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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, Finland 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. 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 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 Finland 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 Finland, exporters shall fill in an intrastat declaration.

When the country of origin of the merchandises which are exported to Finland 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 the VAT rates in Finland, please check the list of vat rates applied within European Union, as well as the Customs Administration web site.

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



The policies that were conducted between 1996 and 2000 (privatisation, decentralisation, reform of the labour market , etc.) saw the state economy recording important improvements which now rank the country among the best growth performers in the European Union. These good results make the Finnish market more attractive to exporters especially since setting up a business there opens the door to Scandinavia, Russia or Baltic States.

The Business to Consumer (B to C) market
The increase in the Finnish consumers purchasing power boosted Finnish imports. Finnish consumers like simple and practical products with simple packaging, non harmful for the environment. The main sectors of the Finnish economy are dominated by oligopolies. Consumables of everyday use are marketed by an integrated system of distribution dominated by 4 big groups : Kesko Oy, Tuko Oy, Sok and Tradeka which control on their own more than 90% of the points of sale of the country.

The Business to Business (B to B) market
The Finnish imports are composed by 85% of manufactured goods. Besides equipment and component for telecommunications and data processing, Finland mainly imports cars, clothes, broadcasting material, chemicals and food-processing products. For some years, we can also note an increase in the demand in the service sector. It is recommended to be assisted by an agent to tap this market. To get in touch with this type of intermediary, it is recommended to contact the Finnish Union of Agents and Representatives (Ulkomaankaupan) or the Financial Union of Wholesalers (Kaupan Keskusliitto).


Transportation of goods

By road
The public road network covers 78,000 km, among which more than 500 km are highways. The authority in charge of the management and organisation of the road infrastructures is the Finnish Road Administration.
67% of the domestic transportation of goods is ensured by road, which also represents a 93% of the traffic of persons.

By rail
The railroad network is 6,000 km long among which 2,200 are electrified, the national company is Valtion Rautatiet (VR).
The railway administration (RHK) planned to develop high-speed lines: the priority is given to the Helsinki-Huopalathi-Leppavaara axis as well as the Helsinki-Tampere axis.
In 1999, the railway network ensured the transportation of 40 million tons of domestic and international goods.

By sea
Finland is one of the rare countries having ports with icy water in the winter, a specific material is needed to cope with this constraint. The main ports are Helsinki, Turku, Hanko and Kotka on the Southern coast and Pori and Oulu on the western coast. Moreover, Finland counts an extension of 2,700 km of internal waterways, of which the Saimaa's canal. As a whole, 77.5 million tons of goods were transported by sea or river route in 1999. The sea route is the first vector of the Finnish exports.

By air
The state-owned airline Finnair ensures the domestic flights, its Karair subsidiary is particularly specialised in charter flights. Finland counts 25 airports, the main ones being Helsinki and Turku. In 1998, 110.000 tons of goods passed in transit via Finnish airports. In 1997, the Finnish sky totally opened up to competition and the company SAS (Scandinavia Airlines System) hurried to tap the market. (Finnair)
The international air transport is reserved for the transportation of high value goods (especially products coming from telecommunications industries) and occupies as such the second rank behind sea transportation. The airport of Helsinki, due to its strategic position, wants to become an unavoidable transit place for east-west European exchanges.


Suomen Standardisoimisliitto (SCI-FI) is the body in charge of developing normalisation and certification activities. Finland applies the community standards, the ISO 9000 standard is optional, but remains a factor of competitiveness.(ISO 9000)
Concerning electric materials imports, it is necessary to contact the FIMKO and the Teknillinen Tarkastuskeskus for the dangerous products, the precious metals and the measuring equipments.

Patents and brands

Finland signed the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). As for patents, Finland signed the agreement of Munich for European patents, the Patent Co-operation Treaty (PCT) and the Strasbourg Agreement concerning International Patent Classification.
Finland also signed the Agreement of Madrid for the international register of trademarks and the Agreement of Nice for the international classification of goods and services for the register of trademarks.

Texts currently applying to patents/brands

  Text Date entered into law Period of validity Comment
Patent Agreement of Munich - 20 years
Trademark Agreement of Madrid - 10 years


Last modified in 2006 - ongoing update
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