BEIJING: An industry source in Vietnam told Undercurrent that most logistics agents on the Chinese side of the border with Vietnam are now refusing to take seafood from Vietnam smuggled through the grey trade, until they clarify whether the latest crackdown is another flash in the pan or indicates a more substantial shift in Chinese government policy. “Most of the logistic agents on the China side have stopped picking up cargo as of the year end [and won’t pick up anymore] until Jan. 8,” said the source, who did not wish to be quoted by name. “They’re waiting to see if the Chinese government has changed rules in the New Year.”
According to the source, Chinese authorities are specifically targeting importers who under-report the quantity of products; describe products incorrectly to benefit from lower tariffs (for instance, declaring shrimp as fish); or declare goods not originally from Vietnam as being from the country. Last week’s nationwide operation co-ordinated by the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) — referred to as operation “4.12” – specifically targeted seafood smuggling, according to local media. Around 500 members of local police, customs, border defense and maritime police carried out raids of suspected smuggling operations in 11 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, as well as seafood hubs Qingdao, Zhanjiang and Haikou. Legitimate seafood trade with Vietnam is still permitted, the source added. This was confirmed to Undercurrent by Cui He, president of the China Aquatic Products Processing & Marketing Alliance, who said the border between Vietnam and Guangxi province is still open. The break-up of smuggling rings typically only has a short-lived impact on smuggling overall; while China has sought to counter smuggling for years, the amount of smuggled goods in China has increased. In 2016, China reported 2,633 cases of smuggling, up 17% compared with the year prior, according to GACC.
Cui said the Chinese government has “never stopped its fight against smuggling.