For the majority of certificates of origin created around the world most of them are completed manually ie.  filled out by hand. Exporters then have to take them to the Chambers of Commerce who would then stamp them to be certified.

But in a business environment that is forever changing, the need for modernizing the certificate or origin has led to the development of the electronic certificates of origin e-CO. Many Chambers of commerce provide an online certificate of origin service that makes it possible for exporters to apply and get their certificates of origin online.

Why do you Need an Electronic Certificate of Origin?

With millions of certificates of origin issued every year, using manual processes is cumbersome and tedious and often led to massive backlogs. Electronic certificates of origin not only increase transparency, save costs and time but also provide a secure trading environment.

In recent times regional and national Chambers of Commerce have developed e-CO platforms that exporters can use to get their certificates of origin. This trend is only going to accelerate given that it has received a lot of support from policymakers and the business community.

In fact, the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade Facilitation that sets the standard for the use of electronic documents gives the use of the e-CO a blessing according to Article 10.2 of the agreement:

  1. All members of WTO shall endeavour where appropriate to accept electronic or paper copies of supporting documents for transit, export and import formalities.
  2. In instances where a member or a government agency has the original of such a document, then electronic or paper copies shall be accepted by any other member or agency where appropriate from the agency that has the electronic copy in lieu of the original.
  3. Members shall not require a copy or original export declarations to be furnished to the customs officials of the exporting member to facilitate importation.

How to Create a Certificate of Origin (e-CO) Online

For nearly a hundred years, exporters have had to rely on getting certification from the Chambers of Commerce organizations. This is tedious since it called for exporters to:

  1. Manually fill in the certificate of origin
  2. Courier or deliver it to the Chamber offices
  3. Wait until the Chamber official reviewed and certified the certificate
  4. Send it back to the exporter’s offices
  5. Send the certificate of origin through courier to the importer

The traditional process was time-consuming and expensive since it added a lot of courier and delivery cost. Online application, submission, and certification is much easier.

Obtaining an Electronic Certificate of Origin

The process of creating the electronic certificate of origin is pretty much similar to that of the paper certificate though everything is done electronically on a portal provided by the Chambers of Commerce. As such, all one needs to do is submit the documentation required online and get the stamp from the Chambers of Commerce. This typically takes no more than a day or two thus saving a lot of time.

The Certificate of Origin and the Chamber of Commerce

The Chamber of Commerce provides the certificate of origin, which certifies that the goods exported come from the country indicated. The certificate of origin is typically a required document by the government of the country into which goods are being imported. Most governments also use the certificate of origin to determine the amount of duty charged for bringing in imported goods.  This is relevant if the importing country has a free trade agreement with the exporting country and the certificate of origin is being used to validate not charging the duty in the importing country.

Most governments require a certificate that has information on the importer and exporter, the country of origin, harmonized tariff code of the cargo and the cargo description.

Most certificates are generic as long as they have all the information required. Importers typically depend on the cooperation and assistance of suppliers to produce well documented and accurate certificates of origin. It is the duty of the exporter to prepare and get the certificate stamped by the local Chamber of Commerce.

The two types of certificates or origin whether paper or electronic are:

Preferential Certificates of Origin

This certificate of origin confirms that goods are subject to exemptions or reduced tariffs when exported to countries that have a free trade agreement with the importing country.

Non Preferential Certificates of Origin

These certificates of origin confirm that the cargo being imported do not qualify under any free trade agreements. This is the vast majority of certificates of origin issued and they are typically known as generic or ordinary certificates of origin.

How the Electronic Certificate of Origin Works

The information required is basically the same for both paper and electronic certificates of origin. The difference is that instead of printing the certificate and taking it to the Chambers to get it certified, an exporter needs to enter the information online and then the Chamber will send the certified certificate by express mail or via email depending on preference.

All an exporter needs to do is log into the portal using their credentials, enter the required information and submit to the Chamber of Commerce. Most will reply within a few hours with an email asserting that the electronic certificate of origin is approved and certified for use.

Applications are typically reviewed and approved by an accredited Chamber of commerce that is a member of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) World Chambers Federation. As such, an exporter can rest assured that the e-CO is compliant with best practice, rules, and regulations of international trade.

Benefits of the Electronic Certificate of Origin

  1. Saves Time – Instead of having to hire couriers or driving to the Chamber’s offices and waiting for them to get back to you, application and submission are done online. Once you get the electronic certificate from the Chamber you can download and print the e-CO right from the office.
  2. Saves Money – Exporters have to pay a lot of money that includes courier/transportation and documentation fees that could easily run to several hundred dollars. The electronic certificate of origin could cost as little as $50 per certificate as there are no courier fees involves.
  3. It is Secure – The electronic web portal and digital storage are highly secured to ensure that the certificates of origin are not tampered with. The certificates are also secured using international best practice and standards approved by the ICC.

Other Benefits

Electronic certificates come with safeguard systems that include optical watermarking technology, and online verification of the authenticity of the electronic certificate of origin. They provide better transparency which saves time and reduces the costs for banks, importers, exporters, customs administrations among other stakeholders.

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