This is a 6-digit standardised numerical method of classifying traded products.  HS numbers are used by customs authorities around the world to identify products for several reasons including:

  • Applying duties and taxes
  • Import and export admissibility
  • Whether or not the good should be physically examined.

The first 6 digits of the Harmonized System code indicate the same product description for all 190 countries that are part of the World Customs Organization*.

However, this does not mean that custom duty rates are the same in all of these countries.  There are over 5,000 groups of 6 digit codes.  Some governments choose to additional digits to the HS code to further distinguish products in certain categories.  The HS code is also used to establish the basic rules of various trade agreements such as NAFTA.  The World Customs Organization is an independent, intergovernmental organisation based in Brussels, Belgium.

There are occasions, whereby certain goods may be restricted from export, or prohibited, meaning they will not be exported under any circumstance.

Here's a list of the types of products that are prohibited or restricted on exportation:

  • Agricultural and Food Products
  • Cultural Artifacts
  • Drugs
  • Weapons
  • Counterfeit or Pirated Goods
  • Indecent Articles, Publications, Video Recordings
  • Endangered species of flora and fauna

Before making your first shipment to any country, the following factors must be critically assessed:

  • Demographics of the country including the distribution of population age and income
  • Per capita income, rate of economic growth, and stages of economic development
  • Political stability, rule of law, regulations, ease of doing business
  • Culture and business practices
  • Market entry, taxes, duties, import licenses, and inspection
  • Infrastructure, ease of moving products, communication, roads, ports, and airports