Your Guide to Exporting from India to the EU

Exporting to the EU from India involves navigating a web of customs regulations. While the process may seem daunting, compliance is achievable with the correct information and support. Our comprehensive guide breaks down complex regulations, ensuring you stay on the right track.

The India-EU trade partnership is a dynamic force in the global economy. In 2021, bilateral trade in goods reached a remarkable €88.1 billion, marking a substantial 35% growth from the previous year. This impressive figure showcases the immense potential of this trade corridor.

Massive Market Access

Tap into a thriving market of over 447 million consumers with a combined GDP exceeding €14 trillion.


Mitigate risks by diversifying your customer base across various EU countries.

Growth Opportunities

Expand your reach, boost sales, and increase profitability by meeting the growing demand for Indian products in the EU.

Enhanced Reputation

Elevate your brand’s global image and credibility by establishing a solid presence in the EU.

Technological Innovation

Gain access to cutting-edge technologies and industry best practices from European leaders.

Streamlined Export Procedures and Documentation

Exporting from India to the EU involves a structured process overseen by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) and the Customs Department. To ensure a smooth and successful export experience, follow these key steps and prepare essential documentation:

Key Steps in the Export Process:

  1. Obtain an Import Export Code (IEC): A mandatory 10-digit code issued by the DGFT, required for any business engaged in import or export activities.
  2. Registration with Export Promotion Councils (EPCs) is necessary if your product falls under a specific category. Registering with the relevant EPC grants access to benefits and support services.
  3. Preparation of Shipping Bill and Other Documents: Complete all required export documents, including the Commercial Invoice, Packing List, Bill of Lading/Airway Bill, and Certificate of Origin.
  4. Customs Clearance: Submit the shipping bill to customs authorities, pay applicable duties and taxes, and obtain clearance for your shipment.
  5. Shipment of Goods: Arrange transportation to the EU, ensuring compliance with all relevant regulations throughout the shipping process.

Essential Export Documents Checklist:

  1. Commercial Invoice — Details the sale between the exporter and the EU buyer, including:
    • Description of goods
    • Quantity of each item
    • Total value of the shipment
    • Terms of sale (e.g., FOB, CIF)
    • Currency of the transaction
    • Ensures the buyer understands the transaction details and helps customs officials assess duties and taxes.
  2. Packing List — Itemises the contents of each package, including:
    • Description of each item
    • Quantity per package
    • Weight and dimensions of each package
    • Special handling instructions
    • It helps customs officials verify the shipment contents and aids the buyer in receiving the goods.
  3. Bill of Lading (B/L) or Airway Bill (AWB) – Legal contract between the exporter and the carrier, serving as a receipt for goods, proof of ownership, and transportation instructions.
    • Bill of Lading: For sea shipments.
    • Airway Bill: For air shipments.
  4. Certificate of Origin: This certifies the origin of the goods and is often required to claim preferential tariff treatment under trade agreements between India and the EU.
  5. Export Licence: Required for specific goods or destinations, especially restricted items like chemicals, pharmaceuticals, or defence-related products.
  6. Other Documents — Depending on the nature of the goods, additional documents may be needed:
    • Phytosanitary Certificates: For plants and plant products, ensuring they are free from pests and diseases.
    • Health Certificates: For food and beverage products, confirming they meet EU safety and hygiene standards.

EU Import Regulations and Documentation

Successfully exporting goods from India to the EU requires a thorough understanding of the Union Customs Code (UCC) and adherence to specific import regulations and documentation requirements. Here’s a consolidated guide to help you navigate these processes:

Key Aspects of EU Import Regulations

1. Union Customs Code:

  • Customs Valuation: Determines the customs value of imported goods, forming the basis for calculating import duties. Accurate valuation is crucial to avoid overpaying or underpaying duties.
  • Classification of Goods: Each product is assigned a unique commodity code based on the Harmonized System (HS) nomenclature. Proper classification ensures correct tariff rates are applied.
  • Origin of Goods: Establishing the origin of your products determines eligibility for preferential tariff rates under trade agreements.
  • Preferential Treatment: India has trade agreements with the EU that may offer reduced or zero tariffs on specific products, provided they meet the rules of origin criteria.

2. Product-Specific Regulations:

  • CE Marking (Electronics, Machinery): Indicates conformity with EU safety, health, and environmental standards.
  • REACH (Chemicals): Governs the registration, evaluation, authorisation, and restriction of chemicals in the EU.
  • Food Safety Regulations: Strict rules govern the import of food and agricultural products, requiring compliance with stringent hygiene and safety standards.

3. Compliance and Certification:

  • Phytosanitary Certificates (Agricultural Products): These certificates verify the health of plants and plant products to prevent the spread of pests and diseases.
  • Health Certificates (Food Products): Confirm that food products meet the EU’s stringent safety and hygiene standards.
  • Conformity Assessment (Various Products): Involves testing and certification to ensure products comply with specific technical requirements.

Essential Import Documents Required by the EU

1. Single Administrative Document (SAD) — The official customs declaration for imports and exports within the EU. Contains all necessary information about your shipment, including:

  • Description of goods
  • Customs value
  • Origin
  • Destination
  • Applicable duties and taxes

2. Import Licence (If Applicable): This is required for restricted goods like agricultural products, chemicals, or dual-use items and is issued by relevant EU authorities to regulate the import of sensitive products.

3. Technical Documentation — Proves compliance with EU standards and includes:

  • Product specifications
  • Safety data sheets (SDS)
  • Test reports
  • Conformity assessment certificates

4. Proof of Origin: Verifies the origin of your goods, impacting applicable tariff rates. It can be a Certificate of Origin or a declaration of origin.

Tariffs and Taxes

Navigating the financial landscape of exporting to the EU means understanding the tariffs and taxes applied to your goods. These costs can significantly affect your profitability, so accurate calculation is key.

Export Tariffs in India

Understanding the Indian government’s imposition of export tariffs, also known as export duties, is crucial for business owners and individuals interested in international trade. These tariffs serve multiple purposes, and comprehending them can empower you in your trade decisions:

Key Purposes of Export Tariffs:

  • Trade Regulation: Export tariffs manage the flow of goods, encouraging or discouraging exports of specific products. For instance, high tariffs on raw materials like iron ore and certain agricultural products aim to retain these resources for domestic use.
  • Revenue Generation: Export tariffs contribute to government revenue. This is particularly significant for goods in high demand globally, such as minerals, petroleum products, and select agricultural commodities.
  • Protection of Domestic Industries: Tariffs can shield domestic industries from foreign competition by making raw materials pricier to export. This encourages the development and consumption of these goods within India, fostering local industries and employment.

Specific Rates and Types of Export Tariffs:

The specific rates and types of export tariffs vary depending on the product category and current government policies. Export duties are particularly prevalent in mining, agriculture, and certain manufacturing goods. For example:

  • Iron Ore: Historically, India has imposed significant export duties on iron ore to ensure adequate domestic supply for the steel industry.
  • Petroleum Products: Certain refined petroleum products may attract export duties, reflecting revenue and regulatory considerations.
  • Agricultural Products: Products like rice and certain types of grains might have export tariffs to balance domestic food security with international trade goals.

Official Resources for Export Tariffs:

  • Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) Website: The CBIC website is a comprehensive source of information on export tariffs and other customs regulations. It provides updates on tariff changes and detailed guidelines on export procedures.
  • Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) Notifications: The DGFT regularly issues notifications updating export tariff rates. These notifications can be accessed through the DGFT website and are crucial for staying current with the latest export regulations and tariff adjustments.
  • Indian Customs Tariff Schedule: This official document provides a detailed list of export tariff rates for various product categories. Exporters need to reference this schedule to understand the specific duties applicable to their products.

Import Duties and Taxes in the EU

Key Components of Import Duties and Taxes:

1. Common External Tariff (CET):

  • Classification: The CET rate is determined by the product’s classification under the Harmonized System (HS) codes. Accurate classification is essential to ensure the correct tariff is applied.
  • Country of Origin: The origin of the goods can influence the tariff rate due to preferential trade agreements. For instance, goods originating from countries with EU trade agreements may benefit from reduced or zero tariffs if they meet the rules of origin criteria.

2. Value Added Tax (VAT):

  • Application: VAT is a consumption tax applied to the value of goods and services at each stage of production and distribution. It is collected at the point of sale and sent to the final consumer.
  • Rates: VAT rates vary across EU countries, typically from 17% to 27%. The standard rate applies to most goods and services. Still, reduced rates may apply to specific items like food, medical products, and books.
  • Calculation: When importing goods, VAT is calculated based on the customs value, applicable duties, and excise taxes. For example, if the customs value is €1,000 and the CET is 5%, the base for VAT calculation becomes €1,050.

3. Excise Duties:

  • Products Subject to Excise Duties: These taxes are levied on certain goods, including alcohol, tobacco, and energy products (fuel and electricity).
  • Rates and Regulations: Excise duties vary by product type and are regulated by EU directives and national laws. For example, excise duties on spirits and cigarettes can be substantial and differ significantly between member states.

Determining the Customs Value

The customs value of your goods is a critical factor in determining the import duties and taxes you’ll pay. It is typically based on the transaction value, which includes:

  • Price Paid or Payable: The actual amount paid or payable for the goods sold for export to the EU.
  • Transport Costs: Costs for shipping the goods to the EU border.
  • Insurance Costs: Any insurance costs incurred during the transport of the goods.

In some cases, other costs, such as commissions, royalties, and license fees related to the imported goods, may be included. Ensuring an accurate customs value is essential to avoid discrepancies and potential penalties.

Practical Steps for Compliance:

  • Correct Classification: Use the EU’s TARIC database to find the appropriate HS code for your product.
  • Verify Origin: Ensure your goods meet the rules of origin for preferential tariffs if applicable.
  • Calculate VAT and Duties: Use the destination country’s VAT rate and calculate the total import cost, including CET and excise duties.
  • Documentation: Maintain thorough and accurate documentation to support the goods’ declared customs value and origin.

Overview of India-EU Trade Relations

India and the European Union have a longstanding trade relationship, with the EU being one of India’s largest trading partners. To strengthen and facilitate trade between the two economies, India and the EU have been working towards a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to reduce tariffs, address trade barriers, and enhance cooperation across various sectors.

Key Aspects of the India-EU FTA Negotiations

  1. Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA): Negotiations for the India-EU BTIA began in 2007. The agreement covers many areas, including trade in goods and services, investment, intellectual property rights, and sustainable development.
    • Despite multiple negotiation rounds, several sticking points, such as market access for key goods, intellectual property rights, and labour and environmental standards, have caused delays in finalizing the agreement.
  2. Economic Impact:
    • The FTA is expected to boost bilateral trade and investment significantly. According to the European Parliament, the agreement could increase India’s GDP by up to 1.3% and the EU’s GDP by 0.14%.
    • Sectors likely to benefit include automotive, pharmaceuticals, textiles, information technology, and agriculture.
  3. Tariff Reductions:
    • A core component of the FTA is reducing or eliminating tariffs on a wide range of products. This aims to make Indian goods more competitive in the EU market and vice versa.
    • Key products under consideration for tariff reduction include textiles, leather goods, automotive components, and agricultural products.
  4. Non-Tariff Barriers: The agreement also addresses non-tariff barriers such as regulatory standards, testing and certification requirements, and customs procedures. Simplifying these processes is expected to enhance trade efficiency and reduce costs.
  5. Investment Protection: The FTA provides a robust framework for protecting investments from both parties. This includes provisions for dispute resolution, fair and equitable treatment, and protection against expropriation.
  6. Intellectual Property Rights: Strengthening intellectual property rights is a key aspect of the negotiations. The agreement is expected to enhance cooperation in areas like patent protection, trademarks, and geographical indications, benefiting sectors such as pharmaceuticals and technology.
  7. Sustainable Development: The FTA includes commitments to sustainable development, focusing on labour rights, environmental protection, and corporate social responsibility. Both parties aim to ensure that increased trade does not come at the expense of social and environmental standards.

Current Status and Future Prospects

As of 2024, the negotiations for the India-EU FTA are still in progress. However, both sides have reaffirmed their commitment to concluding the agreement, recognizing its potential to boost economic growth and strengthen strategic ties. The negotiations are not at a standstill, but rather, high-level dialogues and technical meetings are actively addressing the remaining challenges, inching closer to a mutually beneficial agreement.

Benefits of Compliance

Complying with customs regulations isn’t just about avoiding penalties – it’s a strategic advantage that can propel your business forward in the EU market.

Faster Customs Clearance

Meticulous documentation and strict adherence to customs rules are your fast track to customs clearance. When your paperwork is complete and accurate, customs officials can swiftly verify your compliance, resulting in faster customs clearance for your shipments. This means your products reach your European customers sooner, strengthening your reputation for reliability and efficiency.

Avoiding Costly Penalties

Non-compliance can trigger a cascade of financial repercussions. By ensuring your exports meet all regulatory requirements, you safeguard your bottom line by avoiding fines, seizures, and other costly export penalties. This allows you to reinvest those savings into growing your business.

Building a Strong Business Reputation

In the world of international trade, your reputation is paramount. Being known as a compliant exporter fosters trust with customs authorities, partners, and customers. This can open doors to new business opportunities, fortify existing relationships, and position your brand as a leader in the EU market.

Earning Customer Trust

Compliance goes beyond paperwork – it’s about demonstrating your commitment to product quality and safety. Adhering to regulations assures your customers that your products meet or exceed EU standards. This builds trust and loyalty, making your brand the preferred choice for discerning European consumers.

Best Practices and Tips for Smooth Exporting

These proven strategies can help you optimise your export process:

  • Pre-Shipment Preparation: Thorough research is key. Familiarise yourself with the specific customs regulations for your products, ensuring accurate documentation and proper packaging to prevent damage during transit.
  • Working with Customs Brokers: If you’re exporting for the first time or have complex shipments, consider partnering with a customs broker. Their expertise in navigating complex customs procedures can save you valuable time and resources.
  • Staying Updated: Customs regulations are not static. Stay abreast of the latest changes in both Indian and EU regulations to maintain compliance and avoid unexpected setbacks.

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