Overview of the Harmonized System Source: World Customs Organisation (http://www.wcoomd.org)


The Harmonized System (HS) nomenclature is used as a basis for the collection of Customs duties and international trade statistics by almost all countries. Use of the HS ensures that a Customs administration produces statistics in exact accord with international classification standards. Currently 190 countries and Customs or Economic Unions (including 119 Contracting Parties to the HS Convention), representing about 98% of world trade, use the Harmonized System. It is therefore one of the most important instruments in world trade.

While today, the Harmonized System is a valuable tool to ensure proper revenue collection, the initial impetus when it was developed during the 1970s and 80s was as a trade facilitative initiative. The Harmonized System has since become the true "language of international trade".

Many studies have shown the heavy costs involved for both the public and private sectors in maintaining different product classification systems in different countries.

The HS was designed to be an international standard system to avoid such duplication, but it was recognized that it could not be eliminated entirely.
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