Certificate of origin
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A certificate of origin (often abbreviated to C/O, COO or CoO) is a document used in international trade. In a printed form or as an electronic document, it is completed by the exporter and certified by an recognized issuing body, attesting that the goods in a particular export shipment have been produced, manufactured or processed in a particular country.
The first certificate of origin was issued by the Marseille Province Chamber of Commerce at the end of the 19th century. The formalization in the role of chambers of commerce as issuing agencies for certificates of origin (CO) can be traced back to the 1923 Geneva Convention relating to the Simplification of Customs Formalities (Article 11) and has been reinforced with the updated Kyoto Convention.
Under these Conventions, signatory governments were able to allow organizations “which possess the necessary authority and offer the necessary guarantees” to the State to issue certificates of origin. Thus due to the widespread network of the chamber of commerce community, in most countries, chambers of commerce were seen as these organizations allowed to issue certificates of origin. As such, seen as “competent authorities”, chambers began to more widely issue non-preferential certificates of origin.
In 1968, at the Uruguay Round, an agreement was reached on Rules of Origin which led to more transparent regulations and practices regarding rules of origin (RoO).
Later on, in 1999, the Revised Kyoto Convention added an Annex on the Simplification and Harmonization of Customs Procedures to further facilitate the transfer of legal documents in international trade.
By 2008, 350 Free Trade Agreements had been reached with provisions on preferential treatment; 400 Free Trade Agreements are expected by 2012, seeing an expansion on the issuance of preferential certificates of origin.
Country of origin
The origin of the product does not refer to the country where the goods were shipped from but to the country where they were made. In the event the products were manufactured in two or more countries, origin is obtained in the country where the last substantial economically justified working or processing is carried out. An often used practice is that if more than 50% of the cost of producing the goods originates from one country, the "national content" is more than 50%, then, that country is acceptable as the country of origin.
In the case of trading blocs, certificates of origin may be allowed to state the trading bloc (for example, the European Union as origin) rather than a specific country. Determining the origin of a product is important because origin is a key information for applying tariffs, embargo and other trade policies. However, not all exporters need a certificate of origin, this will depend on the destination of the goods, their nature, and it can also depend on the financial institution involved in the export operation.
In order to be valid, the certificate of origin must be signed by the exporter, and countersigned by the local chamber of commerce. For certain (but few) other destination countries, the document has also to be countersigned by a consulate.
The issuance of certificates of origin is not harmonized between the different chambers of commerce. The ICC World Chambers Federation is an international organism trying to establish international certificate of origin guidelines, and to standardize procedures around the world.
Types of certificates of origin
Non-preferential and preferential
Non-preferential certificates of origin are the most common type of certificate. These certificates of origin see that goods do not benefit from any preferential treatment and do not emanate from a particular bilateral or multilateral free trade agreement. Chambers that are authorized to issue certificates of origin are most frequently authorized to issue non-preferential certificates of origin.
A preferential certificate of origin is a document attesting that goods in a particular shipment are of a certain origin under the definitions of a particular bilateral or multilateral free trade agreement (FTA). This certificate is required by a country's customs authority in deciding whether the imports should benefit from preferential treatment in accordance with special trading areas or customs unions such as the European Union, ASEAN or the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or before anti-dumping taxes are enforced.
The definition of "country of origin" and "preferential origin" are different. The European Union for example generally determines the (non-preferential) origin country by the location of which the last major manufacturing stage took place in the products production (in legal terms: "last substantial transformation"). Whether a product has preferential origin depends on the rules of any particular FTA being applied, these rules can be value based or tariff shift based.
The FTA rules are commonly called "origin protocols". The origin protocols of any given FTA will determine a rule for each manufactured product, based on its nomenclature code (Harmonized Tariff Schedule for example, or HTS). Each and every rule will provide several options to calculate whether the product has preferential origin or not.
A typical value based rule might read: raw materials, imported from countries that are not members of this FTA, used in production do not make up for more than 25% of the Ex-Works value of the finished product. A typical tariff shift rule might read: none of the raw materials, imported from countries that are not members of this FTA, used in production may have the same HTS code as the finished product.
In several countries, customs authorities are delegating the right to issue preferential certificates of origin on their behalf to chambers of commerce. These countries include New Zealand, Australia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
With the multiplication of trading bloc and free trade agreements (FTAs), a multitude of different forms have emerged and are used as certificates of origin in today's international trade.
Depending on the exporting and importing countries, as well as the applicable trade regulations, other standard forms such as the Form A, Form B (applicable for the Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement), Form E (for the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area), Form F (for the China-Chile Free Trade Agreement), Form N (for the China-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement), Form X (for the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement), EUR-MED (for the Pan Euro Med Free Trade Area), ATR.1 (for the trade between the EU and Turkey), US certificate of origin and the NAFTA certificate of origin are also in use.
However, virtually all certificate of origin form use the same template, with fields for the country of origin, the shippers, consignees, transport details, product and quantity, and the issuing body (stamp and signature).
Electronic certificates of origin
Chambers of commerce issue millions of certificates of origin every year. To keep pace with the shift to e-business and improve their efficiency, so-called "eCO" are being implemented.
Increasing concerns about fraud and the need to improve the supply chain security, eCOs are seen as a means not only to facilitate and provide a secure trading environment but also save time, costs and increase transparency. Several eCO platforms have been developed by national and regional chambers of commerce.
- ATA Carnet
- Trade facilitation
- Chamber of Commerce
- International Trade
- EUR.1 movement certificate
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