Users can obtain and compare the legally bound commitments on customs duty rates, which act as ceilings on the tariffs that member governments can set and are known as “bound rates”, with the rates that governments actually charge on imports, which can be lower, are known as “applied rates” and have a direct impact on trade.
The tariffs in the database are for individual products, disaggregated to the most detailed level available according to a standardized definition. They provide more detail than the World Tariff Profiles, where the figures were for broader categories of products.
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The standardized information
The data are standardized by making them available at the same level of detail. This is achieved by identifying products by 6-digit codes under the World Customs Organization’s internationally agreed “Harmonized System” (HS) for defining product categories.
Under the system, the broadest categories of products are identified by two digits (e.g. 04 is dairy products, eggs and other edible animal products). These are then sub-divided by adding more digits: the higher the number of digits, the more detailed the categories. For example the four-digit code 0403 is a group of products derived from milk. At six digits, 0403.10 is yoghurt; at the eight-digit level, 0403.10.11 could be low-fat yoghurt.
The codes are standard up to six digits. For that reason, the WTO’s data are presented at six digits, the most detailed level that can be compared internationally. Beyond that, countries are free to use their own definitions according to their individual requirements.
The database allows data to be downloaded in a range of formats such as Microsoft Excel spreadsheet files (to see which products are covered by the six-digit codes, scroll over to the right of the table).
Alternatively users can also download Excel spreadsheet files for individual countries, on each member country’s page on the WTO website (see for example Argentina). These pages can be reached from the list of members.
The original lists of members’ bound commitments remain available. The digit-level of the bound duty rates in these “schedules of commitments”, can vary from country to country. The new files on bound rates present the information in a uniform consolidated form for all member countries. Since they identify products at the six-digit level of detail, they can be used to compare the legally bound ceilings with the rates that are actually applied. They also show which product categories (or tariff subheadings) have no commitments (i.e. are “unbound”).
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The information on bound rates is based on the WTO’s Consolidated Tariff Schedules (CTS) database, which covers the legal commitments on tariffs that member governments have made in the WTO.
The information on applied rates is drawn from the WTO’s Integrated Database (IDB). This is data that member governments supply annually on the tariffs they apply normally under the non-discrimination principle of most-favoured nation (MFN). This means it does not cover lower preferential duties under free trade agreements or preferential schemes for developing countries. For each country, data for the most recent year are presented in one file, with the complete historical series from 1996 in another larger file.
Where available, data on imports are also presented alongside an indicative calculation of average unit values (essentially an estimated indication of the average price) for each of the product categories at the Harmonized System’s 6-digit code level.
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How to obtain the information
2. By country. Links to this information are available on each WTO member country’s information page on the WTO website. To reach these, go to the list of members and click a country’s name.
For each country, under the section “Goods schedules and tariff data”, the following three items are included:
- Bound tariffs at the 6-digit subheading level
- Latest available MFN applied tariffs at the same 6-digit subheading level
- Historical applied tariffs at the 6-digit Harmonized System subheading level (these are large files)
• ad valorem (AV): a tariff rate charged as percentage of the price
• applied rates: duties that are actually charged on imports. These can be below the bound rates
• bound rates (tariff binding): commitment not to increase a rate of duty beyond an agreed level. Once a rate of duty is bound, it may not be raised without compensating the affected parties
• digits, digit-level: (tariffs) a reference to the codes used to identify products. Categories of products are subdivided by adding digits. See Harmonized System
• Harmonized System: World Customs Organization’s system of code numbers for identifying products. The codes are standard up to six digits. Beyond that countries can introduce national distinctions for tariffs and many other purposes
• MFN (most-favoured-nation) tariff: normal non-discriminatory tariff charged on imports (excludes preferential tariffs under free trade agreements and other schemes or tariffs charged inside quotas)
• schedules: (for goods) list of bound tariff rates
• tariff line (TL in the tables): a product, as defined by a system of
code numbers for tariffs
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