Exporting Your Products to China? You Better Check Their Up-to-date HS Codes

June 17, 2024
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Do you export goods to China? Have you used the same HS code and paid the same level of import duty for years? If so, it is time to check whether the current China HS code is still the most suitable for your products. Alternatively, if you’ve never heard what HS codes are, now you have a chance to learn why HS codes are important.

HS Codes in a nutshell

HS Codes, which stands for Harmonized System, and are also known as tariff codes, are a standardized international system for classifying globally traded products. HS codes are used internationally for several important reasons, but most importantly to ease global trade by creating unified categories for different types of goods.

Usually HS codes consist of 6 digits, but the number of digits differs between countries. For example, the standard  China HS Code structure has been changed and now consists of 13-digits:

In China, duty rates on import goods are composed of most-favored-nation (MFN) duty rates, conventional duty rates, special preferential duty rates, general duty rates, tariff quota duty rates, and others. Temporary duty rates may apply to import goods within a specific time limit.

MFN duty rates apply to imported goods originating from members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that are subject to the common application of the MFN clause, import goods originating from countries or regions with which the People’s Republic of China has concluded a bilateral trade agreement for reciprocally granting of MFN treatment, and import goods originating from the customs territory of the People’s Republic of China.

The KVM switch above can be used as an example of the significant difference in duty, which is a privilege offered to WTO members. In this case MFN duty is 0%, compared to general duty, which is 35%.

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Why is HS code important when exporting to China?

One of the biggest issues faced by exporters is that customs regulations do not clearly specify which China tariff codes are applicable to their products. It’s important that you are able to classify your products with the correct China HS Code, so that customs authorities know what regulations and certifications apply to your goods.

Using the wrong HS codes in China can delay customs clearance, costing you time and money. If you accidentally use the wrong China tariff code, you should cooperate with your Chinese importer and preferably seek advice from a third party with relevant expertise to help you out.

It is important to check whether the HS code you use is the one most suitable for your products, since HS codes can be affected regularly by new government reforms to optimize imports, by China’s signing of preferential treaties with different countries, as well as by the professionalism of your local agents when dealing with customs authorities.

Read more about logistics fulfillment and distribution services in China

The importance of HS codes to a business set up in China

HS codes play a critical role while setting up a Chinese entity. During the registration process, a company must declare its business scope, which details the HS codes of the products the company plans to import, export, and trade. This list will ultimately determine whether further licenses are required or which measures the company must take. Be mindful that the HS code list dictates a company’s sphere of trading. For example, a company that trades electronics cannot simply alternate to selling shoes without modifying the business scope and adding the relevant China tariff codes accordingly. In order to avoid this long and tedious process, we recommend including a broader range of HS codes in the initial business scope, so it covers additional products the company might intend to trade in the future.

So, what is the HS code for export? Get a free evaluation of  your product’s China HS Code

Digital HS Codes finders are available online; however, they are often inaccurate and unreliable. That being said, at PTL Group, we can provide you with a free evaluation of your first product updated HS Code to discover whether better duty rates for your products exist.

Contact us now to get a free HS Code evaluation, and any other China business support.

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Q&A about Supply Chain Management in China

What are the main ports in China?

China has a vast coastline and numerous ports, both on its mainland and offshore islands. Some of the main ports in China include:


  • Shanghai: The Port of Shanghai is the world’s busiest container port, handling over 43 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of cargo annually.
  • Shenzhen: The Port of Shenzhen is the fourth-busiest container port in the world, handling over 25 million TEUs of cargo annually. It is also a major gateway for trade between China and Hong Kong.
  • Ningbo-Zhoushan: The Port of Ningbo-Zhoushan is the third-busiest container port in the world, handling over 27 million TEUs of cargo annually. It is located on China’s east coast, south of Shanghai.
  • Qingdao: The Port of Qingdao is located on China’s northeast coast and handles over 19 million TEUs of cargo annually. It is a major gateway for trade between China and Japan, South Korea, and other countries in the region.
  • Tianjin: The Port of Tianjin is located on China’s northern coast and handles over 16 million TEUs of cargo annually. It is a major gateway for trade between China and northern Asia.
  • Guangzhou: The Port of Guangzhou is located on China’s southern coast and handles over 18 million TEUs of cargo annually. It is a major gateway for trade between China and Southeast Asia.
  • Read more about the most important ports for logistics in China.

What is a Third-Party Logistics (3PL) ?

Outsourcing logistics activities to a specialized company that provides services such as transportation, warehousing, and distribution. 3PL providers offer expertise, infrastructure, and technology to manage various aspects of the supply chain on behalf of the client.

Businesses leverage 3PL services to reduce costs, improve flexibility, access specialized capabilities, and focus on core competencies.

What is an ATA Carnet ATA?

An international customs document that allows the temporary importation of goods for exhibitions, trade shows, or professional purposes without paying import duties or taxes. ATA Carnet simplifies customs procedures and facilitates the temporary movement of goods across multiple countries.

What is a CCC (China compulsory certificate)?

A mandatory certification system implemented by China to ensure that products imported or sold in the Chinese market comply with specified safety, quality, and environmental protection standards. The CCC mark is required for a wide range of products, including electrical and electronic devices, automotive parts, toys, and medical devices.