The World Customs Organization (WCO) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) recently unveiled a new initiative that will enable micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to benefit from international trade opportunities.
The ITC-WCO Rules of Origin Facilitator was developed to enable MSMEs to benefit from duty savings under free trade agreements and ensure that businesses in developing countries can take greater advantage of preferential trade arrangements.
Available online at www.findrulesoforigin.org, the ITC-WCO Rules of Origin Facilitator contains information on trade agreements and applicable tariff rates at the detailed product level. The database includes the product-specific rules of origin as well as provisions on origin certification. Necessary documentation, such as certificates of origin, is also provided.
Currently, the initiative covers destination markets of 85 countries, including most of the developed economies. The online tool covers all goods in the world, ranging from raw agricultural commodities to sophisticated machinery and electronics.
Global trade is governed by more than 400 regional trade agreements and preferential trade arrangements. Ultimately, the database will cover all of these agreements. In the long term, the availability of this information will allow MSMEs to reach new export markets, and take advantage of available duty benefits in trade agreements. MSMEs will also be able to diversify export markets by understanding if they qualify for tariff preferences across several markets simultaneously.
MSMEs have struggled to find reliable and easy-to-use information on available duty rates and applicable rules of origin in order to profit from free trade opportunities. Before the launch of the ITC-WCO Rules of Origin database, there has been no single global searchable database on tariff benefits in trade agreements, with the corresponding rules of origin. This has meant that many MSMEs do not know about or do not take advantage of low or zero duty rates available under trade agreements and suffer from a competitiveness gap related to large firms.
During the launch of the ITC-WCO Rules of Origin Facilitator in Brussels, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya, said: “WCO is pleased to team up with the ITC for this new, joint initiative to increase transparency and knowledge in trade and make the subject of rules of origin more easily accessible for Customs officers, companies, trade policymakers, and trade institutions”.
He said the “WCO plays an important role in optimizing the use of rules of Origin under trade agreements through its professional technical expertise and also with the use of effective tools such as the WCO Comparative Study on Preferential Rules of Origin.”
Arancha Gonzalez, ITC Executive Director, said, in her opening remarks: “This new Rules of Origin tool will improve transparency in global trade. It will generate more trading opportunities for MSMEs, which will be able to profit from benefits offered by trade agreements, by making complicated trade rules more transparent and easily accessible through the new tool”.
Rules of origin have been identified as the most common source of complaints by MSMEs based on ITC business surveys series conducted in more than 60 countries.
Providing vital market access information in an easy and quick way via a simple search significantly reduces information costs and allows MSMEs to seize available trade opportunities. – Text and photo from WCO