Blog: Dean BestChina's new e-commerce laws - confusion reigns

Dean Best | 11 May 2016

Talking with our readers, a common problem among them is their battle to keep tabs on the changes to regulations in China. And the recent moves Beijing has made to revamp its rules around e-commerce have brought that concern into sharp relief.

Last month, China announced changes to laws governing e-commerce sales, altering the the tax it charges on imported products sold through cross-border, business-to-consumer Internet platforms.

The new rules also included the introduction of a so-called "positive list" of products allowed to be sold on cross-border websites and enter China via the country's free-trade zones tariff-free.

Shares in a clutch of Australian companies tumbled, including the price of shares in Murray Goulburn's unit trust after the dairy co-operative initially found some of its products were not on that list.

A week later, it emerged Beijing had looked again at the planned changes, revising the products on the positive list, prompting companies affected to look forward to their products again enjoying the distribution they had before.

A story in yesterday's (10 May) Australian Financial Review suggested China was now not expected to enforce the changes for another year and shares in companies like A2 Milk Co. and Bellamy's Australia rose.

The AFR reported the state-owned Shanghai Securities News had said the new regulations would be delayed for a year.

Freedom Foods Group, the Australian free-from food, cereal and snacks supplier, was one of the businesses that had seen its shares hit last month when Beijing announced the new rules, although the company said its sales of UHT milk - at the time one of the types of products affected - were mainly through traditional retail distribution.

Speaking to just-food from China earlier today, Rory Macleod, Freedom Foods Group's managing director, suggested he had yet to see any confirmation of a delay in the implementation of the new rules.

"There are rumours this week that government will ease some of the significant compliance and Chinese customs regimes that were imposed on cross border trade on 8th April," Macleod said. "A lot of different interpretation being taken of new laws in different provinces so is causing significant delay in cargoes and processing. That's all I have heard."

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