The 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.
In order to assist Members with the updating of their existing Rules of Origin in relation to changes in the Harmonized System, the WCO has issued the “Guide for the technical update of Preferential Rules of Origin“. The Guide is available for WCO Members only.
Classification and origin determination of goods are closely interlinked. It is therefore critically important to update Rules of Origin (i.e. Product Specific Rules) to ensure consistency between HS classification and origin determination. This would help to prevent misapplication of Rules of Origin, ensure efficient and effective revenue collection and facilitate trade. Source: WCO
The SADC Rules of Origin are the cornerstone of the SADC intra-trade and serve to prevent non-SADC members benefiting from preferential tariffs. The determination of the eligibility of products to SADC origin and the granting of preferential tariffs to goods originating in the Member States is an important process in the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Trade and regional integration. Annex I of the SADC Protocol on Trade provide that goods shall be accepted as eligible for preferential treatment within the SADC market if they originate in the member States, and the qualification of such products shall be as provided in Appendix I of Annex I of the Protocol on Trade.
The 2nd Customs Training of Trainer Course was held on the SADC Rules of Origin at the World Customs Organization (WCO) Multilingual Regional Training Centre, Mauritius Revenue Authority from the 25th -30th November 2013. The objective of the training course is to establish a pool of trainers on the SADC Rules of Origin who can provide guidance and train on the subject at national level to Customs officials and relevant Stakeholders.
During his opening address, Mr Sudamo Lall, Director General of the Mauritius Revenue Authority, laid emphasis on the critical importance of the ‘Rules of Origin’ as it has ‘great impact on the duties to be collected, as businesses increasingly locate the different stages of their activities in a way that optimizes their value-addition chain’. On the other hand Mr James Lenaghan Director Customs mentioned that ‘the Rules of Origin in any Free Trade Area are of prime importance as they serve to determine which goods can benefit from preferential tariffs. This enables member states of a particular Free Trade Area to benefit from the tariffs advantages inherent to the Protocol of trade agreed within that Free Trade Area. Since Customs is the controlling agency for preferential origin, it is vital that our officers are trained to correctly apply the SADC Rules of Origin’.
During their short visit at the training workshop, the Executive Secretary ,Dr Stergomena Tax and the WCO Secretary General, Mr Kunio Mukiriya addressed the group on the importance of rules of origin as the basis for regional integration. Dr. Tax also urged the participants from all SADC Member States to cascade the knowledge gained at the Centre to their respective countries.
The SADC Customs Training of Trainers programme is being implemented in collaboration with the World Customs Organization (WCO), the Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB), the WCO Regional Training Centres and GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ). Source: SADC Secretariat
Participants in the Customs Training of Trainers Programme at SARS Academy, Pretoria, South Africa (Picture: SADC)
The SADC Customs Training of Trainers Programme 2013-2015 was initiated recently from 26-30 August 2013 on ‘Communication and Facilitation Skills’ at the South African Revenue Service (SARS) Academy, Pretoria, South Africa. The objective of the training was to give the trainers the necessary skills and expertise to teach Customs officials and stakeholders in an effective and professional way. The training was attended by forty (40) participants from 14 SADC Member States.
The SADC Customs Training of Trainers Programme 2013-2015 was approved by the Sub Committee on Customs Cooperation (SCCC) in May 2013. The main objective of the programme is to provide technical and professional support to the implementation of the SADC Protocol on Trade, particularly in view of the contribution of Customs Administrations to the successful implementation and consolidation of the SADC FTA. It is therefore meant to support implementation of agreed instruments and programmes under the SADC Protocol on Trade.
The programme is being in collaboration with the World Customs Organization (WCO), the Regional Office for Capacity Building (ROCB),the Regional Training Centres and GIZ. The first Customs technical training under this programme will be on the SADC Rules of Origin in November 2013 with the objective to establish a poll of trainers on the subject in the region. Source: SADC Secretariat
The European Commission adopted a regulation revising rules of origin for products imported under the generalised system of preferences (GSP). This regulation relaxes and simplifies rules and procedures for developing countries wishing to access the EU’s preferential trade arrangements, while ensuring the necessary controls are in place to prevent fraud.
The Regulation adopted by the Commission today will considerably simplify the rules of origin so that they are easier for developing countries to understand and to comply with. The new rules take into account the specificities of different sectors of production and particular processing requirements, amongst other things. In addition, special provisions are included for Least Developed Countries (LDCs) which would allow them to claim origin for many more goods which are processed in their territories, even if the primary materials do not originate there. For instance, an operator in Zambia that produces and exports plastics to the EU will benefit from the new rules of origin, because even with up to 70% of foreign input the exported plastics can still be considered as originating from Zambia. These new rules should greatly benefit the industries and economies of the world’s poorest countries.
The proposal also puts forward a new procedure for demonstrating proof of origin, which places more responsibility on the operators. From 2017, the current system of certification of origin carried out by the third country authorities will be replaced by statements of origin made out directly by exporters registered via an electronic system. This will allow the authorities of the exporting country to re-focus their resources on better controls against fraud and abuse, while reducing red-tape for businesses. The new rules of origin will apply from 1 January 2011.
For more information on the new proposal please check: http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/index_en.htm