When you work with international trade and commercial freight, there are many shipping documents that come under your purview. One such shipping document is referred to as the “Certificate of Origin” which is used to identify the origin of the goods being freighted.  Many countries across the globe request for a certificate of origin and is one of the most important international trade documents that not only declares the origin of the goods in question, but also that they have been obtained wholly, produced, manufactured or processed in the country that has been mentioned.  A certificate of origin can either be a paper or electronic document and is often abbreviated as “COO” or “C/O” or even known as “Form A”.

A certificate of origin is important as it the origin country will reflect how tariffs, embargo and other trade policies applied on the freight in question. However, as we said before, only some countries require it, and not all exporters will need to undertake it. This is based on the destination of the freighted goods, its nature and the finances. To ensure the validity of a certificate of origin, the exporter is required to sign this shipping document and also countersigned by the local Chamber of Commerce.  With concern to a handful of destination countries, the Certificate of Original will also be required to be signed by a consulate.

There is also what is called non-preferential and preferential certificates of origin, whereby the former ensures that the goods do not benefit from any preferential treatment or any bilateral/multilateral free trade agreements. This type is considered the standard certificate of origin which Chambers of Commerce are authorised to issue. However, there are the preferential certificates of origin that will benefit from bilateral/multilateral free trade agreements such as those from the likes of the European Union, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), and NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement).

It’s important to remember that country of origin and preferential origin is different from each other. For instance, the EU will decide the (non-preferential) country of origin based on the last stage of the manufacturing process also legally termed ‘last substantial transformation’. The FTA is the determining factor. Furthermore, there are some countries that have deleted customs authorities to issue preferential certificates of origin on behalf of the chamber of commerce, thus goods from the likes of Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom fall under this lot.

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