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Lobbying for market access in China

For those who want to start exporting fresh produce to China, having official market access is key. Currently, 39 countries hold permits to export fresh fruits to China.

If a product is not currently allowed into China, official market access has to be acquired. Market access, and the process towards achieving official market access, is a bilateral process, that takes place on a government to government level. Typically, these negotiations are done through national embassies in cooperation with the Chinese institute that is responsible for entry-exit commodity inspection AQSIQ (General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine).

Achieving market access can be a lengthily and technical process. Dutch pears, for example, needed seven years of lobbying before being allowed to enter the Chinese market and it took Polish apples three years to achieve the same.

A list of countries and the products they are allowed to export can be consulted at the website of the China Inspection and Quarantine Services (

What rules apply
All countries are allowed to apply for market access. Although it is possible to file several applications simultaneously, generally, only one product per country is being officially processed. The lower the pest-carrying risk, the speedier and more efficient the process will be. Rules that apply to same or comparable products from different regions form precedents, and will have to abide by new applications.

Finally, exported products must comply to International Standards for
Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs).

Inside the AQSIQ
Feng Chunguang is the head of the China Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Association (CIQA) and a regular public speaker in China regarding matters concerning market access. The CIQA is a non-profit organisation with ties to the Chinese government and the AQSIQ. CIQA generally assists foreign agencies through the process of achieving market access and in liaising with the AQSIQ.
In a couple of lectures last year, Feng Chunguang shared some insights from the workings of the AQSIQ and the CIQA. Firstly, a product from a certain country is likely to be accepted quicker if a similar product from another region has been granted market access. Secondly, products that pose lower phytosanitary risks will be favoured. For example, a country filing for both oranges and berries, is likely to see its berry application being processed sooner than its citrus fruit application. Finally, capacity and staffing problems are common at the relevant government departments. As such, it can be assumed that less complex and time-consuming cases will be preferred over more complex ones.

Imported products on the Huizhan wholesale market in Shanghai

Speeding up the process
The presence and involvement of national leaders, in the form of trade delegations or the attendance of unique trade shows, can smoothen negations. Support from national embassies is key, and representatives from a country’s embassy contacting relevant staff at the AQSIQ can help. Success can be based on the ability of the lobby group to establish trust and confidence that their produce does not pose any phytosanitary risks, and that agreed promises will be honoured and followed up.

“High powered delegations are well appreciated and will be able to avoid hitting bumps on the road. In addition, having one person in China that Chinese officials know personally, a ‘face of the industry’ or first point of contact, will help building long-lasting relationships and avoid misunderstandings. More than spending money, it is important to have the right people demonstrate honesty and dedication”, said a source from a Australian National Fruit Representative body.

Counter seasonal and reciprocal
Finally, if a country is able to make a case that supply is serving the Chinese public or is able to put a counter-offer on the table, it might be able to move negotiations forward quicker. This could be the supply of counter seasonal products that fill gaps in domestic supply. Being able to offer reciprocal market access for Chinese products into the country of origin will also be appreciated.

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