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New trends in dematerializing certificates of origin

A new report published by the World Customs Organization (WCO) Secretariat presents the findings on the current practices and trends on the use of certification of origin and the digitalization of relevant certificates, including in some African countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo, Morocco and Ethiopia. This study is the result of a survey undertaken in autumn 2022 to capture the situation regarding digitalization of certificates of origin (COOs), including practices followed by WCO Members on issuance of electronic certificates of origin (eCOOs), as well as on origin data exchange system.  Lastly, it identifies the main agencies issuing COOs (both preferential and non-preferential), with the factors for success and the challenges and difficulties faced by WCO members. These findings will provide a useful resource to inform future technical assistance activities. The study report will be used to prepare guidance for WCO members on digitalization of certificates of origin.

Interestingly, the study notes that among the 84 Customs administrations that participated to the survey on the format of the proof of origin, the overwhelming majority (73.8% of the sample) implements multiple origin certification systems, i.e., both COOs issued by a government-designated authority and a self-certification of origin system. The remaining member responded instead that they implement a COO issued by a designated authority only. More precisely, 48 Members of the 82 Customs surveyed (corresponding to 58.5% of the sample) declared that they have implemented both paper-based and electronic certificates of origin, while 33 Members (40.2%) responded that they implemented paper-based certificates of origin only. Saudi Arabia adopts electronic certificates of origin only (1.2%). Regarding the authorities that are usually competent for the issuance of preferential COOs, Customs are the main ones, followed by Ministries of Trade and Chambers of Commerce. For non-preferential certificates of origin, the main responsible agencies are Chamber of Commerce (54 Members).

The availability of electronic verification systems (e.g., web-based checking of CO, like the one used by India) is spreading as a system for facilitating origin verifications. Self-certification of origin has also a high usage rate, with 62 Members reporting is use. This reflects a push for greater facilitation of origin certification to increase usage of agreements and to reduce the costs of such usage.

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