New 2022 Edition of the Harmonized System has been accepted

Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash

HS 2022, which is the seventh edition of the Harmonized System (HS) nomenclature used for the uniform classification of goods traded internationally all over the world, has been accepted by the all Contracting Parties to the Harmonized System Convention.  It shall come into force on 1 January 2022.

The HS serves as the basis for Customs tariffs and for the compilation of international trade statistics in 211 economies (of which 158 are Contracting Parties to the HS Convention).  The new HS2022 edition makes some major changes to the Harmonized System with a total of 351 sets of amendments covering a wide range of goods moving across borders.  Here are some of the highlights:

Adaption to current trade through the recognition of new product streams and addressing environmental and social issues of global concern are the major features of the HS 2022 amendments.

Visibility will be introduced to a number of high profile product streams in the 2022 Edition to recognise the changing trade patterns.  Electrical and electronic waste, commonly referred to as e-waste, is one example of a product class which presents significant policy concerns as well as a high value of trade, hence HS 2022 includes specific provisions for its classification to assist countries in their work under the Basel Convention.  New provisions for novel tobacco and nicotine based products resulted from the difficulties of the classification of these products, lack of visibility in trade statistics and the very high monetary value of this trade.  Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as drones, also gain their own specific provisions to simplify the classification of these aircraft.  Smartphones will gain their own subheading and Note, which will also clarify and confirm the current heading classification of these multifunctional devices.

Major reconfigurations have been undertaken for the subheadings of heading 70.19 for glass fibres and articles thereof and for heading 84.62 for metal forming machinery.  These changes recognize that the current subheadings do not adequately represent the technological advances in these sectors, leaving a lack of trade statistics important to the industries and potential classification difficulties.

One area which is a focus for the future is the classification of multi-purpose intermediate assemblies.  However, one very important example of such a product has already been addressed in HS 2022.  Flat panel display modules will be classified as a product in their own right which will simplify classification of these modules by removing the need to identify final use.  Health and safety has also featured in the changes.  The recognition of the dangers of delays in the deployment of tools for the rapid diagnosis of infectious diseases in outbreaks has led to changes to the provisions for such diagnostic kits to simplify classification.  New provisions for placebos and clinical trial kits for medical research to enable classification without information on the ingredients in a placebos will assist in facilitating cross-border medical research.  Cell cultures and cell therapy are among the product classes that have gained new and specific provisions.  On a human security level, a number of new provisions specifically provide for various dual use items.  These range from toxins to laboratory equipment.

Protection of society and the fight against terrorism are increasingly important roles for Customs.  Many new subheadings have been created for dual use goods that could be diverted for unauthorized use, such as radioactive materials and biological safety cabinets, as well as for items required for the construction of improvised explosive devices, such as detonators.

Goods specifically controlled under various Conventions have also been updated.  The HS 2022 Edition introduces new subheadings for specific chemicals controlled under the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), for certain hazardous chemicals controlled under the Rotterdam Convention and for certain persistent organic pollutants (POPs) controlled under the Stockholm Convention.  Furthermore, at the request of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), new subheadings have been introduced for the monitoring and control of fentanyls and their derivatives as well as two fentanyl precursors.  Major changes, including new heading Note 4 to Section VI and new heading 38.27, have been introduced for gases controlled under the Kigali Amendment of the Montreal Protocol.

The changes are not confined to creating new specific provisions for various goods.  The amendments also include clarification of texts to ensure uniform application of the nomenclature.  For example, there are changes for the clarification and alignment between French and English of the appropriate way to measure wood in the rough for the purposes of subheadings under heading 44.03.

Given the wide scope of the changes, there are many important changes not mentioned in this short introduction.  All interested parties are encourage to read the Recommendation carefully (to be published soon).

Implementation

While January 2022 may seem far off, a lot of work needs to be done at WCO, national and regional levels for the timely implementation of the new HS edition.  The WCO is currently working on the development of requisite correlation tables between the current 2017 and the new edition of the HS, and on updating the HS publications, such as the Explanatory Notes, the Classification Opinions, the Alphabetical Index and the HS online database.

Customs administrations and regional economic communities have a huge task to ensure timely implementation of the 2022 HS Edition, as required by the HS Convention.  They are therefore encouraged to begin the process of preparing for the implementation of HS 2022 in their national Customs tariff or statistical nomenclatures. The WCO will step up its capacity building efforts to assist Members with their implementation.

Source: hs@wcoomd.org

Customs Tariff – Mobile-learning course on the HS 2017 Edition

WCO-HS-Mob-App.jpg

A new online course on the 2017 Edition of the Harmonized System (HS) has just been released by the WCO.

Through educational videos and a knowledge test, this course allows you to learn about the major changes in the 2017 version of the HS.

This course is available on CLiKC!, the WCO online learning platform, but is also the first WCO e-learning course which is built using mobile learning technologies. By downloading the app, available on the App Store and on Google Play, users will benefit from more features such as a search engine which indicates if a specific HS code has been amended in the 2017 version.

The app is available for free to anybody who wishes to learn about HS2017.  The added feature for our Member administrations’ Customs officers, who have an account on this website, is that it will be synchronized with CLiKC!

Source: WCO

30th anniversary of the Harmonized System (HS) – a universal language for international trade

HS_30_GalleryThe Harmonized System (HS) allows a world of many languages to speak with one. A multipurpose nomenclature for trade, the HS is one of the most successful instruments developed by the World Customs Organization. Its Convention has 156 Contracting Parties and the HS is used by more than 200 countries, territories and Customs or Economic Unions. It forms the basis for Customs tariffs and statistical nomenclatures around the world, and is used for around 98% of world trade. The year 2018 marks the 30thAnniversary of the HS which came into effect on 1stJanuary, 1988.

As an international standard with global application, the HS plays a key role in facilitating world trade. The HS is used as the basis for:

  • Customs tariffs;
  • Trade policies and quota controls;
  • Collection of international trade statistics and data exchange;
  • Rules of origin;
  • Trade negotiations such as the WTO Information Technology Agreement and Free Trade Agreements;
  • Monitoring of controlled goods, for example, chemical weapons precursors, hazardous wastes and persistent organic pollutants, ozone depleting substances and endangered species;
  • Many Customs controls and procedures, including risk assessments and profiling, electronic data input and matching and compliance activities; and Economic research and analysis..

The HS is crucial to the development of global trade. It is also fundamental to achieving fair, efficient, and effective revenue collection, a primary Strategic Goal of the WCO. In addition, as it provides an essential tool for the simplification and harmonization of customs procedures and provides the basis of knowing what trade goods are crossing borders, it contributes to other major strategic goals of Customs administrations and of the WCO.

The HS is a living language. The HS is now in it’s 6th edition and in the process of preparing for the Seventh Edition of the HS (HS 2022). During the life of the HS, there have been 60 meetings of the Harmonized System Committee (HSC) where 4,144 agenda items were discussed, 10 Recommendations were produced concerning the application of the HS Convention, 2280 classification decisions made and 871 Classification Opinions adopted to ensure the harmonization of classification. On 1st of January 2018, Members can be congratulated on having worked through the 60 HSC meetings, 53 meetings of the Review Sub-Committee (RSC) and 32 meetings of the Scientific Sub-Committee (SSC) to maintain and update the HS to keep it responsive and relevant to current needs.

On the occasion of this anniversary, the WCO calls for the international Customs community, in partnership with the international trade community, to continue to be proactive and pursue its efforts to develop and maintain the HS, especially in terms of the application and uniform interpretation of the HS, so as to safeguard and further grow the benefits of this success. Source: WCO, 3 January 2018.

Angola – New Customs Tariff

Angola CustomsThe introduction in the coming months of a new customs tariff in Angola is feeding expectations among economic agents that replacing the current regime will be a stimulus to the country’s growth.

A new customs tariff system, submitted to the Council of Ministers and expected to be implemented this year, proposes cuts on import duties on foodstuffs such as fruit and vegetables, cooking oils and grains (including wheat flour), as well as raw materials such as iron, steel and aluminium products as well as second-hand cars, the Angolan press reported.

The aim is to replace the existing customs tariff system – introduced in 2014 before the start of the economic and financial crisis now facing the country – which is generally regarded as protectionist of local farmers and manufacturers, seeking to make imports more expensive in order to encourage diversification of an economy that is highly dependent on oil.

The current tariff has been the subject of much criticism from local and international companies as well as from the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In its most recent report on Angola, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said replacing the current tariff would likely be a positive move, as it had the effect of increasing the cost of domestic production and reducing competition in the market.

Despite tariff protection, the EIU points out that operational challenges – such as a lack of electricity, poor supply chain management and lack of human resources – have kept the country dependent on imports.

In addition to this, the fall in the price of oil following the introduction of the 2014 tariff has limited access to foreign currency for Angolan companies, making payments to suppliers abroad difficult and, as the kwanza has weakened, imports have become significantly more expensive.

“If and when (the new tariff is) applied, the cost of imports should fall and this should help fight inflation. A less protectionist customs regime should also stimulate Angola’s trade with its neighbours and can help the country finally meet the long-standing promise of joining the Southern African Development Community’s free trade zone,” the EIU said.

“A review of Angola’s current punitive customs regime should give a positive boost to the national economy. However, it is still unclear when the new tariffs will be applied,” it said.

In 2016, Angola formalised its accession to the International Convention for the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures (Kyoto Convention) of the World Customs Organisation, which aims to facilitate international trade.

Each acceding country has a deadline of 36 months to apply the general rules of this agreement, which provides for the minimisation of customs controls between members, thus facilitating and simplifying international trade. Source: macauhub

The WCO HS2017 Nomenclature – all the details

wco-hs2017

The World Customs Organization (WCO) has just released the 2017 edition of the Harmonized System Nomenclature, the world’s global standard for classifying goods in international trade, which will enter into force on 1 January 2017.

Used by over 200 countries and economic or Customs unions as well as by international organizations such as the United Nations Statistical Division (UNSD) and the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Harmonized System (HS) Convention currently has 154 Contracting Parties, making it the WCO’s most successful instrument to date.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, also known as the Harmonized System (HS) of tariff nomenclature is an internationally standardized system of names and numbers to classify traded products. It came into effect in 1988 and has since been developed and maintained by the World Customs Organization (WCO) (formerly the Customs Co-operation Council), an independent intergovernmental organization based in Brussels, Belgium – Wikipedia

The 2017 Edition of the WCO’s HS Nomenclature includes 242 sets of amendments (including some complementary amendments): 85 relating to the agricultural sector; 45 to the chemical sector; 22 to the wood sector; 15 to the textile sector; 6 to the base metal sector; 25 to the machinery sector; 18 to the transport sector and an additional 26 that apply to a variety of other sectors.

The 2017 edition of the Harmonized System comprises a total of 5,387 separate groups of goods identified by a 6-digit code (compared to 5,205 in the 2012 edition).

Click here for the HS Nomenclature 2017 Edition.

HS-related Council Recommendations

The Council, at its 127/128 Sessions in July 2016, adopted two HS-related Recommendations amended consequential to the Council Recommendation of 27 June 2014 concerning the amendment of the HS Nomenclature. First is the revised Recommendation of 18 June 1996 on the insertion in national statistical nomenclatures of subheadings for substances controlled under the Chemical Weapons Convention. Second is the Recommendation on the use of standard units of quantity to facilitate the collection, comparison and analysis of international statistics based on the HS Nomenclature 2017 Edition. With the acceptance of the revised Recommendation, the version of 24 June 2011 has been revoked with effect from 1 January 2017.

Click here for the HS-related Council Recommendations.

Correlation Tables HS 2012 – 2017

Some corrections have been made in the tables correlating the 2012 and 2017 versions of the Harmonized System.

Click here for the Correlation Tables HS 2012 – 2017.

Source: WCO

Revision of Correlation Tables between HS2012 and HS2017

HS_HandbookFollowing the accepted complementary amendments to the Harmonized System Nomenclature listed in the Council Recommendation of 11 June 2015, the Correlation Tables between the 2012 and 2017 versions of the HS have been revised. The revised Correlation Tables show the correlation resulting from both the amendments to the Nomenclature which have been accepted as a result of the Council Recommendation of 27 June 2014 and the complementary amendments to the Nomenclature which have been accepted as a result of the Council Recommendation of 11 June 2015.

For more details visit the WCO website.

German Customs dispute disrupts plywood imports from China

Laminated woodThe importance of tariff classification and its impact on statistical and economic data – German imports of hardwood plywood from China continue to be affected by a dispute between the German trade and customs officials. In the last three years, customs officials, particularly at the port of Bremerhaven, have been checking Chinese plywood to ensure that boards are cross-laminated rather than laid parallel to each other.

According to German customs, boards should be reclassified as Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) if not fully cross-laminated. This is frequently the case with lower-quality Chinese plywood manufactured using small veneer pieces for the cores. LVL incurs a higher rate of duty of 10% compared to 7% for plywood. Roughly 40% of Chinese hardwood plywood deliveries into Germany were reclassified in this way in 2012.

German import merchants and the timber trade federation GD Holz have held talks with German customs to try to more clearly define which products should be considered plywood and which LVL. According to GD Holz, these talks have been unproductive so far and customs continue to reclassify Chinese plywood. Several German importers have now filed lawsuits and results are still pending. At the same time, GD Holz report that since 2014, several importers have been reimbursed for some instances of excessive duty paid. However, customs has not revealed why reimbursements were offered in some cases but not in others.

The uncertainty created by the dispute in Germany may partly explain the recent rise in imports of Chinese hardwood plywood into ports in Belgium and Netherlands. German buyers may be avoiding excess duty by buying from stocks landed in these neighbouring European countries.

The reclassification process has led to inconsistencies in the statistical data on German hardwood plywood imports. Data derived from Eurostat indicates that German imports fell by 18.3% to 34,700 cu.m in the first five months of 2015. This followed a decline of 5.5% to 103,000 cu.m for the whole year 2014.

However, the Eurostat data deviates from figures published by the German Federal Statistical Office (Destatis) which indicate a 62% increase in German hardwood plywood imports from China in the first quarter of 2015. On enquiry, Destatis note that they have adjusted their data downwards for 2014 to take account of plywood reclassified as LVL.

However Destatis have not yet made the same adjustment to the 2015 data. As a result, Destatis data on deliveries to Germany appear to surge this year. Overall, once all adjustments are made, Destatis reckon German imports of Chinese hardwood plywood in the first five months of 2015 were probably around the same as last year.

US Customs to assist exporters in resolving disputes with foreign customs

CBP logoU.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) published a Federal Register Notice inviting U.S. exporters to request CBP’s assistance in resolving disputes with foreign customs agencies over the tariff classification or customs valuation of U.S. exports. CBP explains that it is willing to assist U.S. exporters with these disputes under the auspices of the World Customs Organization (WCO). CBP is very active at the WCO and regularly participates in meetings concerning the application of the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS System) and the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Customs Valuation Agreement (CVA). According to CBP, this process was helpful in providing a successful outcome for clients who disputed a foreign customs agency’s classification of imported goods.

Tariff Classification
CBP represents the United States at meetings under the auspices of the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (“HS Convention”). The HS Convention is the international agreement that provides that WCO Members will implement the HS System and comply with decisions of the various committees organized under the convention. CBP attends semiannual meetings of the WCO’s Harmonized System Committee (HSC), where contracting parties to the HS Convention examine policy matters, make decisions on classification questions, settle disputes, and prepare amendments to the HS System and its Explanatory Notes.

Article 10 of the HS Convention governs disputes between contracting parties concerning the interpretation or application of the HS Convention. The article provides that parties with potential disputes should first try to settle the dispute through bilateral negotiations. If such negotiation cannot resolve the dispute, the parties may refer the dispute to the HSC for its consideration and recommendations. The HSC, in turn, refers irreconcilable disputes to the WCO Council for its recommendations.

Customs Valuation
CBP represents the United States at the WCO with respect to issues arising under the CVA. Pursuant to Annex II to the CVA, the WCO’s Technical Committee on Customs Valuation (TCCV) is authorized to examine specific problems arising from the customs valuation systems of WTO Members. The TCCV is responsible for examining the administration of the CVA, providing WTO Members with advisory opinions regarding particular customs valuation issues, and issuing commentaries or explanatory notes regarding the CVA. Like the HSC, the TCCV may get involved in disputes amongst foreign customs agencies. CBP stands willing to help U.S. exporters with these disputes. This process may provide U.S. exporters with a faster procedure to resolve disputes than a typical WTO dispute.

CBP’s Role at the WCO May Resolve Export Issues for U.S. Exporters
CBP states in the notice that its communication with other customs administrations through the meetings of the HSC and TCCV at the WCO can “often serve to eliminate or resolve export issues for U.S. traders.” As an example, in 2014, a U.S. exporter notified CBP of a foreign customs administration’s misclassification of its textile exports. The U.S. exporter requested that pursuant to Article 10 of the HS Convention, CBP (1) contact the foreign customs administration to resolve the tariff classification dispute; and (2) refer the matter to the HSC at the WCO, if it could not be resolved bilaterally. After confirming it agreed with the U.S. exporter’s position, CBP engaged the foreign customs administration directly. Within seven months of the exporter’s request, CBP secured a favorable decision by the foreign customs administration to classify the merchandise in a manner consistent with the U.S. position. Consequently, the U.S. exporter obtained correct tariff treatment of its imported merchandise in the foreign country as a result of CBP’s engagement.

Source: http://www.internationaltradecomplianceupdate.com/

WCO publishes the Correlation Tables between the 2012 version and the 2017 version of the Harmonized System

OMD_7760The Correlation Tables between the 2012 version and the 2017 version of the Harmonized System (HS) are an essential device for preparation of new national Customs tariffs and a trade statistical classification based upon the HS Nomenclature 2017 Edition; modification of HS-based international Nomenclatures such as the Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) and the Central Product Classification (CPC); and preparations for possible WTO negotiations.

At its 55th Session in March 2015, the HS Committee examined and approved the Correlation Tables correlating the 2017 and 2012 versions of the HS.

Table І establishes the correlation between the 2017 version and the 2012 version of the HS. It contains remarks opposite certain correlations briefly specifying the nature of the goods transferred. In many cases, reference has also been made to the amended legal provisions.

Table ІІ establishes the correlation starting from the 2012 version to the 2017 version. It is simply a mechanical transposition of Table І and therefore includes no remarks. Source: WCO

Bill of Material Analysis Tool – and its for Free!

Picture1Social media certainly provides a useful platform to share ones knowledge experience and creativity. I spotted this one on a LinkedIn group which should certainly be useful for US shippers and trade practitioners. The designer Jason Ge, Senior .NET Consultant at Mercer, has created a web-based tool for analyzing the origin status of bills of materials. It contains more than 6000 rules of origin of these US-based free trade agreements:

North American Free Trade Agreement
U.S. – Chile Free Trade Agreement
U.S. – Australia Free Trade Agreement
U.S. – Central America / Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement
U.S. – Colombia Free Trade Agreement
U.S. – Korea Free Trade Agreement
U.S. – Panama Free Trade Agreement
U.S. – Peru Free Trade Agreement
U.S. – Singapore Free Trade Agreement

If you want to quickly check your product’s origin status, this would be a good tool to use. Try it out for free at – https://www.originreview.com

New WCO Guide to the HS classification

HS_HandbookThe Classification handbook (2nd Edition) is intended to introduce the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, commonly referred to as the Harmonized System.  It explains the origin of the Harmonized System, presents a detailed, precise arrangements for its management and describes additional publications attached to it.  It also contains the text of the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, the Rules of Procedure of the Harmonized System Committee and Subcommittees and many other information. Visit the WCO Publication webpage to purchase on line.

Angola’s new customs tariff expected to increase tax revenues

National Customs building in Luanda. [Photo - Lino Guimarães.]

National Customs building in Luanda. [Photo – Lino Guimarães.]

Angola’s new customs tariff, which came into effect on 1 March, is expected to increase tax revenues by around 23 billion kwanzas per year, according to Angolan news agency Angop.

Citing official figures, the agency said that the figure was a 10 percent increase on customs taxes provided by the previous tariff list, which came into effect in 2007.

The director of the Tariff and Trade department of the Angolan National Customs Service said recently that of a total of 6,651 products on the new tariff list, 2,942 are free from taxes and 1,150 products had their tariff reduced to 2 percent.

On the 2007 tariff list there were 2.576 tax-free products and 914 charged at a rate of 2 percent, of a total 6,011 products.

Amongst the items that can no longer enter the country, according to the new tariff list, are home-made medications, goods that breach copyright and industrial copyright and pornography.

The new customs tariff, which will be in place until 2017, is intended to improve circulation of Angolan goods and encourage exports. Source: macauhub

Customs and Nigeria’s Trade Hub Portal

Nigeria Trade Hub 2Anyone familiar with the import and export business in Nigeria will recall how tedious the process used to be. It could take days or even weeks to complete due to ceaseless documentation that importers, exporters and their agents had to endure with the various regulatory agencies. Now, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has developed a web-based application known as the Nigeria Trade Hub Portal, simplifying the entire process and providing information and guidance for international trade business processors in the areas of import, export and transit trade.

The www.nigeriatradehub.gov.ng portal, a non-restrictive and is an intuitive and interactive platform for classifying goods. Through it, trade processors are enabled to find exact Harmonised System Codes (HS Codes) required for related tariffs and duties.

This latest technology is expected to enhance compliance by traders and avail them the required information on tariff in areas like the prohibited items and taxes/levies due for payment upon importation. The application is also designed to touch on the aspect of trade facilitation such that trade processors can access information from all related government agencies. Guidelines and procedures for obtaining permits, licences and certificates of specified commodity and country of origin that a trade will require for business processing are also available on the portal.

The Nigeria Trade Hub portal allows traders to convert currencies to exchange rates set by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on a monthly basis, make payments, simulate tax and access the CPC Code. The application goes further to provide the tax and duties payable on any particular item, whilst presenting the user with the documents, i.e., the named permits or certificates required for the product, the issuing agency, the processing cost as well as the duration (no of days) for processing. This empowers the trader and provides them with sound information to assist them in competing on the international market.

A mobile Android App is also available on the Google Play store, and other platforms are to be rolled out soon. Source: Nigeria Trade Hub, Suleiman Uba Gaya and Valentina Minta (West Blue Consulting).

Nigerian Customs Develops Trade Facilitation Portal

NigerianCustoms-BadgeAs part of plans to consolidate on its modernisation efforts for eventual take-over from the service providers at the expiration of the extended contract by June 2013, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) says it has developed a web-based application to provide information and guidance for international trade business processors in the areas of import, export and transit trade.

The portal is a non-restrictive online medium and an intuitive and interactive platform for classifying goods, a statement from the Customs spokesman, Wale Adeniyi said yesterday. The portal was developed by the service’s technical partners, nominated officers as well as other stakeholders, it said.

Through the platform, trade processors are enabled to find exact Harmonized System Codes (HS Codes) required for related tariffs and duties. It is expected that the platform will enhance compliance by traders and avail them the required information on tariff, prohibited items as well as taxes/levies due for payment upon importation.

Adeniyi explained also that the application has been designed to boost trade facilitation by granting trade processors access to information from all related government agencies. “Guidelines and procedures for obtaining permits, licences and certificates of specified commodity and country of origin that a trade will require for business processing is available on the portal,”he said. He added that the portal further allows traders to convert currencies to exchange rates set by the Central Bank of Nigeria on a monthly basis, make payments and simulate tax. Source: The Daily Trust

TRALAC – What has happened since customs duties on 124 clothing tariff lines were increased in 2009?

I really enjoy TRALAC’s Newsletter – their analysis is always concise and down-to-earth. This Hot Seat Comment is no exception. One often wonders about the impact and nett result of tariff changes and trade remedies. Here we get some insight.

The clothing and textile industry has a long history in South Africa and is still a very important source of employment, especially for women and in poorer communities. The industry is geographically bound to specific provinces, including the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, the Free State and Gauteng. In many rural areas the clothing and textile sector is often the only source of formal employment. Since about 2002 the Rand appreciated substantially and South African exports became less competitive in the global market. Coupled with the trade liberalisation, in terms of South Africa’s WTO offer, the clothing and textile industry has experienced sustained import competition due mostly from Asian imports. In order to try and remedy large-scale factory closures and employment losses in the industry the Southern Africa Clothing and Textile Workers Union (SACTWU) applied for an increase in the import tariffs of 124 clothing tariff lines to the WTO bound rates of 45 percent in 2009. These clothing tariff lines are classified under Chapter 61 and 62 of the South African Tariff Book and include various clothing items, including men’s woven and knitted shirts, jackets and trousers; babies’ garments; and women’s woven and knitted jackets, skirts, dresses and trousers. Although the retailers objected to an increase in import duties the International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) granted the application and general customs duties on 121 clothing tariff lines were increased from 40 percent to 45 percent, while the general customs duties on three tariff lines (hosiery) was increased from 20 percent to 45 percent.

imagesIn its application SACTWU stated three reasons for the application: there has been a significant increase in imports under these 124 tariff lines flowing into South Africa; market disruptions in the SACU industry which have resulted in factory closures and retrenchments warranted increased protection for the domestic industry; and increased tariffs will provide both relief and show increased confidence in the industry. The retail industry objected to the application on the following grounds: the loss of business in the manufacturing industry can not only be attributed to price competition, but also inefficiency in the local industry; increased duties will have an inflationary effect impacting the ability of consumers to buy clothing at competitive prices; and increased duties will have a punitive effect on the rail sector and the end consumers. In its decision the Commission found the declining rate of investment and employment in the clothing sector coupled with increased imports a disturbing trend. The Commission decided that an increase in customs duties will enable manufacturers to protect existing jobs, increase market penetration and price competition and growth the domestic manufacturing sector in the export market. However, the question of whether the increase in these customs duties have been successful in reaching its goal of decreased imports and increased domestic production, sales and exports still remain.

Import and export data sourced from the World Trade Atlas (2013) and production and sales data sourced from Statistics South Africa (2013) show the following patterns in the clothing industry between 2009 and 2012:

  • Over the time period imports of the 124 clothing tariff lines increased by 15 percent, from approximately US$ 834 million in 2009 to approximately US$ 1.2 billion in 2012.
  • The top five importing countries were China, Mauritius, India, Madagascar and Bangladesh, accounting for 89 percent of the total imports of these clothing articles into South Africa over the time period.
  • China mainly exported men’s, boy’s, women’s and girl’s cotton trousers; knitted sweaters and pullovers; cotton and knitted t-shirts; and knitted babies’ garments to South Africa between 2009 and 2012.
  • South Africa’s exports of these clothing tariff lines increased by 6 percent, from approximately US$ 71 million in 2009 to approximately US$ 84 million in 2012.
  • These clothing articles were mainly exported to African countries, including Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
  • The production index of the physical volume of production (base year is 2005) show there has been a significant decrease in the volume of production of knitted and crocheted articles and wearing apparel in South Africa. The index decreased from an average of 108.11 in 2009 to an average of 79.82 in 2012.
  • The sales of knitted and crocheted articles and wearing apparel also declined over the time period. Actual value of sales declined by 3 percent, from approximately US$ 18 billion in 2009 to approximately US$ 16 billion in 2012.

Although there has not been a significant lapse of time since the increase of import tariffs the data gives the short term response of imports, exports, and production to the change in import duties in November 2009. Immediately after the increase in tariffs there was an initial decrease in exports, production and sales.  However, exports recovered by the end of 2012, while production and sales are still significant lower than pre-2009 levels. SACTWU has also recently indicated that employment in the clothing, textiles and leather sector seems to be more stable over the last two years. However, one of the main objectives of the increase in import duties, to deter lower priced imports mainly from Asia, has not been accomplished. Source and content credit – Willemien Viljoen, TRALAC Researcher.