GB standards are needed for my products?
First of all, you need to figure out what HS codes are used for your products.
I’ve already written a complete article about HS codes, to make a long story short, these are used to classify products traded worldwide, even if the number of digits can differ between countries (usually between 6-10).
With the help of the HS codes, the Chinese authorities and customs can judge exactly what type of products you intend to import into China, hence they know what test certificates and other documents to request from you.
By determining the correct HS codes for your products, you’ll be able to find out what GB standards you need to meet.
GB standards for product lab testing
Before you’re able to sell your products to Chinese consumers, you sometimes need to get them tested in a certified laboratory, often located in China.
As explained by Amanda Lau and Laura Ho at CIRS in our separate interview, it works like follows:
- Products on the List of Entry-Exit Commodities Subject to Inspection and Quarantine need to be tested in local certified labs, through so called entry-exit inspections (performed by CIQ). These labs are often located with proximity to airports or harbors
- Products that need CCC certification (listed in the Catalogue of Products subject to Compulsory Certification) must be tested in designated Chinese labs
The lab will test your products according to different GB-standards. Some standards can analyze, for example, the flammability (used for toys), chemical components, corrosion and more.
How can I find GB standards?
You have a handful of options when looking for GB standards. Below, I’ve included some recommendations from my side:
Search for GB standards online
There are a number of websites who offer monthly or yearly packages, where you pay to get access to translated GB standards.
Even if this is a bit risky in my view, as the Chinese government could decide to translate and release the standards in one day if (or when) they feel that the time is appropriate.
These websites often have search functions, where you simply input the product you intend to export, and a list of GB standards shows up. However, keep in mind that standards might be missing, or be redundant.
Contact or visit AQSIQ’s website
You can contact or visit AQSIQ’s website and look for information. AQSIQ is the authority appointed by SAC to manage the administration of GB-standards.
Keep in mind though that it’s a daunting task, as the Chinese government pages often look somewhat ‘cryptic’ and lack much information. There’s a reason why private companies have translated the standards, selling them online.
I recommend you to read my separate article if you want to know more about AQSIQ and their responsibilities.
Find a company who specializes in helping exporters
It can be a good start searching for GB standards online, but I recommend you to seek help from a professional company, to determine the exact standards valid for your products.
It’s very frustrating to perform testing and missing out on standards, which can result in the China customs seizing your goods.
Visit other countries’ government pages
You can find vast information on government pages, other than China’s.
For example, New Zealand and the United States have government pages which are very useful. You can find information either directly on their websites, or download PDF-files for free.
Consult with your Chinese importer
Your Chinese importer can help you in the process to look for the correct standards.
He or she is working on-the-ground and might well be able to confirm what the correct standards are. Still, I recommend to confirm with a third party which standards are valid.
Voluntary and mandatory GB standards
GB-standards are either mandatory or voluntary. Most of them (85%) are only voluntary, while the remaining 15% are mandatory.
So does this mean that you shouldn’t test your products for voluntary standards? Not always.
Testing your products with voluntary standards might seem redundant, but it can be very helpful to show that your products have unique features of competitors’ products.
Saying that a product is organic can increase your sales and make you shine over your competitors.
How can I recognize whether a standard is voluntary or mandatory?
You can judge whether a standard is mandatory or voluntary as follows:
- GB: Mandatory
- GB/T: Voluntary standard
The extra ‘T’ added to the voluntary standard comes from the Chinese word Tuijian (推荐) that translates to Recommended/Voluntary.
There are also GB standards for guiding technical documents, written as GB/Z.
Which authority issues GB standards in China?
As mentioned above, AQSIQ is the authority who operates under SAC (the Standardization Administration of China) and manage the administration of GB-standards.
Other entities who help the two mentioned above include:
- CNIS (China National Institute of Standardization)
- SPA (Standards Press of China)
- CAS (China Association of Standardization)
GB standards are Chinese national standards that assure that your products comply with everything from labelling, safety, usage and more.
85% of the standards are voluntary while the remaining 15% are mandatory. Following voluntary standards might not be negative whatsoever, as this can enhance the brand of your product.
Most GB standards have derived from Western ISO standards, you need to test your products to able applying for the CCC mark, for example.
Local designated test labs also use GB standards, when determining whether your products are compliant to be used on the Chinese market.