WCO 60 th Harmonised System Committee (HSC) session: classification decisions released

28.02.2018

Legal update No 633

Goltsblat BLP advises that, on 1 February 2018, the World Customs Organization (WCO) Harmonized System Committee published decisions taken at its 60th Session (September – October 2017) on classifying certain goods under the Harmonized System (the “classification decisions”).

The classification decisions include 45 Classification Rulings and 18 amendments to the HS Explanatory Notes, as well as 21 Classification Opinions reflecting the HSC Classification Rulings from its 59th Session.

The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System (the “Harmonized System”) is the international basis for the EEU Commodity Classification for Foreign Trade (“EEU CCFT”). All EEU member states are party to the International Convention on the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System of 14 June 1983 (the “Convention”).

The published classification decisions will facilitate unified interpretation and application of the Harmonized System.

Among the documents released, the Classification Rulings are of particular interest, being brand-new decisions on specific products, in particular:

  • Electronics (colour monitors capable of directly connecting to an ADP machine; interactive whiteboard (Smart Board));
  • Food products (seasonings, flavourings, quinoa, fish oil and products based thereon, ready meals for reheating, various roasted seaweed, mussels, powder of konjac tuber);
  • Tobacco products (tobacco capsules);
  • Silica fume;
  • Organic chemical compounds (certain pharmaceutical substances under international non-patented names, nicotinic acid (“niacin”), nicotinamide);
  • Cosmetics (face cleansing/moisturising product and skin cleansing/exfoliator product);
  • Base metals (manganese‐aluminium and chromium-aluminium powders);
  • Various machines and electrical equipment (horizontal laminar flow clean bench, thin-film solar module, vegetable cutters, packaged insulated gate bipolar transistor (IGBT), parts of flanged tapered roller bearings);
  • Measuring equipment (IC checking instrument);
  • Sports gear and educational toys (stand-up paddle board, kayak paddles, modelling compound sets);
  • Various domestic goods (shower unit components, smartphone covers, footwear).

The full texts of the classification decisions in English are available on the WCO website at http://www.wcoomd.org/en/topics/nomenclature/instrument-and-tools/tools-to-assist-with-the-classification-in-the-hs/hs_classification-decisions/classification-decisions.aspx.

The HSC’s classification decisions are soft law instruments: they provide rules (recommendations) on how to classify specific goods but are not legally binding on the states party to the Convention. This is reflected in law-enforcement practice in Russia and the EEU, which holds that customs authorities may not unreasonably refuse to take HSC classification decisions into account, while such decisions themselves are required for upholding the legal certainty principle in goods classification.

The states party to the Convention may notify the WCO if they are unable to apply an HSC classification decision. The WCO recommends that such notification should include the specific reason for non-application and be given to the WCO Secretariat within twelve months of such a decision being deemed approved by the WCO.

As of the date of this legal update, we are not aware of Russia having given any notifications that it cannot apply any of the classification decisions taken at the HSC’s 60th Session and approved by the WCO.

These decisions may have significant implications for importers into Russia, who might, in particular, refer to them to support tariff classification of goods during their customs clearance or later, when challenging customs’ actions or decisions. They might also be cited to justify the need to re-classify already imported goods, for example if the previously declared CCFT code provided for a higher import tariff rate. Even so, the customs authorities, too, may reclassify previously imported goods and charge additional customs payments, or withdraw any previously issued BTI decisions, if the previous classification is not in line with the classification decisions’ approach.

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