Importing from China to the UK: A Business Guide

Ever since the 1970s, the growth of China as a world power has been unparalleled.

China is now one of the world’s great superpowers and is a serious rival for the USA as the world’s largest economy.

This is because China is the world’s largest exporter. Its economic reforms, first introduced back in the 1970s, mean that it has the ability to build and make products quickly, cheaply and in vast quantities. As a result of this, China is now the UK’s third largest import partner, with demand ever increasing.

China Fact File:

Official Language: Standard Chinese or Mandarin
Currency: Renminbi
Central Bank: People’s Bank of China
Calling Code: +86
Capital City: Beijing
Largest City: Shanghai
Population: 1.35 billion

Trading With China

Referred to by some as the ‘factory of the world’, China is a beloved importer for the UK. Here, we list what documentation you need to trade with China, what you’ll need for Customs clearance and what you should avoid doing.


Importing From Outside the EU

Because China is outside the European Union, there are certain things that you must do if you’re importing commercially. These include:

Finding the correct commodity codes for the goods you’re importing

Pay the required rate of VAT, filling in a VAT form if you’re VAT registered

Register with the CHIEF system and declare the goods using it

Pay any duty required

Get a licence for required goods such as firearms

Make sure that your goods are not banned from being imported or require an import licence.

In order to commercially import into the UK from China, you’ll have to hold an Economic Operator Registration Identification (also known as an EORI) number. This is used by UK Customs and the HMRC.

You’ll also need a Customs Registration (CR) number and Power of Attorney (POA) for non-document goods except personal effects, regardless of their value.

All of the labels and invoices you use should include the full details of the sender and receiver, the quantity of the goods, their value and a description of the contents. As well as this, it should also show Commodity Codes and a typed invoice containing no manual changes.

Certain goods and shipments will require an import licence, so you’ll have to check with the China Entry-Exit Inspection and Quarantine Bureau.

Prohibited Items

In addition to TNT’s standard list of prohibited items, there are also a number of items that are prohibited for importing from China, including:

  • Animal skins
  • Antiques
  • Asbestos
  • Biological substances Category B, UN3373
  • Dangerous goods, hazardous or combustible materials
  • Firearms, or parts of
  • Furs
  • Items that could be used as weapons
  • Ivory
  • Jewellery
  • Military equipment
  • Perishables
  • Precious metals & stones

Further advice on these products, and more, is available here. There are also restrictions on other items, so check these before you import in large quantities.


When importing from China, you may also be subject to duties and taxes. Fortunately, the government’s website has a Trade Tariff. By using this tool, you’ll be able to search for import commodity codes, and will be able to find tax, duty and licences that apply to your goods.


As a general rule, most of the goods you’ll import from China will be subject to a full rate of Customs duty and the applicable VAT rate. However, because of anti-dumping measures, you may need to pay higher duties.

If you require any further information, please contact the British Chamber of Commerce