Combined nomenclature

What exactly is the Combined Nomenclature (CN)?

The Combined Nomenclature – laid down in the CN Regulation (2658/87) – is the EU's system for classifying traded goods. It comprises:

What is the difference between CN and HS?

  • The global harmonised system (HS) is the common international system for classifying goods – used for international trade negotiations for example, and applied by most trading nations. Run by the World Customs Organization, it uses 6-digits and is used worldwide.
  • The EU's combined nomenclature (CN) is based on the HD but uses 8–digit codes for a more detailed categorisation – which helps us to give you clear, detailed information on your product. The search form requires a 10-digit CN code. If need be, just add an extra two zeros to the 8-digit code.

How can I find the code (CN) for my product?

If you can't find your product using "Find my product code" in the search form of the homepage you can contact the customs authorities of the importing country.

We will do our best to give you an accurate code for your product based on the information you provide, but we cannot guarantee it is correct. Our answer is for guidance only, and is not to be relied on for legal purposes.

For more definite information, ask for binding tariff information (BTI) in the country of importation.

How do I get binding tariff information (BTI)?

To find out for sure what EU regulations and tariffs apply to your export product, ask the customs office in the EU country you want to export to for binding tariff information (BTI)

What if my question is not answered here?

You can:

Requirements & taxes

Which requirements can I find on the Trade Helpdesk Website?

The EU Trade Helpdesk covers all the mandatory EU legislation your product needs to fulfil for customs clearance and/or placing on the EU market. In addition it covers the EU rules for the organic production of agricultural products and the rules for the European "Eco-label".

Where can I find the product requirements for the EU market?

Look at the main menu of the Trade Helpdesk and browse the section "requirements". The website explains the EU requirements by policy area (see drop down menu on the left) and lists all requirements by product groups (see drop down menu on the right).

Where can I find a tailored list of EU requirements applying to my product?

The Trade Helpdesk provides a tailored list of the EU requirements applying to your product once you fill in the search form at the top of the homepage. Fill in the "exporting", the "importing country" and the product code and launch your search. The results will include a tailored list of EU requirements.

Does the EU Trade Helpdesk include requirements that an individual EU country might have in place for specific products or product groups?

Yes and no. In principle the EU Trade Helpdesk covers all mandatory EU legislation that applies to products imported and/or circulating on the EU market. However, wherever an EU country has additional provisions in place, e.g. for the implementing of EU legislation, you can find a reference to the basic legal acts in the documents that explain the EU requirement.

Can I find information on "technical standards" on the Trade Helpdesk?

Yes and no.

"Standard" is a broad term and may be used either as "voluntary specifications" or as "mandatory requirements".  In the field of technical products, “standard” implies a voluntary technical or quality specification defined by industry and other market actors.  

The EU has defined so-called "harmonised standards" to facilitate market access. They provide a presumption of conformity with a Directive's or Regulation’s essential requirements which are mandatory and hence they demonstrate that products, services, or processes comply with the applicable EU legislation.

All mandatory technical standards are included in the EU Trade Helpdesk. You can find information on voluntary standards and other similar initiatives on the "Standards Map" site of the International Trade Center.

Does the Trade Helpdesk include market information for the EU, e.g. on market research or trends?

No. The EU Trade Helpdesk covers all mandatory EU legislation your product needs to fulfil for customs clearance and/or placing on the EU market. In addition it covers the EU rules for the organic production of agricultural products and the rules for the European "Eco-label".

You can find useful information on sector specific market trends and other sector related information on the website of the Centre of the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI).

Where do the authorities carry out checks to ensure my goods meet health, safety and labelling requirements?

Inspections can be done at any stage in the trade process. Please consult the requirements section for information on inspections/checks for specific products.

Does food exported to the EU have to come from an EU-authorised establishment?

For food of animal origin – yes, in most cases. See the list of approved establishments.

For food of non-animal origin – not necessarily. In many cases, the exporting business must simply be known to the importer and accepted as a supplier of food into the EU.

For food containing plants or plant products covered by EU plant-health rules – no, but exporters must obtain a phytosanitary certificate issued by the national authorities in their country.

How can I get approval to export fish to the EU?

  • First, your country has to be approved to export fishery products to the EU. You can find a list of countries and the procedure on the Trade Helpdesk website.
  • Second, your processing plant or factory vessel needs an approval to export to the EU. See the approved establishments list.
  • Third, there are specific labelling rules for fishery products.

Are excise duties applied at EU or at national level?

At national level. We do provide all the details on the Trade Helpdesk website. Country specific information will be displayed with your country- and product-specific search.

All EU countries apply excise duties on: alcoholic beverages, manufactured tobacco products and energy products (motor fuels and heating fuels, such as petrol and gasoline, electricity, natural gas, coal and coke).

Import duties

When the tariff refers to weight, is it gross weight or net weight?

Unless stated otherwise, the tariff refers to the net weight – the weight of the goods themselves without packaging or containers of any kind.

How can I find the import duty that applies to my product?

Use the search form on the Trade Helpdesk homepage.

If I want to sell my product in several EU countries, are there import duties to pay each time my product enters a different country?

No. The EU is a customs union, so you only pay duties once, when your product first enters the EU customs territory.

Can I get a list of products charged a 0% import duty?

No, on this site you have to search on a specific product.

How is VAT charged? Say I want to sell my product in France but when I send it to Europe, it first arrives in the Netherlands. Do I pay French or Dutch VAT?

VAT is paid in the country where the product is sold. Import duties, on the other hand, are paid when your products enter the EU customs territory. So, in the example above, import duties will be paid in the Netherlands, but VAT will be due in France.

Preferential arrangements and their rules of origin

Where can I find information on the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP)?

The Commission's Directorate-General for Trade provides information on the GSP.

What if my country is eligible for more than one preferential regime?

You may choose the arrangement most beneficial for you. But check the individual rules of origin carefully to make sure your product qualifies.

What if I am unsure about the origin of my product?

First, consult the rules of origin check-list.

If you still have doubts, ask your national customs authority.

If you want to be absolutely certain, apply for a binding origin information decision (BOI) from the relevant authority in an EU country. Once issued, BOIs are binding for the customs authorities in all EU countries. Note that you will still be required to provide proof of origin.


Can I find all international trade flows on the Trade Helpdesk?

No. The EU Trade Helpdesk provides the trade flows in goods between any non-EU country and the EU as a whole or each of the EU countries. Trade flows are available from 2003 onwards and are expressed in value and in quantity. See also "tips on EU statistics".

For all international trade flows you may consult the Trade Map of the International Trade Center.

How do I consult EU trade statistics per month?

For monthly trade flows statistics please go to the Comext database of the Statistical Office of the European Union. Figures are available from January 1988 onwards.

In Comext, you have free access to detailed monthly statistics on trade in goods between EU countries (intra-EU trade) and between EU and non-EU countries. See also the "User support" section of Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the EU.

I cannot find trade statistics for my product. What do I do?

If your search results do not deliver trade figures in the tab "statistics" it could be that they are not available for your specific product but rather for a product group. In this case you could go to the "statistics" section of the website and do a separate search. Browse the classification tree and check the product groups.

The figures in the EU statistics differ compared with the figures in my own country. Why is that?

The Statistical Office of the EU (Eurostat) collects the import figures reported by each EU country. Your country has the figures available for the goods exported from your country. For various reasons goods might not have arrived in the EU country they were destined for, e.g. they might have been damaged on the way or the final destination could have changed. Other reasons can be that certain EU countries have not yet submitted intermediate figures to Eurostat, the periods of reference are not the same (export figures might be from December of year N, import figures from January of year N+1) or variations in currency exchange rates. In our experience the value of imports can be 3 to 10% less than exports declared by a partner country.