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Customs: Commission proposes strategy for simplified rules of origin

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Friday, 18 March 2005

Customs: Commission proposes strategy for simplified rules of origin

The Commission has adopted a strategy to establish new simplified rules of origin for the purposes of the EU's preferential trade arrangements with certain third countries. The rules of origin, which determine which goods can benefit from the lower rates of customs duty under the preferential trade arrangements, are currently too complicated, as well as being susceptible to abuse. The Commission suggests replacing the current rules with a single value-added method for determining origin which would make them clearer as well as more development-friendly. The Commission also envisages improving the management of the system and introducing a monitoring programme. The changes would be made via legislative measures. Work on the first measure will commence immediately.
Preferential trade arrangements are aimed at increasing reciprocal trade in goods and access to the Community market for products from developing countries by eliminating or reducing customs duties. The rules of origin, that are designed to ensure that the customs preferences apply to products that originate (i.e. are wholly obtained or are substantially processed) in the country granted the preference, are currently too numerous, complex and inflexible as well as being open to abuse. The Commission's Communication therefore sets out the following plans for simplifying and relaxing appropriately the present rules:
- a single, across-the-board criterion for determining the origin of non-wholly-obtained goods based, subject to further impact assessment, on a certain threshold of value added in the beneficiary country (or, where appropriate, regional group) concerned;
- a rebalancing of the rights and obligations of operators and administrations. In particular, the current system of proving origin by means of a certificate signed by the exporter and stamped by the competent authorities of the country concerned would be replaced by a statement of origin by registered exporters;
- the development of instruments to ensure that the beneficiary countries comply with their obligations. This would include measures to improve evaluation, information flows, training and technical assistance so as to assist co-operation between the Community and its preferential partners, as well as a system for the periodic monitoring of compliance.