If you ask 10 different people, you will get 10 different answers. But if you are talking about China based companies, then a trading company and an import-export company are the same in that an import-export license is needed from the Chinese government to bring products into and out of China.
However, there are a lot of service companies, who describe themselves with terms like: import-export, trading, broker, consultant, buying agent, sourcing agent and so on, but they may or may not have the actual import-export license. If they don’t have the license, they often engage an import-export firm behind the scenes to clear outbound customs from China. That can add costs and compromise warranty terms if the company you think is your vendor is actually not the same as the company that sells you the product.
For more information, here are some resources:
Hope this helps. Let me know how things work out for you.
Question answered by Mike Bellamy, host of “Ask the Experts” at the China Sourcing Information Center.
Mike Bellamy is an Advisory Board Member & Featured Blogger at the not-for-profit China Sourcing Information Center (www.ChinaSourcingInfo.org). He is also the author of, “The Essential Reference Guide to China Sourcing” (chinasourcinginfo.org/book) and founder of PassageMaker Sourcing Solutions (www.PSSchina.com )