Things I Wish I’d Known as a First Time China Exporter
As a new exporter from China, you may not be ready to get your own export license. Not to worry. This is common and there are other methods of exporting goods. Of course, when we first started our export business, I didn’t know most of those things. Had I known then what I know now, we would have run into far fewer problems.
The following is not an exhaustive list of things to look for. Rather, it is the list of things I wish I had known when setting out for the first time.
1) Get a good freight forwarder.
There are 3rd party exporters who will export your goods for you, for a fee. This fee can range from RMB 700-1500, or a percentage of the goods’ export value. These freight forwarders can be a great resource for growing in your professional export knowledge.
2) There are 3 documents that get most goods out of the country.
- 形式发票(xing shi fa piao) – Pro Forma Invoice
- 核销单 (he xiao dan) – Verification Form
- 报关单 (bao guan dan) – Customs Declaration Form
All good freight forwarders know these documents well and can assist in preparing them correctly. A previous post on Chinese Export Documents gives more detailed information on dealing with these documents.
3) Other documents can be required by the customer.
Sometimes a customer may require other documents in addition to the three mentioned above (Certificate of Origin, Materials Testing Certificates, etc). It is important to clarify well in advance what documents you are expected to provide. Make sure that you understand the costs associated with these documents—as well as the time needed to obtain them—before proceeding with the order. This has haunted us from time to time.
4) Goods may be subject to inspection (商检- shang jian).
The shang jian is costly and time consuming, so make sure that you know if your items need this before sending the goods to port. Requirements vary by port, so it is important to do your research. An item we regularly export is polyester blouses. These items are subject to inspection at the Shanghai port but, strangely, not at the Tianjin port. It is possible to export your goods without the shang jian by paying under the table fees—however, this is definitely not recommended.
5) It is important to book the right amount of cargo space at the right time.
During most of the year, you can book space on cargo vessels well in advance. Before Chinese New Year, however, space becomes available to small exporters like us only one month in advance. Frequent phone calls to your freight forwarder will help you get cargo space if you are shipping around the Chinese New Year holiday
Air cargo is another tricky one. Sometimes space is available, sometimes it is not. Make sure that you allow enough time for communication with the air freight forwarder when it comes time to make the booking. When booking air freight, the estimate of the number of cartons and weight is critical. If you get it wrong, they may charge you for the wasted space on the airplane. (We have had to pay major fees for miscalculating the number of cartons in the past, so be warned.)
Great websites that help with these issues: