Roundtable on the Future of Rules of Origin and Utilisation Rates

The Roundtable on the Future of Rules of Origin and Utilisation Rates took place in Florence, Italy on 26-28 June. The Executive Training Seminar was organised by the European University Institute and UNCTAD. 


“Rules of Origin (RoO) continue to be the subject of intense debate in international trade policy circles. To date, multilateral efforts by organisations such as the WTO, the WCO, and UNCTAD have failed to induce countries to agree to common disciplines on the use of RoO. The private sector frequently complains about the complexity of RoO, but industry has not been effective in pressing governments for reforms and to resume initiatives for regulating ROO at multilateral level. Some progress has been made at the WTO Committee of the Rules of Origin, reflected in initiatives aimed at raising the level of transparency and improving RoO for LDCs. Such developments may provide scope for plurilateral initiatives on RoO among a group of WTO members in view of the next WTO Ministerial in 2020 and the opportunities provided by the revision of Annex K of the WCO Kyoto convention on Rules of Origin. The EUI and UNCTAD are working together with the aim to provide a platform for experts, researchers, practitioners, government officials and the private sector to discuss developments in the area of RoO on an annual basis through policy roundtable meetings of experts hosted by the EUI. The goal is to share experiences, ongoing policy-relevant research on RoO and related administrative requirements, and research findings.”

My presentation was based on the continuation of the work undertaken for the RTA Exchange Rules of Origin Policy Dialogue and the 2016 “The Preferential Origin Regime and Global Value Chains” paper. The main takeaway from the paper was that the origin regime does not currently reflect the increasingly complex and changing supply chains and operating models (e.g. principal model, toll manufacturing, e-commerce etc.)

This presentation was based on further evidence collected from consulting projects, talking to other customs practitioners and individual companies. It identified emerging patterns and focused on underutilization of preference for originating goods. It answered the question of what would stop a company from identifying preference opportunities, certifying origin and obtaining preferential treatment (presuming that goods meet origin requirements)?

Similar to the 2016 paper, the presentation stressed the fact that stringent rules of origin are not the only issue – stringent origin provisions can be equally restrictive. It classified the barriers to trading under preferences based on the 3 points within the international trade process (production, export and import) in which they can occur.

Please get in touch for further information on the event and my work on rules of origin.