Importing from China

China is the world’s largest exporter for a clear reason: the ability to produce (or assemble) certain products – such as toys, computers, electrical items and clothing – quicker, cheaper and in larger quantities than anyone else.

This leaves ample opportunities for British businesses: China is the UK’s third largest import partner, and demand for goods from China is increasing.

To find out more about why China is sometimes called ‘the factory of the world’, the following guide gives key details on importing from China, including what documentation you will need for Customs clearance.

Sources: GOV.UK, McKinsey Global Institute

For more detailed information when trading with China, download our China Fact Sheet.



China Fact Sheet (4 MB)

Read more detailed
information about China

DHL Facts

Locations: 495

Gateways into the Country: 10

Number of Service Centres: 131

DHL Delivery Zone: 8

Vehicle Fleet: 1819

China: Country Profile
Capital: Beijing IMPORTS TO CHINA
Population: 1.3 billion Imports into
US$ 1.653 trillion (2012 est.)
Area: 9,596,961 sq km Import Commodities: Electrical and other machinery, oil and mineral fuels, optical and medical equipment, metal ores, motor vehicles.
Currency: 1 yuan/renminbi (CNY) = 10 jiao = 100 fen Top Import Destinations: Germany, USA, Hong Kong, Italy, South Korea, Japan, Singapore.
GDP: US$ 12.26 trillion (2012 est.) EXPORTS FROM CHINA
Time Zones: UTC +8; no summertime observed Exports from
US$ 1.971 trillion (2012 est.)
Languages: Standard Chinese or Mandarin (Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghainese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, minority languages Export Commodities: Electrical and other machinery, including data processing equipment, apparel, radio telephone handsets, textiles, integrated circuits
Ethnic Groups: Han Chinese 91.5%, Zhuang, Manchu, Hui, Miao, Uighur, Tujia, Yi, Mongol, Tibetan, Buyi, Dong, Yao, Korean, other nationalities 8.5% Top Export Origins: USA, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, India, UK, Hong Kong
  • Further Information

    DHL can assist you with trading with China. Contact the DHL team on 0844 248 0675

    DHL Customer Services is also available on 0844 248 0844

    Calls to DHL UK phone numbers beginning ‘084’ cost 7 pence per minute, plus your phone company’s

Importing from China: Essential Customs Information

To commercially import into the UK, the receiver needs to hold an Economic Operator Registration Identification (EORI) number. This is issued by UK Customs, the HMRC. 

Guidance and further information on obtaining an EORI number: 
GOV.UK: EORI Scheme  

General guidance for importing into the UK, including information on restricted items and Commodity Codes: 
GOV.UK: Starting to Import 

Duties and taxes payable

To find applicable duty rates: 

GOV.UK: Trade Tariff

Most goods imported into the UK from China are subject to the full rate of Customs duty and the applicable VAT rate. Many products manufactured in China are also subject to anti-dumping measures and may require the payment of high additional duties. 

Essential paperwork

When exporting goods from China, the following documentation is usually required for clearance with China Customs: 

1. DHL Waybill 

2. Commercial Invoice 

Minimal required information: 

  • Seller’s name, address and contact details 
  • Receiver’s name, address and contact details, including EORI and VAT registration numbers where possible 
  • Place and date of issue
  • Invoice number 
  • Country of origin 
  • Terms of delivery and payment (Incoterms®)
  • Marks and numbers 
  • Number and type of packages
  • Exact description of goods, including Commodity Codes
  • Quantity of goods 
  • Import licence number if applicable 
  • Signed 
  • Stamped if applicable 
Some non-hazardous chemicals may require additional certification from the Chinese authorities for Customs clearance to be given. 

3. Power of Attorney (POA) – Letter of Authority 

This must be given by the sender to DHL in China to act on their behalf and clear the shipment through Customs. It must be an original copy. Once on file, this can be retained for future shipments.