Customs

Key information about cross-border trade, in particular with EU/EEA countries

The customs unionAn association formed by a number of countries who agree not to levy customs duties when goods are exchanged between members and to apply a common external tariff to goods from non-member countries. The European Union (EU) is an example of a customs union. Details of its customs rates are provided in TARIC (Tarif Intégré de la Communauté) and are available on the Internet. Switzerland and Liechtenstein also form a customs union, whereas the free trade zone EFTA is not a customs union. is an essential element of the EU single market with its four basic freedoms: free movement of goods, persons, services and capital.

It can trace its history back to 1958, when the first six member states came together to form a group which later developed into the EU. One of the first steps was the establishment of a customsCustoms duties are a form of tax payable to the State mainly when importing goods into a customs territory. From a protectionist perspective, protective duties play an important role as they are designed to afford domestic producers some protection against foreign competition. In most countries, customs duties are levied as an ad valorem duty, which means the level of duty payable is calculated as a percentage of the value of a given product. By contrast, Switzerland applies the “specific tariff” system for most goods. The specific tariff here is payable per 100 kg net weight. Given the numerous customs duty reductions under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT; now the World Trade Organization), customs are now much less important in terms of international trade. In Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Customs Administration (FCA) is responsible for levying customs duties. Internationally, customs administration authorities are members of the broader World Customs Organization (WCOOMD). union: all customs duties and trade barriers between the six founding members were abolished, and a collective customs tariff was introduced vis-à-vis third party countries.

Over time, the essential regulations which went beyond a simple customs tariff union developed into customs law. This ensured that goods imported into the community were subject not just to the same customs tariff, but also to identical statutory customs regulations. For example, the collective country of origin rules, bonded warehouse rules and all the other instruments were gradually established. A key moment was the standard document introduced in 1988 to simplify customs procedures. New trading regulations introduced at the same time turned the simple customs tariff union into a real customs union.

In 1994, all European customs regulations were brought together in a single legal instrument, the Customs Code. This forms the legal framework for the import and export activities of the European Union. A Union Customs Code (UCC) is set to come into force as soon as the necessary implementation provisions have been resolved and become applicable; however, this may be delayed for several years. More information about the UCC can be found on the website of the European Commission: ec.europa.eu

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