On 29 December, 2016, the Customs and Excise Department announced that the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (the “Convention”) shall apply to the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region starting from 1 January, 2017.

The purpose of the Convention is to facilitate trade and information exchange by standardizing the description, classification and coding of goods in international trade through the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System. This harmonized system was developed by the World Customs Organization, which is an independent intergovernmental body that aims to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of customs administration. To ensure harmonization, parties to the Convention agree to base their national tariff schedules on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System.

Although Hong Kong is newly party to the Convention, it should be noted that the application of the Convention to Hong Kong does not require any change in Hong Kong’s current legislation, trade declaration policy and practice. This is because Hong Kong has adopted the harmonized system since 1992. 

Under Hong Kong’s Import and Export (Registration) Regulations, those who import or export articles are required to declare any imports or exports (excluding exempted articles) to the Commissioner of Customs and Excise within 14 days after the date of importation or exportation. When completing the declaration, importers and exporters are required to use the commodity code published in the Hong Kong Imports and Exports Classification List, which is the same as the harmonized system referred to in the Convention.

There are currently 154 contracting parties to the Convention, and more than 200 countries and economies use the harmonized system. This effectively covers over 98% of the merchandise in international trade.