This post is all about the nitty gritty of opening up new markets looking in detail at the cosmetics regulations in Asia. One of the key things to get our heads around is the difficulty or ease with which we can bring products into a market and the associated costs.
Annoyingly this information isn’t readily available and most brands in Asia have to rely on partners to provide it which can sometimes put you on the back foot in terms of negotiating.
So in order to help brands get informed I have put together this guide to the key markets in Asia and what you have to consider from a regulatory and taxation perspective.
Many of you may be well acquainted with the EU regulatory requirements but here in Asia unfortunately is not a united block and the requirements vary from market to market. ASEAN markets have some unification in terms of notification systems but the importation tax and duties vary greatly.
Another thing to consider is which markets require you to have a local representative (like the EU’s responsible person) and there are different requirements for that person or company depending on the market.
Many markets have different requirements depending on the categorisation of your products – I talk about those below under the two-tiered system section.
Then in Indonesia and Malaysia you need to think about Halal formulation. Certification for Halal, like any certification can be expensive as can changes in formulation when you want to enter one of these markets in the future. So best think about it early on.
Some markets have positive, negative and restricted ingredients lists which need to be considered when you are looking at which markets to enter.
Cosmetics regulation in Asia by market
Let’s start with the simplest in terms of registration and taxes – Hong Kong. It is an open port so there are no restrictions or taxes on cosmetics products being brought in. Hong Kong states that the cosmetics imported are subject to the consumer goods safety ordinance meaning that they should be reasonably safe and one way to determine this is if another major market in the world has deemed the product safe to sell then Hong Kong defaults to this. Not very reassuring for the general public buying products in Hong Kong but good news for brands from overseas importing into the market.
Next we move on to ASEAN markets. ASEAN is a group of markets in South East Asia with over 500 million consumers. ASEAN has 10 Member Countries namely; Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. In terms of regulation on cosmetics in 2003 ASEAN moved from pre-market approval process to post market surveillance system.
With this system you are still required to go through an online notification process with each market you want to enter. Although the requirements, positive, negative and restricted lists are common across the markets you still need to notify each market individually. The notification needs to be filed by a local entity in each market so you need a partner to sell in ASEAN markets – this could be your retailer, distributor or service agent. In most cases the notifications are acknowledged quickly within a week.
All markets require you to prepare a PIF Product Information File”, which will contain all technical information relating to the product.
The ASEAN cosmetics directive – ingredients list showing positive, negative and restricted list can be found here.
There is an ASEAN Cosmetic labeling requirement which means you need to label your products locally with the name and address of the company or person responsible for placing the product in the local market.
What’s the difference between the major ASEAN markets? Let’s look at the cosmetics regulations and import taxes by market:
Singapore is the most straightforward of all the ASEAN markets – the detailed instructions of what is needed, and the process can be found here.
Singapore has no import tax.
The notification portal can be found here, Notfication required on a yearly basis. And products that are no longer sold need to be canceled in the system. They cost per SKU is between 10 & 20 USD.
Malaysia is a majority Muslim country and although currently they do not have compulsory requirements on all products needing to be Halal, there are indications that they are considering moving this way. Malaysia’s notification process is online and pretty straight forward, but needs to be done by a local partner. The notification needs to be renewed every 2 years. Cost is RM50 per SKU ($12USD).
There is compulsory labeling in Bahasa Malaysian and/or English. Malaysia’s import tax varies but average is around 6% import tax.
For Thailand the big differentiator is that labeling is strict and there are quite a few things that must be included, and it needs to be in Thai.
Thailand has high import taxes this is due to wanting to protect their own local cosmetics manufacturers. For most product categories there is a 30% import duty, some categories like Shampoo have 20% and soap is 10%.
Indonesia is slightly more highly regulated. In October 2019 they are bringing a compulsory Halal requirement for all imported cosmetics. It is still unclear how they will execute this, and guidelines are vague, but they just announced that there will not be any extension. I will update as more information becomes available. The process for notification in Indonesia is slow and can take quite some time. There is a 15% importation tax and a 10% VAT on all imported cosmetics.
Two tiered systems
Two tiered systems essential mean that these markets have classified products into different risk profiles normally 2 – the lower risk products normally go through a quick and straight forward process where as the higher rish normally SPF, anti wrinkle (varies by market) have a more indepth registration process.
Taiwan has a two tired system for medicated cosmetics – Cosmetic containing medical, poisonous or potent drugs listed by them there is a full registration process. For all other non-medical cosmetics there is an online notification process. Taiwan requires local labeling in Traditional Chinese characters. There is no compulsory requirement for local entity representative. Taiwan has a 5% rate of import duty.
Korea distinguishes products into functional and non-functional cosmetics. Functional are products with SPF, UV, anti-wrinkle or quasi drug (eg: acne) claims. Non-functional is everything else. Functional products can take up to 6 months to register whereas non-functional typically take a few days up to 2 weeks. The cost for functional products is about $200 and non-functional about $5.
Labeling in Korean is compulsory, and you need a local entity to do the notification and registration on your behalf. Korea has around 7% importation tax but depends on specific category.
For Japan the system is more complex. They also have a two-tiered system – general and medicated. They have ingredients analysis for specific categories on the positive list: preservatives, UV absorbents, anti-oxidants, heavy metals.
The process costs $350 per product and the time varies. The local partner must conduct the importation on behalf of the manufacturer. All other products go through a notification process. Japan has Positive, negative and restricted ingredients lists. Japan tends to be a little tricky in terms of the documents they require. Japan doesn’t have any import tax.
With many of these markets depending on where your products are manufactured you may have specific trade agreements reducing your importation taxes – Australian Lipsticks to Korea are an example of these taxes used to be 6.5% now 0%.
China is the only market that requires animal testing for all products undergoing registration which is all products that are destined to be sold in physical retail eg: bricks and mortar stores.
There are a few ways to avoid this – domestic production or cross border e-commerce which I have outlined in more detail in this post.
No other markets in Asia require animal testing by law. Australia, Korea and Taiwan have now banned animal testing.
This is an overview to the cosmetics regulations in Asia which will hopefully give you a place to start when considering markets entry into Asia. In my Get Ready course I go into more detail especially on the taxes to consider for each market with everything easily tabled if you are interested sign up to my facebook page and I will let you know when the course goes live.