The Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, commonly known as “HS”, involves over 200 countries world over and is designed to classify and standardize internationally traded products among members. It comprises 5,300 product descriptions organized as headings and subheadings, arranged in 99 chapters, and categorised in 21 sections.
The Harmonized System (HS) is maintained by the World Customs Organization (WCO). Among its other activities, WCO also has the duty to update the HS codes every five years. These changes are called revisions. Under the 1983 HS Convention Article 16, WCO provides an update amendment, guidelines and recommendation of an “Internationally Standardized and Recognized System of Names and Numbers”.
The HS codes are updated periodically in light of changes in trade patterns and developments in technology. The WCO updates the system through the Harmonized System Committee, which represents the HS convention and contracting parties. This committee examines policy matters, decides on classification questions, prepares amendments to the Explanatory Notes and settles disputes.
The HS was introduced way back in 1988 and has been adopted by almost every country. Since its inception, it has undergone numerous changes in the classification of products. The revisions came into effect in years 1996, 2002, 2007, 2012 and the most recent one in 2017.