China is asking ag and food exporters to register with the country’s General Administration of Customs (GACC) to allow the government to centralize information on companies selling a wide range of products to Chinese buyers.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says it is wary about potential impacts on trade, but the FDA is also facilitating the registration that China is demanding.

Still, the FDA says it is monitoring the situation.

“While China has not confirmed that collecting this information is a prerequisite for U.S. establishments to export to China, the FDA is making this request as a precaution against potential trade disruption,” the agency said. 

The FDA this week asked U.S. ag and food exporters that ship to China “to voluntarily submit information. We are making this request in response to new facility registration requirements from China.”

Many U.S. exporters that ship beef, pork, dairy and other products that are covered under the “phase one” trade deal won’t be impacted, but many other U.S. exporters are being told by GACC that they will have to register their facilities by Jan. 1.

FDA says it believes that U.S. commodities “covered by the existing bilateral agreements with China, such as the Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement, and other bilateral facility registration arrangements” are already considered to be registered.

Registration through FDA’s Export Listing Module (ELM) began Monday, and the agency is asking exporters that are under FDA’s regulatory authority to complete the process by Dec. 17. But many exporters are already registered with FDA’s ELM and they don’t need to do anything else.

“The FDA currently facilitates the registration of U.S. firms for seafood, dairy, and infant formula products by providing the GACC with documents that identify certified establishments and products that meet applicable U.S. requirements,” FDA said. “U.S. firms that have applied in the FDA’s (ELM) and are currently listed as certified by the GACC to export seafood, dairy, and infant formula products to China do not need to take any action at this time related to registration.”

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Julie Adams, a vice president for the Almond Board of California, said she was pleased to see the announcement from FDA, something the group had been waiting for.

“They’ve got a portal open where you’ll be able to go in and register,” Adams said about the FDA. Speaking about China’s broad registration demand that the country calls Decree 248, she said, “We were waiting for FDA to come out with a recommendation on how they want to approach that.”

FDA, in the announcement this week, assured U.S. food and ag exporters that the agency will “provide an attestation directly to GACC for U.S. establishments and their products that comply with applicable U.S. requirements in order to facilitate registration.” 

The USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service says China’s Decree 248 offers the option for some U.S. ag exporters to use a “self-registration” option, under which some manufacturers and processors can register directly with China’s GACC, but both the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and the FDA appear uncertain about that option.

Regarding self-registration, the FDA says that “the GACC has not confirmed this interpretation of Decree 248 and has failed to provide adequate further guidance for the United States. While the United States continues to engage with China at multiple levels to ensure minimal new requirements for the United States, the FDA is taking proactive steps to maintain current market access for FDA-regulated firms in the United States that export food to China.” 

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