CN is the abbreviation for Combined Nomenclature which is a technical EU term describing a tool for classifying goods, set up to meet the requirements of both the Common Customs Tariff (CCT) and the EU's external trade statistics.
According to the European Commission, it is a further development (with special EU-specific subdivisions) of the World Customs Organisation's (WCO’s) Harmonised System (HS) nomenclature.
The WCO nomenclature is a systematic list of commodities applied by most trading nations (and also used for international trade negotiations).
In EU terms, the CN subheading stated in declarations for imported and exported goods determines: which rate of customs duty applies; and how the goods are treated for statistical purposes or for other EU policies.
Each subdivision of the nomenclature is known as a CN code. It has an eight-digit code number followed by a description and a duty rate, and as the case may be, a supplementary unit.
The original list, together with Explanatory Notes, was established by Regulation (EEC) 2658/87 on the tariff and statistical nomenclature and on the CCT.
Every year, Annex I to that 1987 Regulation is updated and published as a stand-alone Regulation in the EU's Official Journal. The latest version (Regulation (EU) 2019/1776) is available at publications.europa.eu.
More than 1000 pages long, it covers everything from live animals and animal products to civil aircraft and arms and ammunition.
The updates take into account any changes that have been agreed at international level, either at the WCO with regard to the HS nomenclature or within the framework of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) with regard to conventional duty rates.
Given the length of the list, there are relatively few changes but it is clearly important that the correct CN numbers are used so any trader whose goods have been allocated such numbers in the past would be well advised to check the new list to see if they have been affected by the amendments.
Last reviewed 14 January 2020