Non-preferential origin - In which cases can certificates of non-preferential origin be used?

Non-preferential origin - In which cases can certificates of non-preferential origin be used?

At the end of 2018, the European Commission issued new guidelines on establishing and proving the non-preferential origin of goods from third countries. These come both in support of European importers as well as customs authorities.

Impact on transactions by European importers

Non-preferential origin represents the economic nationality of the commodity, while its customs status attests whether the commodity was put into free circulation or not.

In the context of safeguard measures or other types of trade measures imposed by the European Union (eg anti-dumping duties), importers are responsible for correctly determining the non-preferential origin of the goods they trade.

With the new guidelines, the European Commission draws the attention both to importers and customs authorities that the establishment and proving of the non-preferential origin of the goods at the level of the European Union is done strictly based on the rules laid down in this territory (and not on the basis of those in the country of export to the EU). In addition, for the application of non-preferential origin rules, it is important for the importer to know whether the goods are subject to special non-preferential import arrangements or not.

Which goods are subject to a special non-preferential import regime?

The European Commission defines the "special non-preferential import regime" as the regime in which imported products are subject to tariff quotas (such as US safeguard measures against US imports and other countries).

Only in this case can the non-preferential origin be proven by the importer by means of a certificate of origin, but which must be strictly drawn up in accordance with the rules and model laid down in the implementing rules of the Union Customs Code (Annex 22-14). Otherwise, proof of origin can be rejected, which may result in additional tax payments to importers.

What happens to goods that are not subject to such a regime?

In the case of goods not subject to a tariff quota (most of the goods imported into the EU), the European Commission draws attention to the fact that certificates of origin issued by third countries (eg China, Thailand, Taiwan) can not be taken into account.
Since they are issued under other rules of origin, which differ from those applicable at the level of the European Union, they provide insufficient information on the non-preferential origin of the goods.

For example, many of the goods originating in China are subject to anti-dumping duties (40-60%) on imports into the European Union.
Surveys recently conducted by the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) found that many times to circumvent these duties, suppliers exported them from China to other countries (eg Taiwan, Thailand, India) and declared the origin of the goods as from these countries based on erroneously issued home certificates.

Thus, in later checks, the customs authorities invalidate these certificates and oblige European importers to pay these anti-dumping duties plus interest and related penalties.

How can importers prove their origin in this case?

The first recommended tool would be obtaining Obligatory Origin Information (IOO) from the European customs authorities, a document certified by the customs authorities that verifies and confirms the origin of the goods.

In this way, in fact, the origin of the goods is secured, as long as the information underlying the issuance of an IOO was correct and complete. Importers will know exactly what duty they have to pay before importing and can negotiate more efficiently the purchase price or delivery method.

The second instrument recommended to prove non-preferential origin in the absence of an IOO would be a document drawn up by the declarant (or directly by the exporter if the information is considered to be confidential) containing the information necessary to determine the non-preferential origin (eg, description of the goods, description of the process whether it has been obtained from materials made wholly within the country of export, the origin rule applied, etc.). A model document (for information) is included in the European Union Guidelines.

Verifying the fairness of the non-preferential origin of goods on subsequent customs controls is one of the hot topics in Romania and the European Union. The declaration and proving of the origin of the goods, both at the time of the import formalities and subsequently, falls under the responsibility of the importers.

Therefore, it is essential that they know the rules of origin applicable at EU level to avoid any additional import charge.