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European Commission Launches New “Trade Helpdesk” Which Hong Kong Businesses Can Use for Exports to the EU

On 26 September 2017, the European Commission launched the new “Trade Helpdesk”, aimed at helping businesses looking to export their products to the EU market. The updated platform would thus be a “one-stop shop” for (e.g.) Hong Kong companies wanting to export their goods to the EU, and contains relevant information on EU regulations, customs rules and tariffs in a transparent and user-friendly format.

The information to be found on the Trade Helpdesk is divided into six main categories, being “The European Market”, “Requirements”, “Import Duties”, “Internal Taxes”, “Rules of Origin”, and “Statistics”.

The section on “The European Market” contains information on the basic rules, import procedures and documents which are needed to access the EU Customs Union. The helpdesk also provides, for each EU Member State individually, an overview of the applicable import procedures, trade regimes, import licences, and competent authorities for inspecting specific requirements.

The section on “Requirements” provides, first, an overview of the general EU legislation for all products (e.g. import restrictions, technical requirements, marketing standards, environmental requirements, sanitary and phytosanitary requirements) and, second, an overview of the requirements per product group (e.g. chemical products, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, machinery and technical products).

With regard to “Import Duties”, the helpdesk starts by explaining the EU product classification system and EU system of binding tariff information, and continues by providing information on duty relief and suspensions, quotas and anti-dumping duties. With regard to “Internal Taxes”, the helpdesk addresses value added tax (VAT) and excise duties, explaining the concept and legal basis for such internal taxes and subsequently giving an overview of the level of such taxes in each EU Member State.

The section on “Rules of Origin” provides general information on the EU rules of origin, explaining the concepts of goods wholly obtained in a non-EU country and goods sufficiently transformed in a non-EU country. Information on the concepts of minimal operations, cumulation, de minimis, duty drawback and the direct transport rules is also provided.

Moreover, the helpdesk addresses specific arrangements which contain specific rules of origin, such as the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP), Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), and Autonomous Trade Regimes.

Finally, under the section “Statistics”, exporters can check how much of their product has been imported into the EU since 2002, and from where such imports have been sourced in the past.

In addition to these six main categories, the Trade Helpdesk offers a useful and user-friendly tool to all non-EU companies wishing to export their products to the EU. By indicating which product an exporter wishes to export to the EU market, together with the country of export and the country of import, the Trade Helpdesk indicates the applicable import procedures, product requirements, rules of origin and, importantly, the amount of the applicable EU import duties and internal taxes.

While initiatives similar to the “Trade Helpdesk” have already been taken by the European Commission in the past, these initiatives were always more limited in scope, and thus not relevant for Hong Kong traders.

The predecessor of the “Trade Helpdesk”, previously known as the “Export Helpdesk”, focussed on facilitating market access for developing countries to the EU. The “Export Helpdesk” was, indeed, an element of the EU’s development policy, assisting developing countries in achieving higher economic growth through trade.

On 30 June 2017, the European Commission and the International Trade Centre also launched the “EuroMed Trade Helpdesk”, which aims to strengthen economic ties between the EU and nine Mediterranean partners (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia and Turkey), as well as among Mediterranean countries themselves.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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