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EU Guide for export of goods

EU Guide for export of goods


Is your company ready to trade? In this short paper you can find all the tips that you need to start your export activity.

Is it your first time? Before doing so, check whether your company is ready:

  • Is your product already successful on your domestic market or in other EU countries?
  • Does your company have the capacity to sell the product in foreign markets outside the EU? Does it have sufficient staff, time, financial and legal resources?
  • Does your company have a comprehensive financial/marketing/business plan with clearly defined goals in support of exporting to markets outside the EU?
  • Does your company have a concrete strategy for how to export the product to your export market?
  • Does your company have the capacity and expertise to adapt its product to cultural preferences or different technical standards in countries outside the EU?

If the answer to the questions above is YES, the first step is:

Find a market and a buyer. To export goods outside the EU, you should first identify a market and find a buyer for your product. As your buyer will usually be the importer and assume responsibility for the introduction of your product into the destination country and on its market, its qualification for this role is of crucial importance. The following institutions or operators may be of help in the identification of export market opportunities and the finding of qualified buyers.

  • Chambers of commerce can give you information about different markets and business partners, and direct you to relevant reports.
  • Trade-specific news providers or trade promotion agencies in your country or in your selected export market that cover market analysis and assessment of business opportunities can be of help.
  • Export consultants and relevant banks can also provide advice.

How to select your target markets? Screen potential export markets to assess whether there is demand for your product and consider if your product would be competitive on the export market. Import statistics can show if your target country is already importing your type of product, where the imports come from and if there is already a high supply in the market.

How to find potential buyers? Once you have selected one or more target markets, the next step is to identify potential trade partners and business contacts. You can find partners and contacts at: trade fairs specifically organized for buyers and sellers to meet. For example, the organizes regular matchmaking events for specific sectors in which also companies from non-EU countries participate; events or help provided by chambers of commerce to establish contacts between potential business partners.

Check the export conditions in the EU and import requirements in your target market

To export your product outside of the EU you must fulfil certain basic requirements.

How can you export? There are different ways in which you can export a product, you can export directly to a buyer in your export market or alternatively, especially very small companies often export indirectly via e-commerce platforms.

Who can export? You normally need to be established in the EU as a company or permanent business establishment. This includes getting registered for VAT purposes. Generally, you also need to register with the national commercial register. For more information, check with your local chamber of commerce.

How to register as an exporter?

As an EU exporter you need to apply at the competent customs administration for a so-called Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) number. The EORI is an identification number that is valid throughout the EU, which you need for all customs export declarations. This process can take some time so apply well ahead.

Are there any restrictions in your export market?

You also need to ensure that the country you wish to export to does not apply any prohibitions or restrictions on your product that prohibit it from entering the country or being put on its market. Although your buyer will usually assume responsibility for the import as well as the utilization or marketing of your product, for successful and sustainable transactions you should be aware of import prohibitions as well as import restrictions in the import country.

Can my company benefit from a preferential Trade Agreement between the EU and the country of destination?

If the EU has a preferential trade agreement with the country of destination tariffs your product may be reduced or even eliminated. These customs duties are called preferential tariff rates.

However, these preferential tariff rates are conditional on your product being produced in the territory of the preferential trade agreement partners and in line with the rules of origin of this agreement. Therefore, you should first check if there is a preferential duty rate and a so-called preferential margin between the regular MFN tariff rate and the EU preferential rate. If this is the case and you would like to present a proof a preferential origin to allow for the application of the preferential rate you will have to comply with the rules of origin.

What are the health, safety and technical requirements for your product?

The requirements will depend on your export market. Compliance with them usually falls into the responsibility of your buyer as the importer, who however will need your assistance to prove this compliance. As this is determined by the contractual agreement, you should be careful to only assume responsibility for requirements you may fulfil in your role of the exporter. Alignment with the importer is not only advisable but usually necessary.  Most products must comply with technical or health and hygiene requirements (often referred to as sanitary and phytosanitary requirements) in your export market. These may require different types of testing and certification. This is often the case for technical requirements for industrial products, as well as for health and hygiene requirements for food and agricultural products.

How to certify your product?

You should check in the Procedures and Formalities section of My Trade Assistant and, as the case may be, subsequently clarify with your customer the following:

  • Which are the certification requirements in your export market.
  • Which certificates are accepted by the competent authorities.
  • Whether the testing can be carried out by an accredited laboratory or institution in the EU
  • or whether the certification must be carried out in the country of destination.

What are the packaging and labelling requirements for your product?

Countries often have detailed requirements for the packaging and labelling of products. These requirements can be mandatory or voluntary. Mandatory marks and labels on consumer products and their packaging are usually related to public safety, health and/or environmental concerns. They can provide information such as the ingredients or the ‘use by’ date.

Prepare the sale and organize the transport. How are the liabilities shared between you and your buyer?

As already mentioned above the responsibility of the parties to an export/import transaction is laid down in the contractual agreement. Unless there are special reasons the responsibility for import, usability or marketing of your product should be assumed by the buyer as the importer.  Your customer is responsible for the cost of: transport from the port of shipment onwards; insurance; unloading; transportation from the arrival port to the final destination; ‘Cost, Insurance and Freight’ (CIF) means the exporter is responsible for the local costs under FOB, plus: freight charges, insurance.

Who can help you in the export and transport process?

A forwarding agent can help with arranging the collection and delivery of your goods; negotiating freight rates with carriers; booking cargo space; packing; insurance; preparing customs documents on your behalf. Look for export finance and export support programmes which governments often provide in cooperation with banks or insurance companies.

Prepare the documents for export clearance in the EU

The documents prepared for export at least partly also serve for import in the country of destination. Thus, their preparation should take into account corresponding requirements and, as the case may be, should be aligned with your buyer as the importer.

Which documents to prepare for customs?

You must first submit an electronic export declaration at your national customs authority. Each EU country has its own electronic processing system. For small consignments of a value below 1,000 EUR an oral declaration supported by a transport document or an invoice may suffice. The export declaration provides the necessary information about the goods themselves and the transport. It includes: origin of the goods; destination country; commodity codes; customs procedure codes; value of the goods.

Documents you need to prepare include:

  • Invoice and transport documents and a packing list: You must keep all documents for at least three years in case of any checks after export clearance (national commercial and fiscal legislation often provides for longer periods).
  • VAT and export records: When you export outside of the EU, your product is exempted from value-added tax (VAT) in the EU, independently of whether you are selling to a business or an individual consumer, providing that you keep records of the export and the proof of export issued by the customs authority.
  • Certificates or licenses: such as phytosanitary certificates or export licenses for export purposes may be needed as well.

Who files the customs declaration?

You can file the customs declaration yourself or it can be done by a service supplier who is your customs representative. If you employ a forwarding company or customs broker they can act on your behalf.

How to present the export declaration and the goods for export?

The export procedure has two stages:

  • the lodging of the export declaration and the the presentation of the goods at the customs office of export, and
  • the presentation of the goods and the indication of the Master Reference Number (MRN) of the export declaration at the customs office of exit, followed by a release for exit.

The export declaration is presented using the electronic system of your customs authority. In general, you need to lodge your export declaration at the customs office responsible for the place where your company is established or, as the case may be, the customs office where your goods are packed or loaded for export shipment out of the EU. Keep in mind that an export declaration needs to be lodged in advance of the actual moment when the goods will be leaving the EU. Allow enough time for the customs office of export to carry out necessary risk analyses before they grant the release of thegoods.

Prepare the documents for import customs clearance in the country of destination.

When your goods reach the country of destination, the local import requirements and processes will apply to your exports. Use My Trade Assistant to establish those requirements and to be in the position to align on them with your buyer.

Documents the competent authorities in the country of destination may require

  • Commercial invoice (with specific requirements regarding its form and content).
  • Packing list
  • Import licences (automatic or non-automatic) for certain goods.
  • Certificates showing your product complies with mandatory product regulations, such as health and safety requirements, labelling and packaging.
  • Proof of preferential origin (i.e. EUR.1, EUR-MED, Origin Declaration or Statement on Origin), provided there is a preferential Trade Agreement applied between the EU and the destination country and your products fulfil the relevant rules of origin.
  • Certificate of origin proving the non-preferential origin of your product:
    • A certificate of (non-preferential) origin may be required in case of import restrictions towards (certain) products from specific countries, the application of trade defence measures or monitoring of dedicated imports. However, also the importer may request such certificate for his purposes.
    • Certificates of origin are usually issued by your local chamber of commerce. In some countries, this responsibility may also be assigned to ministries or customs authorities.



Taken by Guide for export of goods | Access2Markets (europa.eu)