Although China is in the process of aligning its trade system with international standards, prohibitively high tariffs and quotas discourage many imports. It uses the Harmonized System for tariff classification. A minimum tariff rate is granted to countries that have special agreements with China, including the United States. Tariff rates range from 3–100% with the highest rates reserved for goods such as automobiles. Raw materials are exempt. In 1996, as a step toward WTO compliance, China reduced tariffs on more than 4,000 products by an average of 30%, and then reduced tariffs even further in 2001 in preparation for WTO accession. In 2000, the US–China Trade Relations Working Group successfully opened trade relations with China, with such agreements as: reducing the automobile tariff from a maximum of 100% to a maximum of 25%; reducing auto parts tariffs from 23.4% to 10%; and eliminating quotas by 2005. In addition, China agreed to a reduction in chemical tariffs from about 15% to 7% and a reduction in textile tariffs from 25% to 12% by 2005 (but a quota safeguard would be available in the event that the industry failed). Steel tariffs were to be reduced from 10% to 6% by 2003. These reductions would be implemented on a sliding yearly basis. Most other tariffs have been scheduled for reduction by more than 50%, to an average of 9.4% by 2005 on industrial tariffs and an average of 17% on agricultural tariffs by 2004. China acceded to the World Trade Organization on 11 December 2001.
Official PRC policy is that direct trade with Taiwan is interregional, rather than international, since Taiwan is considered a province of China and, therefore, no customs duties are levied. There are free trade zones in Shanghai, Tianjin, Dalian, Haikov, the Hainan Island Special Economic Zone, and within the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone. Smuggling, reportedly well organized along the coasts of Guangdong, Fujian, and Zhejiang provinces and in the frontier regions of Tibet and Yunnan, is a major governmental concern.