In December 2019, China and the United States agreed to a Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement
 ("the Agreement"), which entered into force on February 14, 2020. While there are many components to the Agreement, the food industry should take a close look at Chapter 3, titled
Trade in Food and Agricultural Products. The chapter covers various food sectors, including dairy products, infant formula, poultry, beef, pork, processed food, aquatic products, and food made from agricultural biotechnology. If Chapter 3 is executed as written, there will be regulatory changes that will allow the import of foods into China that are currently not permissible. Over the coming months, we will share our observations on China's implementation of the Agreement that will impact the regulation of certain imported foods.
In this article, we focus on the administrative
Procedure to Grant a Product Standard for an Imported Food Not Subject to a Chinese National Food Safety Standard ("the Procedure"), which is laid down in the
Management Rules of Permitting the Importation of Food Not Subject to Chinese National Food Safety Standard ("the Management Rules")
. This is a critical procedure for companies who cannot import food into China because the product is not subject to a food safety standard. The Agreement now sheds additional light on how to navigate and overcome this challenge.
Under China food law, an imported food will be examined by the General Administration of Customs (GAC) in accordance with China's national food safety standards. The examination will likely fail, however, if the importer cannot point to an applicable national food safety standard. Many foreign companies learn this the hard way when the authority holds their product at port because of the inability to point to an applicable food safety standard. It is not an adequate response to point to the product's ability to be lawfully sold in the country of origin or another foreign jurisdiction. So, what can be done?