Local Customs Rates Prevail in Trade Dispute As WCO Releases New HS Classification for COVID-19 Supplies

New edition of the World Customs Organisation (WCO)/World Health Organisation (WHO) HS Classification List for COVID-19 Medical Supplies was released this June by WCO secretariat. This is in support of trade facilitation during the COVID-19 pandemic. The new edition contains an updated goods list and links to Member’s lists.
It will be recalled that WCO had earlier published the WCO/WHO HS Classification List for COVID-19 Medical Supplies and the WHO/WCO List of Priority Medicines, but there were requests to the secretariat of WCO to give consideration to further expansion of the COVID-19 Medical Supplies Lists.
WCO observed that the types of additional goods requested varied widely, from ambulances to body bags. While it was not possible to expand the List to cover all goods of interest, the WCO continued to evaluate the suggested addition to the List necessitating a number of updates made.
While issues of harmonization of classification practice are examined by the WCO Harmonized System Committee for international decision, at the request of members, the secretariat was looking at offering practical assistance to members in the short term.
Meanwhile, differences in classification were clearly indicated during the evaluation of the goods for inclusion. Even though all differences may not have been captured, the changes that had been effected will assist members and traders in determining where there may be a need to seek or provide clarification of local practices.
Updates in relation to classification practices are also included in the new edition. Updates are marked in the document to clearly differentiate a new item from an updated description; and then an updated classification.
A new and vital feature is the list of links to national lists of medical supplies published by WCO members. As the WCO can only provide indications of classification at the six-digit level, such national lists, where available, play a key role in providing the correct national classifications, as determined by the relevant administrations, for specific countries or regions.
Where there is a variation in classification between the indicative WCO/WHO Classification List and an official Customs classification put forward by a government, the government list takes precedence for that country.
In addition to providing domestic classifications, WCO advises that lists may also be expanded to cover more goods to meet the needs of importers of goods that are of particular importance to their country.
“This list of links is not fully exhaustive as it only contains those links of which we are aware to date,” stated the WCO secretariat, while urging members to share any links which are currently missing.
Meanwhile, in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, countries around the world have been adopting series of trade and border protection measures to try to contain the spread of the disease across borders. Such measures have had immediate and severe impacts on economic activities and caused major disruptions in supply chains.
Given that trade facilitation is a key policy tool that can help countries mitigate some of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the WCO has partnered with the WTO, UNCTAD, the CSSO, the GATF, IATA and ITC to develop a COVID-19 Trade Facilitation Repository to consolidate necessary action for seamless international trade.

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