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Hundreds of Harmonized System Amendments Slated for 2017

Posted August 15, 2014

The World Customs Organization (WCO) last month published a list of more than 200 amendments to the current Harmonized System (HS) nomenclature, which will become effective on January 1, 2017.

The intergovernmental organization in Brussels maintains the international commodity description and coding system used by every major trading country in the world as the basis for their tariff schedules. As a vital tool for collecting statistics and monitoring trade activity on a worldwide basis, revisions are periodically made by the WCO to reflect various changes and shifting patterns in the global trade environment. HS 2017 will be the sixth version of the HS since the Convention entered into force in 1983.
The majority of the 234 recommended amendments concern various environmental and social issues and were advanced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. For example, amendments are proposed relating to fish and fishery products are aimed at further enhancing the coverage of species and product forms which need to be monitored for food security purposes, and the better management of resources.

The classification of forestry products has also been modified, in order to enhance the coverage of wood species and get a better picture of trade patterns. The modification will enable trade data on tropical wood to be identified, resulting in better statistics on the trade in tropical wood and better data on the use of non-tropical hardwoods. In addition, the amendments include new subheadings for the monitoring and control of certain bamboo and rattan products.

New subheadings have also been created for a number of hazardous chemicals controlled under the Rotterdam Convention and for certain persistent organic pollutants (POPs) controlled under the Stockholm Convention. In some cases, there is a confluence of control regimes for chemicals by both the Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions.

Advances in technology are also reflected in the amendments such as the size criteria for newsprint, light-emitting diode (LED) lamps, multi-component integrated circuits (MCOs), and hybrid, plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles.

Contracting parties to the HS have six months to formally object to the amendments.  Otherwise, it is expected the changes proposed will be reflected in upcoming versions of the Canadian and U.S. Tariff schedules on or before the January 2017 implementation date.