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October 2005

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Selling to China Made Easy

by Glen Emerson Morris
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In 2004 China exported $164 billion more to the U.S. than the U.S. exported to China. This year the U.S./China trade deficit will probably be as big, if not bigger. It shouldn’t be that way, and more importantly it doesn’t have to be. Exporting to China has become considerably easier due to a Website set up by the Department of Commerce. Called the “China Business Information Center,” the Website offers nearly all the help a company would need to export to China, and what your company can’t do for itself, they’re willing to do for you (for a reasonable price).

As the BIC Website puts it, “The China Business Information Center (BIC) takes the work out of gathering international trade information, helps the U.S. exporter to evaluate export readiness, pursue trade opportunities and achieve international business objectives.”

The Department of Commerce has rarely gone to such extremes to encourage exporting to a specific country, but then again, China is no ordinary country. With a population of over 1.3 billion, China is potentially the largest market in the world. What’s more, China is willing to buy many U.S. products and services, if only American companies would make the attempt to sell to them.

The China BIC can provide some very specific information about what products and services China is willing to buy. According to “Best Market Reports,” a series of publications available from, China is a “Best Market for U.S. Exports” for the categories of pollution control equipment, airport and ground equipment, telecommunications equipment, medical equipment and computers and peripherals.

For more information on the China market, the DOC publishes a yearly report called the China Country Commercial Guide (CCGs are also available for over 150 other countries - but note the larger ones may take a while to download). The guides identify growing markets for U.S. products in each country. These are available for free download in the Market Research section of You will have to register in order to access this section, but the only criteria is that you are a U.S. company with a valid email address.

Another major resource is the Contact China Handbook, which is published by the U.S. Commercial Service as a resource guide for U.S. exporters. It features a large section of contact information for Chinese ministries, potential partners and sources for information.

One of the easiest ways to market products and services in China is to find Chinese representatives. The U.S. Commercial Service offers assistance to help American companies find qualified representatives in China called the International Partner Search (IPS). The IPS helps locate, screen, and assess potential qualified overseas sales representatives, agents, distributors, joint venture partners, licensees, franchisees or strategic partners for American products or services. For $500 this service will provide up to six potential agents or distributors, screened from a large pool of candidate firms. Each report is developed from on-the-spot research by U.S. Embassy and Consulate staff.

For American companies wanting to find out background information on potential Chinese partners, an International Company Profile (ICP) report can be obtained through the U.S. Commercial Service. These reports provide a track record and reliability estimate for potential partners. Each report costs $600 and takes about 20 days to produce, and can be ordered by calling 1-800-USA-TRADE.

Another resource is the Advocacy Center (“ The Advocacy Center helps to ensure that sales of U.S. products and services have the best possible chance abroad. In fact, in fiscal year 2002, the U.S. advocacy network--within which the Advocacy Center operates--assisted in 76 projects that led to contracts totaling $18.6 billion with roughly $8.7 billion in U.S. exports.” The Advocacy Center acts to level the playing field with the assistance of local U.S. embassy staff and other U.S. government representatives. They know how to apply pressure to give U.S. businesses an equal chance against local competition.

American companies experiencing unfair trade barriers with China can file a complaint with the Trade Compliance Center ( This is a governmental agency dedicated to enforcing U.S. trade agreements with China and other countries. The TCC Website offers access to the TCC's “Trade and Related Agreements Database (TARA), which includes active, binding agreements between the United States and its trading partners covering manufactured products and services.”

If exporting to China seems like something your company ought to try, the BIC offers a questionnaire called “Are You China Ready?” that can assess how well prepared your company is to give it a try. The best answer to each question is “yes,” but answering no to a question doesn’t mean your chances are hopeless. In those cases the questionnaire provides suggestions as to overcome your company’s shortcomings.

For instance, if your company has no previous experience with Chinese import regulations, safety certification and labeling requirements, you are referred to a page of links with sections titled Customs, Tariffs & Import Procedures, Standards, Industrial Sector-Specific Regulations and Forms of Establishment & Contracts. Most of these documents should be considered required reading for would-be China exporters.

Another great resource on the China BIC Website is the FAQ section section, which can point you to a lot of useful information. In fact, this section is a really good place to start. It offers an overview of the resources available, and plenty of links to take you directly to them.

It may be difficult, but exporting to China is more common than you think. In 2004 Colorado exported about $356 million in goods and services to China, up from $168 million in 2001. It’s a good trend, but it could be a lot better. Total U.S. exports to China in 2004 came in at $34.7 billion, which means Colorado accounted for just slightly more than 1% of U.S. exports to China.

One note of caution potential exporters should consider. There are severe penalties for any buiness or individual exporting technologies that could be used against the United States. A new government agency has been set up to enforce export restrictions called the Bureau of Industry and Security. Check out their site and be sure to download and read their publication "Don't Let This Happen to You!" before you begin exporting.

It doesn’t take a mathematical genius to calculate that the U.S. can’t maintain the trade deficit it has with China forever. A political solution shouldn’t be counted on. Only American business can really solve the problem. And that means it’s up to us.

Glen Emerson Morris has worked as a technology consultant for Network Associates, Yahoo!, Ariba, WebMD, Inktomi, Adobe, Apple and Radius, and is the developer of the Advertising & Marketing Review Data CD.

Advertising & Marketing Review is the largest commercial portal on the Internet to free Department of Commerce data, reports, statistics, demographics and other information resources useful to American businesses, conveniently divided into state, national and world marketing sections.

Copyright 1994 - 2010 by Glen Emerson Morris All Rights Reserved

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