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Chapter 5: Trade Regulations, Customs and Standards

Import Tariffs

Israel's tariff classification is based on the Harmonized System (HS) Code. Israel’s Customs and Purchase Tax Tariff is the main instrument used for the classification of goods. The correct classification of goods is the key to determining tax rates, as well as obtaining various authorizations, permits and licenses, and all other conditions of importation, in accordance to the applicable laws, regulations and instructions. We recommend contacting a professional customs broker for consultation since classification of goods requires professional knowledge. Israeli Customs provides free pre-ruling classification information. A request should include a detailed description of the goods, a catalog with the technical information and/or any other relevant information. In addition, Customs may also require a sample of the material/product, lab testing results, authorizations from institutes/authorized government agencies, import license and any other documents as required by the specific Customs Department.

Trade Barriers

In general, Israel offers a good commercial environment for U.S. companies. The United States-Israel Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has eliminated almost all tariffs, leaving Israel's agricultural sector as the only one with substantial barriers. The FTA also provides for a joint committee comprised of representatives from both countries to review the functioning of the agreement. Israel is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

A 1996 Agreement on Trade in Agricultural Products (ATAP) with the United States permits Israel to maintain non-tariff protection for certain agricultural products. This framework expired at the end of 2001 but the signed agreement was renegotiated and extended until the end of 2008. Since then the agreement was extended three times until the end of 2013. Negotiations on a new expanded agreement are ongoing with the intention of both sided to sign the agreement before the end of 2013.Under the agreement, Israel permits free access to a long list of food products and duty-free access for certain quantities of a list of U.S. products under tariff rate quotas (TRQ). American exporters and Israeli importers, however, complain that these TRQs provide an insufficient duty-free quota for many fruits and other products, and very high tariffs on imports above quota. Israel excludes most of US fresh vegetative products, on phytosanitary grounds. Israel has revised its phytosanitary restrictions and requirements making them consistent with WTO requirements.

The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv is very actively pursuing much-needed improvements in the export and investment climate for U.S. firms in Israel. These efforts are focused in three specific areas: incorporating technical standards in Israel that do not discriminate against U.S. products, protecting intellectual property rights, and establishing greater transparency in Israel’s public procurement process. For further information about how these issues may affect your export prospects in Israel, please contact the Commercial Service in Israel.

Regarding intellectual Property Rights, while there has been improvement in the level of illegal production, importation, and sale of copyrighted and trademarked goods, problems still exist. For more details, see “Intellectual Property Rights, in Chapter 6, “Investment Climate Statement.”

Import Requirements and Documentation

All administrative import licensing requirements for U.S.-made consumer and industrial goods have been eliminated under the FTA, excluding the requirements for most food and agricultural products. In the case of products for which there is a TRQ, the Ministry of Agriculture or the Ministry of Industry, Trade & Labor issues a license, which either totally exempts the bearer from duty or grants a reduction in customs duty on the quantity indicated in the license. Importers wishing to bring in goods without availing themselves of the TRQ are not required to obtain a license. All imported agricultural and food products must carry a health certificate or an import license for veterinary, phytosanitary or public health reasons. The Israel Veterinary Services (IVS), the Plant Protection and Inspection Services (PPIS) and the Food Control Service (FCS) of the Ministry of Health issue these licenses, respectively. Please contact Agricultural Specialist Yossi Barak for more details at yossi.barak@usda.gov.

U.S. Export Controls

U.S. exporters to Israel must follow standard U.S. Government requirements regarding export control documentation for sensitive U.S. technology exports.  For information on this subject contact the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security, Internet web site: http://www.bis.doc.gov/ or the Trade Information Center at 1-800-872-8723 or the U.S. Department of State Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC).

Although Israel is not a signatory to the Wassenaar Arrangement, it has adopted the Wassenaar list of dual-use items subject to control. As of January 1, 2007, the Ministry of Industry, Trade & Labor is responsible for the administration of Israel’s dual-use export control system. However, it lacks sufficient trained personnel to shoulder this responsibility completely and continues to rely on staff work of the Ministry of Defense. The Ministry of Defense has established a new division to deal exclusively with the export controls of defense items.

U.S. export licenses are required for exports to Israel of certain high technology, defense related equipment and technologies and weapons for chemical and biological warfare. U.S. exporters should ensure that they are in compliance with the export control regulations as administered through the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry & Security and U.S. Department of State, Office of Defense Trade Controls.

Temporary Entry

Temporary entry of U.S.-made goods is possible with an "ATA Carnet" issued by a U.S. Chamber of Commerce or through payment of a deposit, reimbursable upon re-export.

Labeling and Marking Requirements

Israel has strict marking and labeling requirements that frequently differ from those of other countries. U.S. exporters should consult with their Israeli importer prior to shipping any product that will be offered to the local market. The Food Control Services (FCS) of the Ministry of Health his enforcing the labeling regulations Embassy Tel Aviv is working with the Ministry to try to resolve any discrepancy.

All imports into Israel must have a label indicating the country of origin, the name and address of the producer, the name and address of the Israeli importer, the contents, and the weight or volume in metric units. In all instances, Hebrew must be used; English may be added provided the printed letters are no larger than those in Hebrew. Nutritional labeling is compulsory on all packaged foods. For more information on marking and labeling requirements, see the information in FAIRS report or please contact Agricultural Specialist Yossi Barak for more details at yossi.barak@usda.gov, Tel: 972-3-519-7686.

Israel has no declared government policy on genetically modified organisms (GMO) although regulations are being prepared which will require positive labeling when a product or an ingredient is genetically modified. Israel’s main export market for food is Europe where consumer concern over GMO is considerable. Thus, many Israeli raw material importers require an exporter’s declaration that the product is GMO free.

Marking should be done by printing, engraving, stamping, or any other means, on the package or the goods themselves. If marking is not possible, a label should be well sewn or stuck to the goods or package. Marking details should be clear, legible and in a different color from the background in order to be clearly distinguishable. Printing dyes and other marking materials should not affect merchandise quality. The marking should not be blurred. On a multi-layered package, the external layer should be marked. If the external layer is transparent the marking should be done underneath that layer, provided it is still clear and legible. On a package containing sub-packages, the labeling should specify the number of such sub-packages, the net content of a sub-package, and the overall net weight of the package. An aerosol container should indicate the net quantity weight unit for semi-solid or powder products, and volume unit for liquids. For products that tend to lose weight under regular marketing/commercial conditions, the maximum quantity of expected depletion should be mentioned.

Specific labeling regulations apply to some consumer goods, paper products, handbags, musical recordings, fertilizers, insecticides, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, some food products, seeds, and alcoholic beverages. Outside and inside containers of dangerous articles, such as poisons, insecticides, drugs, flammable goods, ammunition, explosives, reptiles, insects, bacteria and radioactive materials should be clearly marked.

  • exporters of auto parts to Israel are concerned about a Ministry of Transportation requirement that they affix “Made in the USA” labels to their product before entry into Israeli Customs territory. Most U.S. auto parts manufacturers label their parts as being “Assembled in the USA,” required by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for domestic parts that contain some portion of foreign content.

Prohibited and Restricted Imports

Israel maintains restrictions on imports of agricultural and food products the government considers to be economically sensitive and subject to agricultural policy considerations. U.S. meat exports face an especially difficult environment due to a ban on beef meat due to veterinary restrictions and for kosher requirements. Waiving the ban on imports of live cattle and beef meat and products is under advanced discussions.

Israeli law determines that the sole authority for certifying food as kosher is the Council of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Hence, products considered kosher in the United States still must obtain certification from Israel's Chief Rabbinate to be considered kosher in Israel. With the exception of meat, poultry and their products, there is no legal requirement that imported food be kosher. However, for commercial considerations, in most cases it is advisable to obtain kosher certification for products and raw materials as surveys show that between 60 and 65 percent of the Jewish population prefer Kosher food. Please contact Agricultural Specialist Yossi Barak for more details at yossi.barak@usda.gov, Tel: 972-3-519-7686.

Customs Regulations and Contact Information

Israeli Customs stringently enforces import documentation regulations, including the requirement for a U.S. Certificate of Origin for exports to Israel. Therefore, U.S. exporters should meticulously follow the advice given below and always double-check with the Israeli Customs clearing agent before the goods leave the United States to avoid potentially lengthy delays when the goods enter Israel.

In order for U.S. exporters to qualify for preferential access to the Israeli market, a hard copy, green color certificate of origin must accompany all shipments from the United States to Israel. The FTA came into full effect in 1995. Under this agreement, American companies exporting to Israel can gain greater market access, reduce transaction costs, increase sales, enhance export revenues and become more competitive in the Israeli marketplace. U.S. exporters are encouraged to qualify for preferential tariff treatment and to obtain, when necessary, a certificate of non-manipulation for trans-shipments.

If the exporter is also the manufacturer the certificate does not need to be notarized or stamped by a Chamber of Commerce. Instead, the exporter should make the following declaration in box 11 of the certificate: "The undersigned hereby declares that he is the producer of the goods covered by this certificate and that they comply with the origin requirements specified for those goods in the U.S.-Israel Free Trade Area Agreement for goods exported to Israel”. The actual forms are printed by a number of commercial printing houses in the United States. Please note that the aforementioned process is being reviewed for possible modifications and that the U.S. Commercial Service should be contacted for more information at Certificate of Origin for Exporting to Israel.

Other Documentation

The Israeli Customs Services prefer that exporters use their own commercial invoice forms containing all required information including name and address of supplier, general nature of the goods, country of origin of the goods, name and address of the customer in Israel, name of the agent in Israel, terms, rate of exchange (if applicable), Israel import license number (if applicable), shipping information, and a full description of all goods in the shipment including shipping marks, quantity or measure, composition of goods (by percentage if mixed), tariff heading number, gross weight of each package, net weight of each package, total weight of shipment, price per unit as sold, and total value of shipment. The total value of the shipment includes packing, shipping, dock and agency fees, and insurance charges incurred in the exportation of the goods to Israel. The commercial invoice must be signed by the manufacturer, consignor, owner, or authorized agent. U.S. exporters should also double check with their freight forwarder, shipping company or importer to find out if any other documentation, including bill of lading and packing list, is required. It is imperative that these issues be addressed before the goods arrive at the Israeli port, to avoid any possible delays and storage fees. In addition, U.S. goods that are transshipped through third countries require a Certificate of Non-Manipulation from the customs authority of the third country, in order to qualify for the FTA preferential tariff.

Authorization Procedures for "Approved Exporter" Status

Potential candidates for “Approved Exporter” status are U.S. firms with total annual exports to Israel of at least $20 million that have a clean record with the Israel Customs Services. Israel Customs will examine whether the manufacturer or exporter complies with the criteria and grant approval for "Approved Exporter" status. The approved exporter will be given an identity number to be stamped on all invoices. The approval is valid for six months, after which the exporter should receive an automatic extension from Israel Customs. If the exporter does not receive an extension notice he/she must terminate use of the approval. For more information please contact U.S. Commercial Service Commercial Specialist, Yael Torres, at yael.torres@trade.gov

Standards

Overview Return to top

The Standards Institution of Israel (SII) is the only statutory body in Israel that develops and establishes standards. Created by an act of the Knesset (Parliament), "The Standards Law of 1953" mandates SII’s responsibility for the preparation, publication of technical specifications and standards for products and services, which are produced locally or imported. Today, the SII incorporates standardization, testing, conformity assessment, product certification, management system certification and training activities under one roof. It has laboratories in almost all technological areas, providing testing and inspection services to industry and commerce, as well as regulatory services to government. Overseeing the SII’s policy is the Ministry of Industry, Trade & Labor’s Commissioner of Standards.

The supreme body of the SII is the General Assembly, comprised of 70 members from the following sectors: manufacturing, construction, commerce, services, trades, consumers, engineering associations, universities and government. The General Assembly annually elects a Board of Directors and President. The SII’s Standardization Division coordinates the preparation of standards through the work of hundreds of standardization committees that include volunteer representatives from all sectors of the Israeli economy. The adoption of Israeli standards is voluntary, however, standards may be declared mandatory by the relevant government ministry in the interest of public health and safety or protection of the environment.

As the mandated national standards body, the SII represents Israel in two international standards organizations, the International Organization for Standards (ISO) and the International Electromechanical Commission (IEC). Israeli legislation also mandates the adoption of multiple, proven international standards whenever possible to maximize benefits to the Israeli consumer of a competitive market.

However, Israeli standards policy in the past is its clear preference for European standards, but in recent years U.S. standards have been gaining greater acceptance. The SII has become an affiliate of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and the European Committee for Electro technical Standardization (CENELEC), though it has not joined any technical committees.

Standards Organizations

The SII is the sole organization that develops standards in Israel. On a yearly basis the SII prepares its work plan that includes a list of standards they plan to develop. Members of the various technical committees, as well as government ministries, provide input.

NIST Notify U.S. Service

Member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are required under the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) to report to the WTO all proposed technical regulations that could affect trade with other Member countries. Notify U.S. is a free, web-based e-mail subscription service that offers an opportunity to review and comment on proposed foreign technical regulations that can affect your access to international markets. Register online at Internet URL: http://www.nist.gov/notifyus/

Conformity Assessment

The sole authority for conformity assessment in Israel is the SII.

Product Certification

SII operates product and system certification programs. Use of the Standards Mark is generally voluntary but Israeli law mandates that certain classes of products must be certified before they are sold. The Standards Mark program operates in accordance with EN 45011. To qualify for the Standards Mark, a product must conform to the requirements of the applicable standard or standards, and be manufactured in a plant with an approved quality assurance system, similar to ISO 9002.

The Standards Mark Board appoints technical committees of representatives from the public and private sectors in various technological areas, which meet regularly to evaluate the findings of the test reports and quality assessment reports. These committees report their findings to the Licensing Committee, which is responsible for granting or canceling a license.


Once a license is issued, follow-up inspections of the product and quality assurance review is performed. These inspections are performed by laboratory personnel and certified auditors. In addition, samples of the product are taken several times a year to insure continuous compliance of the product with the relevant standard or standards. In order to ease the process for foreign manufacturers wishing to enter the Standards Mark program, agreements have been reached with independent foreign testing and certification organizations to perform testing and inspection services on behalf of SII.

The SII has signed Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRA) with the following U.S. organizations:

Dept. of Defense

QPL AND QML for Electronic components

ETL

Standards Mark recognition - Electrical and energy products

FCC

Recognition

IAPMO

Hydraulic products
Standards Mark

NSF

Food Safety, HACCP-9000, HACCP

UL

Mutual recognition in fields of: Electricity, electronics, hydraulics, mechanics, fire. Standards Mark supervision in fields of: Electricity, electronics, hydraulics, mechanics, fire

Accreditation

The Israel Laboratory Accreditation Authority (ISRAC) is the only body in Israel, which is internationally and legally recognized to accredit testing and calibration laboratories according to ISO/IEC 17025 and to recognize laboratories in accordance with the OECD rules of Good Laboratory Practice (GLP).

The Government of Israel decided in its resolution No. 3778 from August 14, 1994 to set up a National Authority for the accreditation of testing and calibration laboratories (ISRAC) and empowered the Minister of Industry, Trade & Labor to implement this resolution as a voluntary scheme for laboratories wishing to be internationally recognized for their competence in testing. The law for the national accreditation authority (ISRAC) was passed in the Knesset in May of 1997.

ISRAC has accredited laboratories in the areas of food, water, cosmetics, pesticide chemistry, biology, microbiology as well as many calibration, engineering, construction laboratories NDT (non-destructive testing) and EMC (telecommunications).

Publication of Technical Regulations

Technical standards are published in the official Israel Government Gazette in hard copy only and can be purchased in bookstores that sell legal textbooks or by subscription. Prior to publication, the Director General of the SII officially informs the relevant industry sectors of pending additions and amendments. U.S. entities can influence the content and adoption of technical standards through active participation at the technical committee level.

Labeling and Marking

The Standards Institution of Israel operates a product certification scheme to assist consumers in identifying products conforming to Israeli Standards. For more information go to:

http://www.sii.org.il/384-en/SII_EN.aspx

Contacts

Mr. Ilan Carmit, Business & Projects Development Manager
The Standards Institution of Israel
Tel: +972-3-6467802; Direct: +97237454019; Fax: +972-3-6467779; Email: carmit@sii.org.il

Mrs. Helen Atarot, Director, Standardization Division
The Standards Institution of Israel

Tel: +972-3-6465180; Fax: + 972-3-6412762; Email atarot@sii.org.il

Trade Agreements

Israel has adopted a liberal import policy. In addition to its Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the U.S., it has FTAs with Bulgaria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Mexico, Poland, Romania, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Turkey, the European Union (EU), and EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland). In 2011 a trade agreement has been signed with the MERCOSUR countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela) and an agreement with India is under discussion. Israel also has a preferential trade arrangement with Jordan and maintains a customs union with the Palestinian Authority. In late 2002, the European Union began imposing customs duties on goods manufactured by Israeli companies located in the Palestinian territories.

In 1997, Congress amended the law governing the U.S./Israeli Free Trade Agreement to enable the creation of so-called qualifying industrial zones (QIZs) with Jordan and Egypt. Jordan took advantage of this opportunity beginning in 1997. Products manufactured in Jordan enjoy duty and quota free access to the U.S. market if, inter alia, they contain a certain minimum percentage of Israeli inputs. Jordan has established a number of QIZs. Both Israeli/Jordanian trade and Jordanian exports to the U.S. have grown significantly as a result of the QIZs. Egypt signed the QIZ agreement in December 2004. Egyptian products manufactured within a designated zone with 11.7% Israeli inputs, and a combined 35% value added, may enter into the U.S. duty free. Since signing the agreement, Egypt's imports to the U.S. have nearly doubled. A list of current Egyptian QIZ-eligible companies and zones can be obtained at http://www.qizegypt.gov.eg. All products manufactured in the Palestinian territories also may enter the U.S. duty free.

Web Resources

Ministry of Finance – Israeli Department of Customs & VAT

Regarding Standards Issues:

Standards Institution of Israel

Ministry of Industry, Trade & Labor

Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce

U.S. Certificates of Origin for Exporting to Israel:

U.S. Commercial Service

U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security:

Bureau of Industry and Security

Labeling/Marking Requirements:

Ministry of Industry, Trade & Labor

Ministry of Health