WCO’s Harmonized System is 30 years old

WCO’s Harmonized System is 30 years old

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2018 marks the 30th anniversary of the Harmonized System (HS), which came into effect on January 1, 1988.

A multipurpose nomenclature for trade, the HS is one of the most successful instruments developed by the World Customs Organization (WCO). 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.

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. WCO is now in the 6th edition of the HS and in the process of preparing 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 January 1, 2018, members would have worked through the 60 HSC meetings, 53 meetings of the Review Sub-Committee and 32 meetings of the Scientific Sub-Committee to maintain and update the HS to keep it responsive and relevant to current needs. – WCO

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