China is expanding its customs procedures footprint as part of a four-year program to reform and harmonise national customs clearance procedures in a bid to create a more efficient environment for imports and exports.

For decades, importers and exporters have struggled with an often confusing and complex system in China where customs tariffs, fees and procedures differ locally from port-to-port and province-to-province. Under the recently expanded system of country-wide standardisation, tariffs and procedures will no longer be determined at a local level. A nationwide system – covering all 23 provinces and four municipalities – aims to unify customs clearance procedures throughout China.

The China General Administration of Customs (GAC) launched the scheme in Shanghai on 1 June which aims to improve customs jurisdictions by 2020. Under the initiative, China customs will roll out a national enforcement of declaration issues – such as classification and valuation of imports and exports – according to a report by Amber Road.

Two Shanghai-based centres, a National Customs Risk Prevention Centre and a Unified Tax Collection Centre, have been established to carry out a new supervision model that will standardise and streamline previously difficult regulations. It will also grant preferential trade facilitation measures to companies with demonstrated compliance records.

Changes will include customs releasing goods at the port after a safety and security risk analysis of the goods, and conducting tax collection and follow-up supervision following clearance.

Currently, decisions are made at a local district level which typically results in differing valuations of import tariffs from one jurisdiction to another.

Initial changes date back to September 2014, when Guangdong launched a similar program to streamline clearance procedures. This was extended to three more provincial-level regions in southern China on 1 May this year, according to a report in China Daily. The recently affected customs jurisdictions include Fuzhou and Xiamen (Fujian province); Nanning in Guangxi (a south-west river and rail hub near the Vietnam border); and Haikou (Hainan Island).

With the expansion, the GAC said it wants to accelerate clearance reform in areas with close economic ties while respecting the choices of companies and creating an equitable and efficient environment for imports and exports.

Once the new model is fully implemented by 2020, companies will be able to submit declarations to any customs district regardless of port of entry for imports, or departure for exports.