Generally speaking, imports into the PRC have to be undertaken by organisations which have been authorised by the government to deal in the import and export business. These include foreign trade corporations or "FTCs" established under the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation ("MOFTEC"), the State Council or local government, and large enterprises which have general import and export rights with regard to the equipment and materials required for their production.

Foreign investment enterprises (i.e. equity and contractual joint ventures and wholly foreign owned enterprises - "FIEs") also have general import rights with regard to equipment and materials necessary for their production or the export of their products. In respect of the import of goods not related to the FIE's manufacturing and which will not be for the FIE's own use, such as merchandise for retail in the PRC market by the FIE, the FIE must obtain a licence from MOFTEC to import the goods. The FIE must submit an import plan once every six months to MOFTEC or its local branch and upon approval of the plan, MOFTEC will issue a licence for the bulk import of the goods listed in the plan.

The main regulations governing the import activities of FIEs generally are the Implementing Measures of MOFTEC with regard to the Application for Import and Export Licences by FIEs ("FIE Import-Export Measures") promulgated in January 1987 and the Foreign Trade Law promulgated in May 1994. For FIEs which are retail joint ventures approved under the Foreign Investment in Retailing Provisions ("Retail Provisions"), the Retail Provisions are applicable.

For further details, see the articles headed "Import tariffs in the PRC", "Commodity inspection in the PRC" and "Customs formalities in the PRC".

This article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specific advice should be sought about individual circumstances. Further information or advice may be obtained from Linklaters & Paines, Hong Kong office, 14th Floor, Alexandra House, Chater Road, Hong Kong; telephone: (852) 2842 4888; fax: (852) 2810 8133; contact David Mullarkey or Jeremy Parr.