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Import regulations and customs duties  - Distribution - Transportation of goods - Standards - Patents and brands

Import regulations and customs duties

In accordance with its European Union membership, Denmark applies the European Union (EU) rules that are in force in all European Union countries. While the EU has a rather liberal foreign trade policy, there is a certain number of restrictions, especially on farm products, following the implementation of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy): the application of compensations on import and export of farm products aimed at favouring the development of agriculture within the EU, implies a certain number of control and regulation systems for the goods entering the EU territory.
Moreover, for sanitary reasons, regarding Genetically Modified Organisms (after being allowed in the European territory), their presence should be systematically specified on packaging. The beef cattle bred on hormones is also forbidden to import.
The BSE crisis (often called the "mad cow disease") urged the European Authorities to strengthen the phytosanitary measures to make sure of the quality of meats entering and circulating in the EU territory. The principle of precaution is now widespread: in case of doubt, the import is prohibited until proof is made of the non-harmfullness of products.


Customs duties
Since the first of January 1993, the European Union, of which Denmark is part, has been a single market, without any customs barriers, which ensures free circulation of goods. On May, 1st of 2004, ten "candidate countries" became new members of the European Union: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia. Trade within the European Union is totally free from customs duties, provided that the merchandises' country of origin is one of the 25 European Union Member States. Nevertheless, when introducing merchandises into Denmark, exporters shall fill in an intrastat declaration.

When the country of origin of the merchandises which are exported to Denmark is not part of the European Union, customs duties are calculated Ad valorem on the CIF value of the goods, in accordance with the Common Customs Tariff (CCT).

The duties for non-European countries are relatively low, especially for manufactured goods (4.2% on average for the general rate), however textile, clothing items (high duties and quota system) and food-processing industry sectors (average duties of a 17.3% and numerous tariff quotas, PAC) still know protective measures.
In order to get exhaustive regulations and customs tariffs rates regarding their products, exporters shall refer to the TARIC code and its database, which includes all applicable customs duties and all customs trade policy measures for all the goods.

Moreover, many bilateral and multilateral agreements have been signed by the European Union, in order to define specific customs duties with the following countries:

- Customs agreements with Australia,Canada, United States, Mexico and South Korea.

- The EU-EFTA (European Free Trade Association) Agreement was signed in 1972 with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

- Free trade agreements with Bulgaria and Romania that hope join European Union in 2007.

- Mediterranean Agreements, concerning: Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Palestinian Authority, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.

- The ACP agreements, with 95% of the tariff lines with a 0% rate for developing countries in Africa, Caribbean Islands and Pacific. The Cotonou Agreement, signed in the year 2000, defines the new EU-ACP partnership.

- The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP): 54% of the tariff lines are at 0% for developing countries outside the ACP framework.

To get an exhaustive list of the foreign trade agreements of the European Union, click here.

>> To get further information on customs policies in the European Union, please check the exhaustive report by the European Commission.


Import taxes
Excise duties are also levied on certain products, especially on spirit.

>> To get further information on VAT rates in Denmark, please check the list of vat rates applied within the European Union, as well as the VAT Guide for Foreign Enterprises 2002.

>> More detailed information on excise duties is available concerning alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, energy products on the European Commission website.



The Danish population has one of the highest income levels in the European Union with a per capita GDP of 30,930 dollars in 2004. The Danish consumer therefore is one of most demanding in Europe.

Retail trade reached 30.6 million euros in 2004 showing a growth of 6.2% as compared to 2003.

The Business to Consumer (B to C) market

Contrary to other European countries, neighbourhood stores play an important role in the Danish distribution market. According to the Danish office of statistics, in 2004 there were 23,573 legal entities registered in the wholesale trade and 26,335 entities in the retail trade.

The mass market sector is dominated by two groups:

- the consumer co-op F.D.B, which is the leading Danish distributor (with 33% of the market-share in 2003) and owner of many stores like Kvickly, Brugsen, OBS, Irma and Fakta. F.D.B supplies 1,200 points-of-sale (hypermarkets, supermarkets, mini-markets and discount stores).

- the group Dansk super-marked with 465 points-of-sale; its main stores being Bilka and Netto

The 3 large chain stores in Denmark are:

- Magasin du Nord

- Illum. Although competitors to one another, Illum and Magasin du Nord belong to the same group of Icelandic origin known asBaugur Groupe.

- Salling, part of the Dansk Supermarked group.

Shopping centers and malls generated a sales turnover of 5.5 billion euros in 2003 equal to 20% of the retail trade. The main shopping center is Field's Copenhagen with an area of 115,000 square meters.

The evolution of distribution circuits is characterized by mergers of central buying offices and the creation of new chains allowing their members to supply themselves at lower cost and thus consolidate their positions in the market.

The Business to Business (B to B) market

Agents exist in numerous sectors, such as furniture, textiles, clothing, tableware, interior decoration, etc. Their margins generally are between 10% to 15% depending upon the activity sector.

Franchises are very common in the country. In 2002, there were 128 networks and about 5,419 franchises. Distribution franchises are more common than service franchises , with a total of 3,848 units.

Generally speaking, the Danish government supports the F.D.I. (Foreign Direct Investment). A certain number of important tax benefits are indeed offered to investors in Denmark. Moreover, Danish firms benefit from favourable rules regarding depreciation. The organization Invest in Denmark was created for international investors in order to lend them assistance during the decision-making process.


Transportation of goods

By road
The road network extends over 71,500 km, of which 850 km are highways. Considering that Denmark is composed of around 500 islands, big projects were initiated under the aegis of the Ministry of Transport in order to improve domestic traffic. The bridge over the Oresund (18 km), inaugurated on the 1st of July 2000, now connects Copenhagen and Malmö in Sweden, thus accelerating the exchanges by road between the 2 countries. The other large road and railway infrastructure created over the last few years is "The Great Belt" which connects the cities of Halsskov and Knudshoved via Sprogo in the center of the country.

By rail
Denmark has 2,881 km of railroad lines, divided into two networks: the network connecting the island of Seeland and Falster, and the network connecting Jutlande and Fionia.
In 1999, the railway transported about 7.5 million tons of goods, that is 10% of the global transportation. The national company is the DSB: Danish railways will have to face other operators within the next years, since the Danish government has decided to open up the market to competition.

By sea
The main Danish ports are Copenhagen, Arhus, Esbjerg on the national and international level.
Arhus is the first port of containers and has an important centre of oil activity in the North Sea with Esbjerg's port, which is the first largest fishing port. Denmark possesses a very important commercial fleet which is one of the most modern in Europe.
Ferries: Denmark has very developed ferries network especially with the company Scandlines AG, joint property of the Danish and German governments, it is one of the biggest ferries company in the world and ensures regular connections between the Danish, Swedish, German ports and the Baltic countries.

By air
Denmark holds 30% (with Norway and Sweden) of SAS (Scandinavian Airline System shares).
The international airports are located in Copenhagen, in Alborg, Arhus, Odense and in Ronne (on the island of Bornholm, in the Baltic Sea).
The airport of Copenhagen is a real hub for goods transit entering or leaving Scandinavia, from the Baltic region to Northern Europe. Indeed more than 135 destinations are served from this airport which ranks 45th in the world due to the quantities of freight transported annually (390,000 tons in 1999).

Patents and brands

The Committee of Normalization and Metrology is the body working out the laws of standardisation and approval in Denmark. The purpose is to harmonise these standards with the European ones.
The standard ISO 9000 is a factor of competitiveness, although it is optional. "

Texts currently applying to patents/brands

  Text Date entered into law Period of validity Comment
Trademark Madrid agreement
Nice agreement
- Period of validity of 10 years -


Last modified in 2006 - ongoing update
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