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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, Ireland 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 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 a doubt, the import is prohibited until proof is given of the non-harmfullness of products.


Customs duties
Since the first of January 1993, the European Union, of which Ireland 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 country of origin of the goods is one of the 25 European Union Member States. Nevertheless, when introducing merchandises into Ireland, exporters shall fill in an intrastat declaration.

When the country of origin of the goods exported to Ireland 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, the 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 joining the 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, the Caribbean Islands and Pacific. The Cotonou Agreement, signed in year 2000, defines the new EU-ACP partnership.

- The Generalised System of Preferences (GSP): 54% of the tariff lines of a 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 Ireland, please check the list of VAT rates applied within the European Union, as well as the Ministry of Finance web site.

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



The years 1999 to 2001 marked a phase of exceptional growth for Ireland, allowing it to catch up to the economic level of the European Union countries. In 2004, retail trade grew to 66.5 billion euros, a growth of 2.75% as compared to 2003. Consumers have become more demanding, and as a result the distribution market has changed to the benefit of foreign brands.

The Business to Consumer (B to C) market
Sales (in terms of volume) in the retail trade increased by 4.2% in August 2005 compared to the same period in 2004, and in terms of value there was an increase of 5.7%.
Foreign products are increasingly becoming highly prized especially in the food sector, and the consumers’ demand for good quality is also going up. The most striking phenomenon is the trend toward consolidation and the entry of foreign groups into the country especially British companies like Marks & Spencer and TESCO. 70% of the distribution of food products is monopolized by groups like Musgrave, Dunnes Store, Superquinn and TESCO. In addition, franchises such as Super Valu, Spar have recently appeared.
Non-food consumer goods, which constitute half of retail sales, are mainly distributed by national stores like Roches Stores, Brown Thomas and Arnotts.
Shopping centers and malls are on the increase, with one opening up in 2005 in Dublin in the centre of Dundrum, consisting mainly of foreign brands like Zara, H&M and Mango.

The Business to Business (B to B) market
In 2004, the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) was 183.6 billion dollars, a growth of 4.9% as compared to 2003. Sectors like information technology, telecommunications, medical products, bio-technology, food-processing and construction material are all doing well and offer numerous job opportunities. The fiscal and regulatory framework is extremely attractive: in fact, with its domestic market shrinking, Ireland needs to attract foreign investments in order to ensure its prosperity. It is for this reason that the IDA (Industrial Development Agency) was created. This agency had a budget of 123 billion euros in 2004, of which 65 billion euros were distributed to companies in the form of a grant. In 2004, the total amount of FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) was 9.1 billion dollars, a decline of 66% over 2003.

The franchise system is widely popular amongst foreign companies which are already set up in Ireland: 39% of franchises are of American origin, 30% are British, and 15% are of Irish origin. The franchise exhibition salon irlandais de la franchise was held in Dublin on 4th and 5th of November 2005.


Transportation of goods

By road
The growth rate of the Celtic Tiger " (+ 6% in 1999) is the highest in Europe and attracted a lot of investors over these last few years. The sectors of data processing, telecommunications, medical products, biotechnology, farm-produce industry and the building materials are very appreciated and open up new markets. The fiscal and statutory context is extremely attractive: indeed, with its small market, Ireland has to welcome foreign investments to ensure prosperity. In 1999, more than 95.000 new jobs were created in key commercial sectors, notably information technology (material, software, call centres), the building trade and the financial services (banking activity, assurance). Ireland is from now on ranked 1st by the World Economic Forum as regards to the most favourable conditions for the foreign investors.

By rail
The road network covers 5.700 km, among which 150 km are freeways and 70 km are highways. There are 2750 km of main roads and 2700 km of regional roads. The National Road Authority (NRA) forecasts a national plan for the development of the road infrastructures of the country to connect the main cities of the country via freeways. The authority in charge of transportation is the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Energy.

By sea
There are 2,000 km of railroads, among which 520 km are double way and 40 km are electrified. Southern Ireland does not possess self important railway infrastructures compared with those of the Ulster but has nevertheless a wider network. The service is ensured by the state owned company Irish Rail Iarnrod Eireann. In Ulster, the service is ensured by the Northern Ireland Railways (NIR) which connect Dublin to Belfast 6 times a day.

By air
The main ports are Dublin, Castletownbere. Ireland's most important fishing port is Rosslare Europort in Wexford's county. There are connections with England and European continent especially via the ferry company Stena line. In 1998, 18.5 million tons of freight passed in transit via the port of Dublin, that is an increase of a 10% in relation to 1997. Several projects are in progress for the improvement of the conditions of reception of the port of Dublin thanks to European aids.

Patents and brands

Ireland signed the Agreement of Paris concerning the protection of industrial property and the agreement which establishes the World Intellectual property Organization (WIPO). The country also signed the Agreement of Rome and Bern. As for patents, it adhered to the Agreement of Munich for European patents, as well as the Patents Co-operation Treaty (PCT). Furthermore, it adhered to the agreement of Strasbourg.
The country intends to sign the Agreement of Madrid relative to trademarks international Register. For the moment, it signed the Agreements of Nice concerning the classification of goods and services.

Texts currently applying to patents/brands

  Text Date entered into law Period of validity Comment
Trademark Law on Trademarks 10 years renewable


Last modified in 2006 - ongoing update
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