Chinese officials considering establishing a bureau for e-commerce as online business increases

By Gary Scattergood contact

- Last updated on GMT

E-commerce continues to boom in China, but brands remain wary of rule changes.
E-commerce continues to boom in China, but brands remain wary of rule changes.

Related tags: International trade

China could set up a dedicated bureau for e-commerce as online sales continue to rise and on the back of widespread regulatory uncertainty that has affected many international supplement firms using cross-border channels.

Speaking at the China International Nutrition and Health Industry Summit in Shanghai, Zhang Zhongpeng from the China Chamber of Commerce said a bureau for e-commerce was being discussed, but that no decision had been made yet.

The move would follow a considerable period of flux around e-commerce laws, especially in relation to cross-border transactions.

In March, China’s Commerce Ministry halted plans for more stringent cross border e-commerce rules, meaning many goods continue to be considered for personal trade, rather than commercial distribution. 

This means overseas firms are able to continue to bypass complex local registration requirements to sell goods into China via the free trade zone model.

The U-turn came after intervention from Chinese online retail giants Alibaba and JD.com.

No repeat

Some of the biggest benefactors were Australian and New Zealand supplement and infant formula firms, many of which had seen sales slump in the wake of regulatory uncertainty.

Speaking at this week’s USCHPA Nutrition and Health Industry Summit, China GM of Export Now Ron Wardle said he expected a more business-friendly set of rules to be put in place when the current system comes to an end early next year.

“The big Chinese e-commerce players are heavily involved in negotiations and I think the government here realised it went too far with their original plans. I don’t think we’ll be seeing a repeat of that again.”

Zhang added that there was an understanding that cross-border e-commerce would continue to grow in the country.

“We think the cross-border will become an increasingly big sector​,” he said, “and it is a great option for health products.”

“China may also set up a bureau of e-commerce. It is not confirmed yet, because this whole process is very new, but I think it would be a positive move.”

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