A couple of years ago, we did a post on FICEs, entitled, The China FICE — Foreign Invested Commercial Enterprise.  The reason we did that post then (and the reason we are doing this post now) was to clear up common confusions regarding FICEs, which really are nothing more than a subset of Wholly Foreign Owned Entities (WFOEs) and Joint Ventures (JVs).  In that post, we sought to explain FICEs as follows:

A FICE is a WFOE that is authorized to engage in wholesale and/or retail trade. The approval requirements for these sorts of entities tend to be stricter than for a manufacturing or service WFOE. Additionally, approval of a FICE usually must come at the provincial level, not the local level. There are some provinces that do not even accept FICE applications. Shanghai and Beijing have the authority to approve the establishment of a FICE, and for that reason, most FICE operations are formed in those two cities.

Foreign Invested Enterprises (FIEs) mostly consist of Wholly Foreign Owned Entities (WFOEs) and Joint Ventures (JVs). All Foreign Invested Enterprises must set out the nature of their business during the licensing phase of the entity registration process. There are all sorts of possible categories, including Regional Headquarters, Service, Purchasing Center, Research and Development Center, Investment/Holding Company, Service Company, Manufacturing Company and Foreign Invested Commercial Enterprise (FICE).

In the end though, a FICE is nothing more or less than a type of WFOE or JV.

With the growth of the Chinese consumer, we are dealing more and more with FICEs and I want to get out there exactly what they are even though I do not like the term FICE because it tends to lead to more confusion than clarity. A FICE is just a type of WFOE or JV that engages in certain types of business in China. So what are those “certain types of business”?  The general answer is retail and wholesaling and franchising.

That’s it.  Now forget it.

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Photo of Dan Harris Dan Harris

Dan is a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network. 

Dan is a founder of Harris Bricken, an international law firm with lawyers in Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, China and Spain.

He primarily represents companies doing business in emerging market countries, having spent years building and maintaining a global, professional network.  His work has been as varied as securing the release of two improperly held helicopters in Papua New Guinea, setting up a legal framework to move slag from Canada to Poland’s interior, overseeing hundreds of litigation and arbitration matters in Korea, helping someone avoid terrorism charges in Japan, and seizing fish product in China to collect on a debt.

He was named as one of only three Washington State Amazing Lawyers in International Law, is AV rated by Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (its highest rating), is rated 10.0 by AVVO.com (also its highest rating), and is a recognized SuperLawyer.

Dan is a frequent writer and public speaker on doing business in Asia and constantly travels between the United States and Asia. He most commonly speaks on China law issues and is the lead writer of the award winning China Law Blog. Forbes Magazine, Fortune Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily, Business Week, The National Law Journal, The Washington Post, The ABA Journal, The Economist, Newsweek, NPR, The New York Times and Inside Counsel have all interviewed Dan regarding various aspects of his international law practice.

Dan is licensed in Washington, Illinois, and Alaska.

In tandem with the international law team at his firm, Dan focuses on setting up/registering companies overseas (via WFOEs, Rep Offices or Joint Ventures), drafting international contracts (NDAs, OEM Agreements, licensing, distribution, etc.), protecting IP (trademarks, trade secrets, copyrights and patents), and overseeing M&A transactions.