November 2020

China AEO Certificate - An Introduction

The China AEO Certificate is a document held by companies in China engaged in import and export activities.

Issued by China Customs, the certificate specifies the company's enterprise classification, which determines their level of inspections and more.

Requesting and verifying a supplier's China AEO certificate can be a sensible measure to understand if they are registered with China Customs as an "Authorized Economic Operator" and to check their AEO type. 

What is a China AEO Certificate?

Below is an image showing what the China AEO certificate looks like. You may have received a photo or scan of this document from a Chinese company.

What Information is Contained in a China AEO Certificate?

From top to bottom, here are the various fields and what they mean:

  • Certificate Number (证书编号)
  • AEO Name (认证企业名称) - official name of the company
  • AEO Code (认证企业编号) - a unique identifier
  • AEO Type (认证企业类型) - in China there are 4 different levels (or "types") of enterprise classification:
  1. Advanced Certified Enterprise (高级认证企业)
  2. General Certified Enterprise (一般认证企业)
  3. General-Credit Enterprise (一般信用企业)
  4. Discredited Enterprise (失信企业)
  • Date of Authorization (认证日期) - when the authorization was initially given
  • Issuing Authority (发证机关) - authorized by the authority named on the stamp
  • Date of Issue (发证日期) - when the certificate was issued

What does "AEO" actually mean?

The acronym "AEO" stands for "Authorized Economic Operator". In Chinese this is called "经认证的经营者". 

AEO is key part of a framework of standards developed by the World Customs Organization to help support and secure global trade.

China is one of many countries to sign up to the framework, which aims to establish common systems for Customs organizations worldwide.

Ultimately, the goal is for different countries to recognize each others' AEO programs via mutual recognition agreements, paving the way for a secure global supply chain.

China Customs already has such agreements in place with 40+ nations, including those in the EU, Singapore, Japan, Australia, Switzerland plus many more.

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Who Issues a China AEO Certificate?

The China AEO Certificate is issued to a company through their local branch of China Customs.

This branch can be identified from the stamp used for the "issuing authority" field, which will usually display the text in the following order:

  • 中华人民共和国 - People's Republic of China
  • XX - Branch name (e.g. 天津 - Tianjin or 杭州 - Hangzhou)
  • 海关 - Customs

Note that, although China Customs utilizers many third party certifiers for completing security checks and related certifications, the AEO certificate should always be issued directly by China Customs - this task is never delegated to a third party. 

Who Uses the China AEO Certificate?

This certificate is applicable to Mainland China-registered companies involved in import and export. Although not compulsory, it is very beneficial for those who deal with international trade.

Becoming a certified enterprise, especially an advanced certified enterprise, brings many benefits to a Chinese company, including priority goods inspection, lower inspection rate, faster customs clearance, designated customs liaison officers etc.

For a Chinese company, possessing this certificate can also help give further assurance to their customers about their capability to import to / export from China.

Further reading