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Box XIII.9 European Union experience in the development and use of the Combined Nomenclature


The Combined Nomenclature (CN) was established by Council Regulation (EEC) No. 2658/87 of 23 July 1987 on the tariff and statistical nomenclature and on the Common Customs Tariff. It ensures that requirements of the Common Customs Tariff, and the external trade statistics, as well as other EU policies concerning the importation or exportation of goods, are met at one and the same time.

The CN is a further breakdown of the Harmonized System which introduces eight-digit codes below the six-digit level of HS.  These eight-digit codes are referred to as “CN subheadings”, and are created in those cases where a corresponding rate of duty is specified. When a HS heading or subheading is not further subdivided for European Union purposes, the seventh and eighth digits are ‘00'.

The CN comprises also preliminary provisions, as well as additional section or chapter notes and footnotes relating to CN subheadings.

The Combined Nomenclature is reproduced in Annex I of the above mentioned Council Regulation. The rates of duty of the Common Customs Tariff and, where applicable, the supplementary statistical units, as well as other necessary information, are laid down in that Annex.

The CN codes as well as the supplementary units are revised on an annual basis, amending Annex I through a Commission Regulation reproducing the complete version of the CN. As a result, CN codes are created, deleted or merged in order to:

  • Take into account changes in requirements relating to statistics or to commercial policy
  • Take into account technological or commercial developments
  • Align or clarify texts
  • Introduce the changes of the HS

The said Commission Regulation shall be published not later than 31 October in the Official Journal of the European Union and it shall apply from 1 January of the following year.

To assist in classifying commodities, CN Explanatory Notes are produced on an adhoc basis, although they are not legally binding.