WTO partners with ITC, WCO to address rules of origin with a global digital tool
(Geneva) – The World Trade Organization (WTO) today has formally announced its collaboration with the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the World Customs Organization (WCO) to further strengthen and roll out the Rules of Origin Facilitator. Launched by ITC and WCO in 2018, the Rules of Origin Facilitator is a free online tool that enables micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) to benefit from international trade opportunities. Through the tool, businesses in developing countries can better utilise free trade agreements and preferential trade arrangements by complying with their rules of origin.
The Rules of Origin Facilitator provides MSMEs with access to a unique searchable database on duty savings in trade agreements, and the corresponding rules of origin. Users can search the tool by product name or product code, and they can access original documentation, including certificates of origin.
Such availability of information helps to reduce transaction costs and make it easier for MSMEs to claim reduced or zero duty rates under trade agreements. In addition, access to essential market access information, provided in an intuitive manner, will assist MSMEs to bridge the competitiveness gap with large firms.
Announcing the Rules of Origin Facilitator partnership, WTO Deputy Director-General Yi Xiaozhun said: ‘Companies now must navigate their way through over 300 reciprocal regional trade agreements and about 30 non-reciprocal trade preferences. In addition, about 50 WTO Members apply rules of origin for non-preferential purposes.’
'The Rules of Origin Facilitator breaks new ground. It offers companies a platform to obtain in a single place reliable, up-to-date information about all rules of origin,' he said. 'Even though there are thousands of pages of legislation and hundreds of hours of work behind the Facilitator, the information is free and simple and there are explanations of all terms used.'
ITC Deputy Executive Director Dorothy Tembo said: ‘I am very pleased to welcome the WTO to this Rules of Origin partnership. With the WTO on board we will be able to make this invaluable digital tool available to more enterprises in developing countries and ensure greater transparency in trade.’
MSMEs have struggled to find reliable and easy-to-use information on available tariff rates and applicable rules of origin in one place. Rules of origin have been identified as the most common source of constraints by MSMEs according to ITC business surveys, which were conducted in more than 60 countries.
The WTO has the mandate towards harmonizing non-preferential rules of origin under the Agreement on Rules of Origin. Moreover, WTO Members have adopted Ministerial Declarations on preferential rules of origin applicable to imports from least developed countries.
As such, the Rules of Origin Facilitator has benefitted greatly from WTO notifications regarding preference-granting members. Crucial, too, for the success of the tool will be the continued support from WTO experts to improve its methodology in collecting and processing the information on rules of origin.
WTO has become the third organization to join this initiative, initially unveiled by the ITC and the WCO in 2018. WCO played an important role in the construction of the tool and their tools such as the Comparative Study on Preferential Rules of Origin have contributed to the foundation of the Rules of Origin Facilitator. In addition, WCO experts have contributed tremendously to the guidance materials and methodology in the tool.
Visit the Rule of Origin Facilitator findrulesoforigin.org