Coronavirus: China loosens controls on medical exports after suppliers complain they were ‘banned’

Date: Monday, April 27, 2020
Source: South China Morning Post

Manufacturers complained a rule banning overseas sales unless they held a domestic licence was too restrictive because of the difficulty of obtaining the latter 

Exporters will also have to declare that their products meet quality controls in the recipient country after a string of complaints about substandard equipment

China has changed its rules on exporting medical supplies following a series of complaints from manufacturers that they were too strict.

Previously Chinese firms were only given export licences for products such as Covid-19 test kits, medical face masks, protective clothing, ventilators and infrared thermometers if they had a licence to sell the same products at home.

But that requirement was dropped in a notice issued on Saturday night by the Ministry of Commerce, the General Administration of Customs and State Administration for Market Regulation.

A number of countries that received medical supplies and test kits from China have complained about their quality and the Ministry of Commerce also said that it will approve exports based on a list it is compiling of firms with foreign licences and registrations and a declaration that their products meet local standards.

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Industrial sources said the rule banning exports unless the manufacturer had a domestic licence, introduced on March 31, was too tight. Suppliers complained that the process of obtaining a domestic licence was too complicated and time-consuming and effectively banned them selling their products abroad.

The authorities started seeking the views of manufacturers in mid-April and were seeking to fine-tune their policies, a test kit producer based in Jiangsu province said.

“Authorities are reviewing the export certificates and contracts of each company one by one before granting the green light to export,” he said.

“So far 16 companies in the province have now been added to the white list that allows them to export, and they are updating the white list,” said the producer, who has exported test kits overseas for more than a decade but had been barred from exporting due to the March 31 regulation.

Meanwhile, the authorities also tightened quality controls of on face masks exported for non medical purposes, and said they must comply with quality standards in China or the receiving country.

It also requires the exporters and importers to make a joint declaration that the masks are compliant and are not to be used for medical purposes.

The authorities also said quality controls were subject to adjustment based on future developments across the world.

So far the Covid-19 pandemic has killed more than 200,000 people and infected nearly 2.9 million globally.

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Li Xingqian, a senior official with the commerce ministry, said on Sunday that China had never restricted exports and was shipping to the countries most in need as quickly as possible.

He said China exported 1.06 billion units of masks on April 24, a huge rise from 224 million shipped on March 31, and had always had zero tolerance for substandard products.

Li also said the country’s controls were designed to“respectively tighten quality supervision on exports of medical and non-medical epidemic prevention materials, which are not export restrictions at all”.


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