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From Cambodia to EU: A comprehensive global shipping guide

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In recent years, the trade relationship between Cambodia and the European Union (EU) has been gaining traction once again post-pandemic, with significant growth in exports and imports. According to statistics by the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade, Cambodia's exports to the EU reached US$5.75 billion in 2022. The numbers have significantly surged to 25% compared to 2021, which was only rising by 15.9%. Part of the country’s economic growth has been due to the strengthening Cambodia-EU trade, with over 78.5% of the Kingdom’s export bloc going to European trade partners, like Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and Spain, as per the Khmer Times. 

With this, as a business owner in Cambodia, you can take advantage of these opportunities to expand your business overseas. But first, the key to the effective global expansion of your Cambodian business is by broadening your knowledge of the Cambodia-EU export market and how international shipping works for countries in the EU. Being a global shipping company that services numerous countries, DHL Express gives you all you need to know about exporting products to the EU. 

Cambodia-EU trade opportunities at a glance

The European market has become increasingly attractive for Cambodian businesses. Though talks of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) continue between ASEAN nations and the EU, exporters in Cambodia benefit from duty-free and quota-free access to the EU for all products under the EBA scheme.

What to know about the “Everything But Arms” scheme

EBA, meaning “Everything But Arms”, is a scheme from the EU’s “Generalised Scheme of Preferences” (GSP), which removes tariffs and quotas for all imports of goods, excluding arms and ammunition, coming into the EU from developing countries. The EU’s Generalised Scheme was created to help developing countries integrate into the world economy, and from it, 49 countries have benefitted from duty-free access to EU markets, including Cambodia. According to the Delegation of the European Union to the Kingdom of Cambodia report, the EBA is one of the main drivers of Cambodia’s growing garment and footwear sectors. 

However, due to human rights and political concerns, there was a partial withdrawal of the EBA, reportedly affecting one-fifth of Cambodia’s annual exports in 2020. But in recent years, the effects of the EBA withdrawal have been minimising as Cambodia’s exports of garments, footwear, bags, and bicycles, among others, are increasing, as per the Phnom Penh Post. 

How the ARISE Plus programme helped Cambodia’s export economy

Germany, specifically, is Cambodia’s largest EU trading partner, accounting for US$1.247 billion of exports. This is because the EU’s activities are bundled in the ASEAN Regional Integration Support by the EU (ARISE) Plus programme, funded by Germany. The ARISE Plus programme aimed to support the trade facilitation between ASEAN countries and EU countries. Through the programme, the EU worked closely with Cambodia in accelerating the implementation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement, which expedited the movement, release and clearance of goods. The programme also helped in achieving a more transparent, predictable, and competitive trade environment, as well as enhanced private sector engagement, notably for Small and Medium-sized enterprises. 

While these programmes grant a more efficient process for Cambodian businesses to export to EU nations, you must also learn the different international shipping practices for a seamless expansion.

How to optimise international shipping practices to EU countries

Businesses must adopt best practices to ensure a smooth shipping experience. Here are some key aspects to consider:

1. Adhere to product requirements

Before exporting your products to EU countries, you have to make sure that your products meet both the legal requirements and the EU buyer’s requirements. Generally, the legal requirements for your products are the same in all EU countries. There are four types of legislation set for products marketed in Europe that are made by the European Commission’s Regulations and Directives, including:

a. Framework legislation 

This legislation sets the legal requirements for different sectors. For example, if you’re exporting consumer goods, like footwear or garments, it has to adhere to the General Product Safety Regulation (GSPR), which ensures all products that are exported to European Union nations are safe. To determine how safe your product is, there must be technical documentation containing at least a general description of the product and its essential characteristics relevant for assessing its safety. Characteristics that must be defined in the document are the design, technical features, composition, packaging, instructions for assembly, and if applicable for installation, use, and maintenance.

b. Legislation restricting substances, chemicals and contaminants 

This legislation pertains to the amount of restricted substances, chemicals, or contaminants which can be used in a product. An example would be that textiles and leather articles must not contain more than 0.1% Azodyes, as per the European Chemicals Agency. This is because categories under these restricted substances can lead to an allergic skin reaction and can be toxic to marine life.

c. Legislation on CE-marking 

This legislation applies to toys, electronic equipment, and medical devices, among others. The CE marking must be present in products that will be traded in the European Economic Area (EEA) market. This is because the marking indicates that the products meet the EU’s safety, health, and environmental protection requirements. 

d. Product-specific legislation 

This legislation deals with marketing requirements; for example, it sets standards for selling a product under a certain name, just like when chocolate can be marketed as “milk chocolate.” This legislation serves as an additional requirement for regulations in the framework legislation and legislation for restricting substances.

Buyer requirements

With regard to buyer requirements, this may vary depending on the country, trend, and market segment. Once you have engaged an EU partner, make sure that your product is made to suit their business’s requirements. That way, it not only ensures customer satisfaction but also prevents costly returns and losses.

2. Be aware of the customs and duties needed

Navigating customs clearance procedures for exporting your products from Cambodia to the EU can be complex, but it's a critical part of international shipping. It’s essential that you familiarise yourself with the specific requirements for your products in the European market. All member states within the EU adhere to a uniform customs tariff known as the Common Customs Tariff (CCT). The rates of duty applied to various products differ; it also depends on their place of origin. Due to the EU’s partial withdrawal of Cambodia’s EBA scheme, the country’s tariffs reach up to 12% on 40 items it exports to the EU. These items include some garment products, travel goods, and sugar.

To classify your goods accurately for customs purposes, the EU employs a system called the Combined Nomenclature (CN). The initial six digits of this system align with the international Harmonised Systems Nomenclature (HS codes). The additional specifications, extending to eight and ten digits, are unique to the European Union.

Accurate classification is of utmost importance as it dictates the applicable duties. Additionally, you must ensure the correct classification for your shipping documents. Incorrect classification of your products under the CN code may lead to delays in the clearance of your goods.

3. Have the documents required for export to countries in the European Union

Here are the essential documents required when you plan on exporting goods from Cambodia to the European Union nations: 

  • Customs import declaration (SAD): All products imported into the European Union (EU) must be officially declared to the customs authorities using the Single Administrative Document (SAD). This form serves as the standard import declaration document accepted by all EU Member States.
  • Commercial invoice: The commercial invoice is a fundamental document in any import transaction. It contains essential details about the transaction and is always required for customs clearance.
  • Customs value declaration: In cases where the value of the imported goods exceeds €20,000, it is mandatory to provide a Customs Value Declaration. This document serves the purpose of establishing the customs value for taxation and the application of tariff duties.
  • Transportation documentation: Various types of shipping documents are required for international deliveries, such as the Air Waybill (AWB), ATA Carnet, TIR Carnet, and others. These documents are crucial for confirming the transportation details of the goods.
  • Shipping insurance: The insurance invoice is necessary for customs clearance when the pertinent information is not included in the commercial invoice. It provides details about the insurance coverage for the goods being transported.
  • Packing list: The packing list, often abbreviated as P/L, offers a comprehensive overview of the items being imported and provides detailed information about the packaging for each shipment. This includes data on weight, dimensions, handling instructions, and more.

4. Ensure proper packaging practice

Here are some packaging tips to ensure the security and smooth transit of your shipment when exporting to Europe:

a. Choose the right packaging materials

  • Always use high-quality corrugated boxes for your parcels. If you plan to ship fragile or heavy items, double-wall or tri-wall constructions are recommended. Moreover, make sure to use adequate protective wrapping and position the items as far away from the corners of the boxes as possible.
  • It’s recommended to avoid reusing old boxes as they may have lost some of their rigidity. 

b. Learn how to pack your items securely for overseas shipping

  • Make sure to completely fill the empty space within the box to avoid contents moving during the transit, which could damage both the contents and the box. Moreover, the items must be placed at the centre of the box with at least 6 cm separation from any external walls or corners.
  • If you have multiple items on a box, wrap them individually and separate them with corrugated inserts or other divider materials, as needed.
  • When sealing your boxes, use pressure-sensitive tapes, such as polypropylene tape (brown plastic tape), vinyl adhesive tape (electrical tape), or fibre-reinforced paper tape (duct tape). All seams must be sealed using the H-taping method.
  • Any individual pieces weighing over 70kg should be positioned on a pallet. If you're sending a multi-piece shipment, you only need to place individual pieces on a pallet if they exceed 70kg. For example, a shipment consisting of four 25kg pieces does not require pallet packaging.

c. Ensure that the waybill is attached to the package properly

  • Attach a waybill securely to each item in your shipment. Separation of your waybill from your shipment can lead to delivery delays.
  • The barcodes on the waybill are scanned at various points during your shipment's journey. Make sure that when you attach the waybill to the package, the barcode remains flat and is not covered by tape, shrinkwrap, or strapping.
  • Place the waybill on the top or side of each item in your shipment. That way, it does not overlap with the corners or edges of the boxes.

Take advantage of DHL Express's expertise in global shipping

As businesses in Cambodia look to capitalise on the European market's potential, partnering with a trusted shipping provider is crucial. DHL Express Cambodia is the ideal partner for facilitating seamless international shipping from Cambodia to Europe, as we offer comprehensive shipping solutions that can cater to your needs. Moreover, you can save on transportation costs with our cheap shipping solutions to Europe. 

With a global network spanning over 220 countries and territories, DHL Express ensures that your shipments reach their destination on time, every time. Our reputation for reliability is unmatched in the industry. We understand the importance of timely deliveries and work tirelessly to meet your global shipping needs. Open a business account with us today to get started.