Guide for export of goods
Does your company plan to export goods outside the EU? This section helps you understand if your company is ready for exporting and outlines the different steps of the export process.
5 Steps towards Exporting a Product
Before you get started - Is your company ready to trade?
Are you planning to export a product for the first time?
Before doing so, check whether your company is ready:
- Is your product already successful on your domestic market or in other EU countries?
- Does your company have the capacity to sell the product in foreign markets outside the EU? Does it have sufficient staff, time, financial and legal resources?
- Is your company’s management committed to expanding to export markets outside the EU?
- Does your company have a comprehensive financial/marketing/business plan with clearly defined goals in support of exporting to markets outside the EU?
- Does your company have a concrete strategy for how to export the product to your export market? For example, you may export your product directly to your buyer in your export market, such as another company or a consumer, or indirectly by employing a third party, such as an agent or distributor. Both direct and indirect export may also be supported by e-commerce platforms.
- If applicable, is the intellectual property related to your product protected in your export market?
- Does your company have the capacity and expertise to adapt its product to cultural preferences or different technical standards in countries outside the EU?
Before you continue, consider the questions above carefully and discuss them within your company to decide whether you are ready to trade with non-EU countries, or which steps you need to take to prepare yourself to do so.
Find a market and a buyer
To export goods outside the EU, you should first identify a market and find a buyer for your product. The information offered under My Trade Assistantwill support you in identifying suitable markets for your product. It will also help you to determine the requirements for you buyer, such as registration or licencing requirements to deal in specific goods or participate in a certain sphere of the economy. As your buyer will usually be the importer and assume responsibility for the introduction of your product into the destination country and on its market, its qualification for this role is of crucial importance.
The following institutions or operators may be of help in the identification of export market opportunities and the finding of qualified buyers.
- Chambers of commerce can give you information about different markets and business partners, and direct you to relevant reports.
- Trade-specific news providers or trade promotion agencies in your country or in your selected export market that cover market analysis and assessment of business opportunities can be of help. These bodies often provide studies on key export sectors.
- Export consultants and relevant banks can also provide advice.
How to select your target markets?
Screen potential export markets to assess whether there is demand for your product and consider if your product would be competitive on the export market.
Check the trade statistics of your potential target market.
Import statistics can show if your target country is already importing your type of product, where the imports come from and if there is already a high supply in the market. Low figures may show an opportunity but also unveil market access obstacles or even barriers, which you may check with My Trade Assistant.
How to find potential buyers?
Once you have selected one or more target markets, the next step is to identify potential trade partners and business contacts.
You can find partners and contacts at:
- trade fairs specifically organised for buyers and sellers to meet. For example, the Enterprise Europe Network organises regular matchmaking events for specific sectors in which also companies from non-EU countries participate.
- events or help provided by chambers of commerce to establish contacts between potential business partners.
Such events are increasingly offered online and it maybe expedient to look into corresponding options.
In contrast to domestic transactions, the qualification of the buyer for the import transaction and the actual utilisation or marketing of your product in the country of destination needs to be carefully checked.
You may also check if you are allowed to sell to the government in your potential export market.
Check the export conditions in the EU and import requirements in your target market
To export your product outside of the EU you must fulfil certain basic requirements.
How can you export?
There are different ways in which you can export a product.
- For example, you can export directly to a buyer in your export market. This can be another company or a consumer.
- Alternatively, especially very small companies often export indirectly via e-commerce platforms.
Who can export?
- You normally need to be established in the EU as a company or permanent business establishment. This includes getting registered for VAT purposes.
- Generally, you also need to register with the national commercial register. For more information, check with your local chamber of commerce.
- If you are a non-EU resident, you need to have a work permit to carry out an independent commercial activity; furthermore, you need to find a person established in the EU who is willing to act on your behalf as exporter (e.g. a logistics service provider or customs agent).
How to register as an exporter?
As an EU exporter you need to apply at the competent customs administration for a so-called Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number.
The EORI is an identification number that is valid throughout the EU, which you need for all customs export declarations.
Tip: This process can take some time so apply well ahead.
Preferential Trade Agreements:
If you want to export to a country the EU has a preferential trade agreement with and benefit from lower tariffs, you may also need to apply for the status of an Authorised Exporter (EA) or, depending on the agreement, to apply to become a Registered Exporter (REX). The EA is applied at and the REX through your national customs administration.
As an authorised you may make out ‘origin declarations’, as a registered exporter ‘statements on origin’ also beyond the value thresholds for shipments as defined in the relevant agreement. These declarations or statements state that the products to be exported comply with the rules of origin set out in a given trade agreement.
If you often export and have knowledgeable staff and a reliable organisation of the customs processes, you may apply for simplified customs declarations as foreseen in the Union Customs Code (UCC). In this connection, more experienced traders may also consider the status of an Authorised Economic Operator (AEO).
Is the export of your product restricted in the EU?
Export of specific goods or exports of a product to a certain country of destination may be prohibited or restricted. You might need a licence or authorisation.
- Check in the TARIC to see if you need an export licence for your product;
- Check export restrictions on the EU Sanctions Map.
- For certain products there may exceptionally be national restrictions of your Member State which you should check with its competent authorities.
The main types of products that are restricted or prohibited are:
- some live animals, meat and plants.
- endangered species
- certain food products
- dangerous chemicals
- drugs and medicines
- dual-use goods
- cultural goods (valuable antiques and works of art)
- counterfeit or pirated goods
- indecent articles, publications and video recordings
For such products check which rules apply.
Are there any restrictions in your export market?
You also need to ensure that the country you wish to export to does not apply any prohibitions or restrictions on your product that prohibit it from entering the country or being put on its market. Although your buyer will usually assume responsibility for the import as well as the utilisation or marketing of your product, for successful and sustainable transactions you should be aware of import prohibitions as well as import restrictions in the import country.
For a comprehensive description of restrictions in various countries of destination, visit My Trade Assistant.
Further, you may find general explanations of different types of restrictions in the Goods section.
Which tariffs apply to your product?
It depends on your agreement and contract with the buyer, but in most cases it is advisable to leave the import clearance to the buyer who then pays the customs duties as well as the taxes and additional duties that become due at importation. Bear in mind that the latter will add to the price of your product on your export market. This so-called landed cost should still be competitive.
What is an import tariff?
Can my company benefit from a preferential Trade Agreement between the EU and the country of destination?
If the EU has a preferential trade agreement with the country of destination tariffs your product may be reduced or even completely eliminated. These customs duties are called preferential tariff rates.
However, these preferential tariff rates are conditional on your product being produced in the territory of the preferential trade agreement partners and in line with the rules of origin of this agreement.
If this is the case and you would like to present a proof a preferential origin to allow for the application of the preferential rate you will have to comply with the rules of origin.
To this end, you will need appropriate proofs for the originating status of materials sourced from third parties. Within the EU this is effected by so-called supplier declarations you will need to collect for this purpose.
To find out about the specific rules in place for your product and the country of destination you may consult My Trade Assistant.
EU Trade Agreements:
- provide a more stable and predictable set of rules for you when you trade with foreign markets.
- ensure that the non-EU country’s laws do not discriminate against EU products.
- create new and better export opportunities for your company and make it easier to invest abroad.
Do any trade defence measures apply to your product?
Trade defence measures could be applied to your product by the country of import. Such measures may represent a significant cost to be taken into consideration in planning your export. The most relevant are antidumping measures, but there may be also countervailing or safeguard measures. Although your buyer as per the contractual agreement will usually act as the importer and bear such additional costs, these can be an obstacle for successful and sustainable transactions.
Related measures, as the case may be, applied by a specific country of import, are reflected in My Trade Assistant.
What are the relevant taxes and additional duties in your export market?
Also check which taxes and, as the case may be, additional duties must be paid upon importation of your product. The taxes and additional duties becoming due at importation in various destination countries may also be consulted in My Trade Assistant.
These will usually be borne by the buyer in its role at the importer, but will add to the landed cost and thus the competiveness of your product on the export market. Concerning the latter, consider alignment with your importer.
When selling directly to consumers, investigate whether you need register with the tax authorities of your export market.
What are the health, safety and technical requirements for your product?
The requirements will depend on your export market. Compliance with them usually falls into the responsibility of your buyer as the importer, who however will need your assistance to prove this compliance. As this is determined by the contractual agreement, you should be careful to only assume responsibility for requirements you may fulfil in your role of the exporter. Alignment with the importer is not only advisable but usually necessary. The information in My Trade Assistantwill help you to differentiate objective requirements from individual interests of your buyer.
The requirements will depend on your export market.
You may have to present certificates proving that your product complies with the country’s health and safety requirements. These may be different from those in the EU.
Most products have to comply with technical or health and hygiene requirements (often referred to as sanitary and phytosanitary requirements) in your export market. These may require different types of testing and certification.
This is often the case for technical requirements for industrial products, as well as for health and hygiene requirements for food and agricultural products.
Most countries require health certificates for:
- live animals
- animal products
- genetic materials
Medical devices, for instance, also usually have to be accompanied by a certificate.
How to certify your product?
You should check in the Procedures and Formalities section of My Trade Assistant and, as the case may be, subsequently clarify with your customer the following:
- Which are the certification requirements in your export market.
- Which certificates are accepted by the competent authorities.
- Whether the testing can be carried out by an accredited laboratory or institution in the EU
- or whether the certification must be carried out in the country of destination.
What are the packaging and labelling requirements for your product?
Countries often have detailed requirements for the packaging and labelling of products.
These requirements can be mandatory or voluntary.
- Mandatory marks and labels on consumer products and their packaging are usually related to public safety, health and/or environmental concerns. They can provide information such as the ingredients or the ‘use by’ date.
Usually there are different agencies responsible for different industries, e.g. the medical, electrical, food, and chemical industry, which all have very different requirements.
For an overview of the related requirements applied by a specific country of import, have a look into the Procedures and Formalities section of My Trade Assistant.
Does your product need protection of intellectual property?
It is important you check how your product’s intellectual property is protected in the country you want to export to.
- Check if you need to apply for new patents or how your design, copyright or geographical indication is protected in your export market
If the EU has a trade agreement with the country you want to export to, the agreement may give extra protection.
Prepare the sale and organise the transport
How are the liabilities shared between you and your buyer?
As already mentioned above the responsibility of the parties to an export/import transaction is laid down in the contractual agreement. Unless there are special reasons the responsibility for import, usability or marketing of your product should be assumed by the buyer as the importer. Only experienced traders should deviate from this rule. Depending on the legal regulations in the country of import you may not be in the position to comply with certain requirements there, so that those should remain with the buyer.
You can use Incoterms® to define the contractual liabilities of the parties.
Incoterms® set out the responsibilities of sellers and buyers for the delivery, insurance and transport of goods under sales contracts and determine who is responsible for the customs export formalities in the EU and the import formalities in the country of destination.
Your customer is responsible for the cost of:
- transport from the port of shipment onwards
- transportation from the arrival port to the final destination.
- ‘Cost, Insurance and Freight’ (CIF)means the exporter is responsible for the local costs under FOB, plus:
It should be borne in mind that the Incoterm® EXW may not change your responsibility as the exporter towards the authorities in your country whilst DDP entails the risk to assume responsibilities in the country of import which cannot be fulfilled by the exporter.
Who can help you in the export and transport process?
A forwarding agent can help with
- arranging the collection and delivery of your goods
- negotiating freight rates with carriers
- booking cargo space
- preparing customs documents on your behalf
Look for export finance and export support programmes which governments often provide in cooperation with banks or insurance companies.
- Consider export insurance which is offered by either private parties or national export-import finance institutions.
Prepare the documents for export clearance in the EU
The documents prepared for export at least partly also serve for import in the country of destination. Thus, their preparation should take into account corresponding requirements and, as the case may be, should be aligned with your buyer as the importer.
Which documents to prepare for customs?
You must first submit an electronic export declaration at your national customs authority.
Each EU country has its own electronic processing system. For small consignments of a value below 1,000 EUR an oral declaration supported by a transport document or an invoice may suffice.
The export declaration provides the necessary information about the goods themselves and the transport. It includes:
- origin of the goods,
- destination country,
- commodity codes,
- customs procedure codes, and
- value of the goods.
Documents you need to prepare include:
- Invoice and transport documents and a packing list: You must keep all documents for at least three years in case of any checks after export clearance (national commercial and fiscal legislation often provides for longer periods).
- VAT and export records: When you export outside of the EU, your product is exempted from value-added tax (VAT) in the EU, independently of whether you are selling to a business or an individual consumer, providing that you keep records of the export and the proof of export issued by the customs authority.
- Certificates or licences: such as phytosanitary certificates or export licences for export purposes may be needed as well.
Who files the customs declaration?
You can file the customs declaration yourself or it can be done by a service supplier who is your customs representative. If you employ a forwarding company or customs broker they can act on your behalf.
How to present the export declaration and the goods for export?
The export procedure has two stages:
- the lodging of the export declaration and the the presentation of the goods at the customs office of export, and
- the presentation of the goods and the indication of the Master Reference Number (MRN) of the export declaration at the customs office of exit, followed by a release for exit.
The export declaration is presented using the electronic system of your customs authority.
In general, you need to lodge your export declaration at the customs office responsible for the place where your company is established or, as the case may be, the customs office where your goods are packed or loaded for export shipment out of the EU.
If the value of the goods in one export consignment does not exceed EUR 3,000 and the goods are not subject to prohibitions or restrictions, the export declaration may be lodged with the customs office at the place of exit.
Keep in mind that an export declaration needs to be lodged in advance of the actual moment when the goods will be leaving the EU. Allow enough time for the customs office of export to carry out necessary risk analyses before they grant the release of thegoods.
What happens after the submission of your export declaration?
There are three possible cases:
- Your goods may be released for export based on your submitted export declaration, or
- Your goods may be selected for a document check and you may be asked to submit further documents before your goods can be cleared, or
- Your export might be selected for a document as well as physical check.
For more regular exports simplified customs declarations as foreseen in the Union Customs Code (UCC) should be considered.
For further details, please see:
Prepare the documents for import customs clearance in the country of destination.
When your goods reach the country of destination, the local import requirements and processes will apply to your exports. Use My Trade Assistant to establish those requirements and to be in the position to align on them with your buyer.
- Sometimes pre-arrival processing is possible, meaning you can submit the relevant documents prior to the goods’ arrival in the country you are exporting to.
- You have to agree with the buyer which documents need to be prepared by the exporter and which by the buyer, who as the importer usually is in charge of customs clearance and the customs duties as well as taxes and additional duties. The roles and responsibilities of exporter and importer are defined by the contractual agreement which should be carefully negotiated in this respect.
Documents the competent authorities in the country of destination may require
- Commercial invoice (with specific requirements regarding its form and content).
- Packing list
- Import licences (automatic or non-automatic) for certain goods.
- Certificates showing your product complies with mandatory product regulations, such as health and safety requirements, labelling and packaging.
- Proof of preferential origin (i.e. EUR.1, EUR-MED, Origin Declaration or Statement on Origin), provided there is a preferential Trade Agreement applied between the EU and the destination country and your products fulfil the relevant rules of origin.
- Certificate of origin proving the non-preferential origin of your product:
- A certificate of (non-preferential) origin may be required in case of import restrictions towards (certain) products from specific countries, the application of trade defence measures or monitoring of dedicated imports. However, also the importer may request such certificate for his purposes.
- Certificates of origin are usually issued by your local chamber of commerce. In some countries, this responsibility may also be assigned to ministries or customs authorities.
Where can you find more information?
- Access2Markets and particularly in My Trade Assistant
- Chambers of commerce
- Enterprise Europe Network
- Export consultants and banks
- Ministries or regulatory bodies in your target country
- Comprehensive guide on selected trade agreements
- Background information on economic relations for your targeted country
- Information on ongoing negotiations for trade agreements with non-EU countries
Your Checklist: 5 Steps To Export a Product
Before you begin
- Consult the checklist of questions for assessing the export readiness of your company.
- Discuss and decide whether your company is ready to trade with non-EU countries, or which steps need to be taken in preparation for future trading activities outside of the EU.
Step 1: Find a market and a buyer
- Select your new export market.
- Assess business potential and how competitive your product is.
- Include export related costs in price calculations such as tariffs, transport costs, cost for agents, etc.
- Identify potential buyers.
- Identify an agency/institution/partner for support on the formalities of the export processes. For instance to prepare contracts, to establish payment conditions, to check the credit-worthiness of buyer and if there are any money transfer restrictions in the country of import.
- Carefully define and share the responsibilities between the seller/exporter and buyer/importer, so that only those are assumed which indeed can be fulfilled.
Step 2: Check the export conditions in the EU and assess requirements in your export market
- Identify the legal requirements for an export business.
- Obtain an Economic Operators' Registration and Identification (EORI) number (apply well in advance).
- If the EU has a trade agreement with the country you want to export to, check the regular and preferential duties to establish the preferential margin. As the case may be, assess if your product complies with relevant rules of origin and identify the applicable (preferential) tariff rate.
- Apply for the authorisation of an Authorised Exporter or register with the REX system, if you want to export to a country the EU has a trade agreement with and you want to claim preferential tariffs.
- Assess if any export restrictions or prohibitions apply in the EU for exports to your target country or for exports of your product.
- Investigate which taxes and additional duties apply in your export market.
- Check whether any potential trade-defence measures may apply to your product.
- Verify if you have to get a tax number to sell your product in your export market (if you are selling directly to consumers).
- Identify the applicable health, safety and technical requirements in your export market.
- Assess the certification process and documentation required in the country of destination (including checking the laboratories needed for the tests and certifications).
- Check packaging and labelling rules in the export market.
- Check if you need to protect the intellectual property for your product in the export market.
Step 3: Prepare the sale and organise the transport
- Prepare and sign the contract with the buyer, including an agreement on who is liable for what and the organisation of the transport process.
- Consider export insurance
- Identify institutions which can help you organise the export process and possible export support programmes (if required).
Step 4: Prepare the documents for export clearance in the EU
- Complete and submit the export declaration.
- Identify any additional documents that may be required and plan for the possibility that customs authorities require further documentation or carry out physical checks.
- Present your goods for export at the customs offices for export and exit.
Step 5: Prepare the documents for import customs clearance in the country of destination
- Coordinate with your buyer which documents are required by the competent authorities in the country of destination.
Agree with the buyer on who is responsible for providing which documents and who is in charge of the import clearance and pays the customs duties as well as taxes and additional duties. Only assume responsibilities you are able to fulfil.