This topic involves empowering you to search and find the customs and certifications necessary to import/export goods to/from your country. There is an incredible amount of information available and the focus of this topic provides a starting point for diligent research.
Customs governs the import of goods (not the import of fees, covered in step 12). This section prepares you to find the answers to the following questions: Will customs clear my goods through my home port? Is it legal to sell the goods in my country? What markings or certifications are required to comply with the law in my country?
Customs is an authority or agency in a country responsible for collecting customs duties and for controlling the flow of people, animals, and goods (including personal effects and hazardous items) in and out of the country.
Depending on local legislation and regulations, the import or export of some goods may be restricted or forbidden, and the customs agency enforces these rules. The customs agency may be different from the immigration authority, which monitors people who leave or enter the country, checking for appropriate documentation, apprehending people wanted by international search warrants, and impeding the entry of others deemed dangerous to the country.
The international standard for customs is governed by the World Customs Organization (WCO). Established in 1952, the WCO has the primary objective of assisting its 169 member countries in developing communication and cooperation on customs issues. The WCO also develops rules on customs procedures and provides advice and assistance to customs services.
The WCO has developed the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (HS), a tariff nomenclature that is an internationally standardized system of names and numbers for classifying traded products. The HS is a six-digit nomenclature, and individual countries have extended it to ten digits for customs purposes and to eight digits for export purposes.
The HS system is a basis for:
- Customs tariffs
- Collection of international trade statistics
- Rules of origin
- Collection of internal taxes
- Trade negotiations
- Transport tariffs and statistics
- Monitoring of controlled goods (wastes, narcotics, chemical weapons, ozone depleting substances, endangered species)
As you can see, the information regarding customs covers many subjects and many countries. It would be near impossible to list all the information necessary for each particular case here. However, you can find most of the information you need regarding customs by using the following links:
- http://www.wcoomd.org/ie/index.html (World Customs Organization)
- http://www.hscodes.com (Harmonized Coding System)
In addition to HS, the European community uses the TARIC which is designed to show the various rules applying to specific products when imported in the EU, shown here:
Marking and Country of Origin on US Imports
Every article of foreign origin entering the US must be legibly marked with the English name of the country of origin unless an exception from marking is provided for in the law. More about Marking/Country of Origin (US) here:
This section involves the governing of import and sale of goods by country.
International Certification and Compliance
The World Trade Organization is the only international organization that deals with the global rules of trade between nations. Its main function is to ensure that trade flows smoothly, predictably, and as freely as possible. The WTO has built a relationship with the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the world's largest developer of standards with a common goal of promoting a free and fair global trading system. More about the WTO and the ISO here:
CE Certification (European analog of UL)
If a product is sold or traded on the European market, it can be certified by the manufacturer or exporter. This process is called self-certification, meaning that if the product is in compliance with the required directives, it can be affixed with a CE mark. More about CE here: http://www.conformance.co.uk/info/basics.php
The Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS) was adopted in February 2003 by the European Union. RoHS is a directive, not a law, which took effect July 1st, 2006. This directive restricts the use of six hazardous materials in the manufacture of various types of electronic and electrical equipment. It is closely linked with the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE), which sets collection, recycling and recovery targets for electrical goods. More about RoHS here:
UL Certification: United States (US analog of CE)
Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) is an independent product safety testing and certification organization. They develop standards and test procedures for materials, components, assemblies, tools, equipment and procedures, chiefly dealing with product safety and utility. More about UL here:
The Universal Product Code
Do you plan to retail your goods? Do you need a UPC printed on each item? The most widespread use of product codes is with consumer products. A bar code is a machine readable representation of information in a visual format on a surface. More about UPC's here:
Sourcing Certified Products
Take aim before you pull the trigger
By using the links provided, you have taken the first step in saving time and money. What's the use in finding a great product, receiving beautiful samples, and negotiating a price only to find out they don't possess the certifications needed to clear customs? If you know the products you're going to source, then you should also know the customs requirements for that product.
During your first interactions with your supplier you should be aware of the certifications necessary and inquire about compliance certificates. Don't waste your time and resources looking for something that is going to get seized or destroyed by customs. With that in mind, equip yourself with knowledge and information to alleviate as many problems as possible.
Sourcing Helpers in China
An efficient way to source products in China is to engage a Chinese Helper, and they are generally familiar with UL, CE, RoHS and the like.