Taxation and customs union


EU - China Customs cooperation

In 2004, the Agreement between the European Union and the Government of the People's Republic of China on cooperation and mutual administrative assistance in customs matters was signed in The Hague. This agreement provides for a framework for customs cooperation and mutual administrative assistance between the EU and China and establishes the EU-China Joint Customs Cooperation Committee (JCCC), which oversees the proper functioning of the agreement.

The JCCC normally meets annually, alternately in the EU and in China. The 8th meeting took place on  30 June 2015 in Brussels.

The agreement provides for an effective communication and cooperation mechanism between the customs authorities in the EU and China. It allows them to assist one another to ensure the proper application of customs legislation and to prevent, investigate and combat any breaches. For example, European officials may, under certain conditions, be present at enquiries into smuggling activities carried out in China and vice versa.

On the basis of this agreement European and Chinese customs authorities work together in a number of fields, such as the fight against intellectual property rights (IPR) infringements, supply chain security & trade facilitation, and the prevention of diversion of drug precursors.

Promoting legitimate trade

In 2010 Commissioner Šemeta and Chinese Minister of Customs Sheng signed the Strategic Framework for Cooperation – Enhancing EU-China Customs Cooperation to Promote Legitimate Trade. The aim of this Framework is to increase coherence in the different fields of cooperation and to bring them under a single management structure. It also determines clear priorities and objectives.

A new Strategic Framework confirming and further expanding these priorities and objectives for the period 2014 – 2017 was signed by Commissioner Šemeta and Chinese Customs Minister Yu Guangzhou on the occasion of the 7th JCCC meeting.

The main fields of customs cooperation between the EU and China are:

Combating IPR infringements

The Action Plan concerning EU-China customs cooperation on IPR 2014 – 2017was signed in the 7th JCCC meeting by Commissioner Šemeta and Minister Yu, building on and further developing the previous version of the Action Plan adopted in 2009.

The Action Plan entails:

  • Exchange and joint analysis of seizure statistics to detect general trends and risks, which will lead to better targeting high risk consignments;
  • Exchange of case-specific information on detentions through a network of customs officers in seaports and airports in the EU and in China;
  • Enhancement of cooperation between Customs and other law enforcement authorities in order to dismantle production and distribution networks of IPR infringing goods;
  • A joint partnership between the customs authorities and the business communities in China and the EU, which will enable the right-holders to understand how to best enforce their rights and how to assist Customs in targetting controls in the most optimal way.
  • Exchange of knowledge and experience of each other’s IPR enforcement policies and practices

Supply-chain security and trade facilitation

In 2006, the EU and China launched the Smart and Secure Trade Lanes (SSTL) pilot project to strengthen end-to-end supply chain security based on multi-layered risk management.

Controls performed at export allow customs to better target dangerous traffic at the beginning of the supply chain. Thus trade-facilitation benefits can be provided to legitimate trade.

The operational phase began in 2007 with the customs administrations of China, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom exchanging electronic information on sea containers (see press release ). This first phase involved the shipment of over 5,000 containers.

In 2011 the number of participating ports increased from 3 to 9. In the EU, the ports of Antwerp, Genoa, Hamburg and Le Havre joined Felixstowe and Rotterdam. In China, Chongqing and Shanghai joined Shenzhen. The scope broadened to cover non-Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) companies, as well as transhipped and consolidated containers. (see press release ).

On 27 June 2013 the Smart and Secure Trade Lanes Pilot Project between EU and China was extended to the ports of Barcelona and Valencia, Spain, as well as Hong Kong (see press release ).

Mutual recognition

On the occasion of its 7th meeting, the JCCC adopted a Decision on the mutual recognition of each other's Authorised Economic Operators (AEO) programmes. Once implemented and fully running, it will play a pivotal role in enhancing end-to-end supply chain security and facilitating trade for trusted traders,  enabling at the same time the customs authorities to focus attention on high-risk traders. During the 17th EU-China summit on 29 June 2015 in Brussels, the EU and China signed a joint statement on the mutual recognition of their trusted traders' programmes. See also the information note .

Moreover, mutual recognition of certified traders prevents a proliferation of incompatible standards amongst international trade partners, and helps promote a more harmonised approach to customs practices worldwide.

The agreement on mutual recognition with China makes the EU certified trader system the most widely accepted in the world, given that the USA and Japan (as well as the EEA countries) are already in mutual recognition agreements with the EU.

Illicit trade in waste

On the occasion of the signing of the Strategic Framework 2014 – 2017, the EU and China unveiled a new cooperation area on the protection of the environment to address the illicit trade in waste in the customs context. Together they will carry out a joint assessment of the nature of the problem and make recommendations on the way forward.

Drug precursors

Drug precursors are chemical substances frequently used to manufacture illicit drugs such as ecstasy or amphetamines.

The 2009 EU-China Agreement on drug precursors (see page 8) and substances frequently used in the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs or psychotropic substances provides for cooperation in trade monitoring and mutual administrative assistance on drug precursors.

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