The World Customs Organisation releases amended versions of the Harmonised Tariff System every five years. The latest amendments have been issued and will come into effect on January 1 2012.

Many Harmonised Tariff System subheadings have been added or restructured to allow for the separate identification of different fish, crustacea, molluscs, edible vegetables, roots, fruits, nuts, cereals and other edible products. This is to enable the use of the system as the standard for classifying and coding certain goods that are important for food security and the early warning data system of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. New subheadings have also been added to enable the separate identification of specific chemicals controlled under the Rotterdam Convention, as well as ozone-depleting substances controlled under the Montreal Protocol.

Many subheadings have been deleted or consolidated to reflect changes in international trade patterns. Other amendments are largely ministerial, modifying the language in notes, headings and subheadings in either the official French or English versions to promote greater uniformity of application.

The 2012 tariff changes affect products throughout the tariff schedule, but the product categories that are most affected include:

  • fish, crustacea and molluscs in Chapters 3 and 16;
  • certain spices in Chapter 9; and
  • various inorganic and organic chemicals in Chapters 28 and 29.

Other affected products include plasma arc processes, optical media, data and graphic display tubes, cinematographic cameras, clock movements, image projectors, artillery weapons, shotguns, rifles, radio control apparatus and video game consoles.

Inadequate management of the changes may cause importers compliance risk, adversely affect duty payments and even influence eligibility for free trade agreements that use tariff shift rules of origin. Rather than risk being caught off-guard, importers should review their products to ensure that they understand which goods may be affected and are prepared to declare the correct, amended reference numbers from January 2012.

For further information on this topic please contact Eugene Lim at Baker & McKenzie's Hong Kong office by telephone (+852 2846 2413), fax (+852 2845 0476) or email (eugene.lim@bakernet.com).