What Is a China export license?

What is a China export licence?

Many e-commerce sellers rely on Chinese suppliers to manufacture and export their goods worldwide. Making sure your supplier has a valid China export licence is the first vital step in building a profitable relationship with Chinese manufacturers.


Demand for Chinese products is surging. As of October 2021, the Chinese export market amounted to $300.22 billion –– a 27% rise compared to this time last year. 

As the world has begun its recovery after the pandemic lockdowns, China has seen huge successes in its export and import market. There are many reports of widespread rapid economic development and a rise in the Chinese middle class. Over the last decade, trade regulations have also opened up –– making it easier for suppliers to apply for things like an export licence and build strong bonds with e-commerce sellers worldwide. 

This article will explain what a China export licence is and how it could affect small business e-commerce brands when choosing Chinese suppliers to manufacture and ship their goods. 

What is an export licence?

An export licence is a legal document that permits manufacturers to export their goods to other countries. In the case of the Chinese government, export licensing is managed by the State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE). If a China-based manufacturer wishes to sell their goods to international customers, they must first apply to the relevant regulatory body and then verify their export licence with their bank in China. 

Why is it important for Chinese suppliers to have an export licence?

If a supplier or manufacturer does not have a China export licence, CHN or CHY payments made from international sellers can be blocked by SAFE. Any goods ordered through an unlicenced seller can also be halted at the border by Chinese customs agents. Therefore, marketplace customers intending to buy Chinese products must check on their suppliers' export licence paperwork. 

Do all Chinese suppliers have export licences?

Previously, export licences were handled by third-party trading companies or export agents; this meant that manufacturers had to go through one of these third parties to sell their goods in other countries. However, the majority of Chinese manufacturers and suppliers now handle these regulations internally. Export agencies still operate in China and can help domestic companies meet export compliance laws. In most instances, an export agency will charge around 1% on the cost of the exported goods. 

It is also the case that some manufacturers in China do not carry an export licence. The majority of these suppliers are companies that manufacture components. In these instances, they will likely only sell to other domestic businesses that specialise in product assembly and do not sell to international customers directly.

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Who is responsible for applying for an export licence?

The Chinese manufacturer or supplier is responsible for applying for an export licence. Alternatively, a supplier may seek the help of a third-party trading agent who can help them meet the legal exporting requirements. 

What is included in a Chinese export licence application?

Suppliers looking to export from China need to fill in a People's Republic of China export application including the following information: 

  • Details of the shipped goods include name, specifications, unit price, quantity, shipping destinations, and payment details 
  • Business details, including an annual export plan and copies of contracts they have in place with international buyers

Do international buyers have to pay export taxes or fees on Chinese goods?

You do not have to pay specific export taxes on Chinese products. However, there are fees associated with exporting goods, which in all likelihood, are included in the product price. 

The export costs included in the price are broken down into three charges: 

  • FOB (Free On Board), 
  • CIF (Cost, Insurance, Freight) 
  • DAP (Delivered At Place)

In some cases, buyers may also encounter Ex Works (EXW) costs. EXW is an arrangement where the seller delivers goods to an agreed location (usually the nearest port). The buyer is then responsible for covering the cost of export procedures from that point forward. Further, with EXW, the buyer may also be responsible for covering any losses made during the goods' loading, transport, and delivery. 

How do I verify a Chinese supplier’s export licence? 

As an e-commerce brand, you must maintain good business practices and verify your suppliers to ensure they comply with export regulations. Use verified marketplaces such as Alibaba.com 

as they provide a direct communication link to manufacturers. Once you have found a supplier, you can request a copy of their China export licence documentation and verify the information. Any reputable manufacturer utilising marketplace platforms such as Alibaba should be forthcoming when asked to provide their export licence documentation. A valid export licence will include: 

  • Company name 
  • 18-digit registration number 
  • Entity type
  • Official address 
  • Legal representative 
  • Date of establishment 
  • Registered capital 
  • Expiry date 
  • Business scope
  • QR code linked to China's National Enterprise Credit Information System

Note: Chinese export licences are written in Chinese. Therefore it is advised to get in touch with a Chinese supplier agent to help you check the documentation. These agencies can also put you in touch with licenced Chinese suppliers that meet your specific needs. 


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