The seminar, which took place from 10 to 14 June in Tokyo, brought together 13 officials from six Asian developing countries - India, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. Those attending were senior officials who, in national capitals or regional offices, regularly deal with the certification, administration, and verification of origin of their respective countries' exports under various preferential trade arrangements, particularly those of Japan, such as economic partnership agreements (EPAs) and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).
The objective of the seminar was to help the officials to better understand substantive and administrative aspects of rules of origin, so that their countries' exports can make effective use of the preferential trade opportunities available under such schemes.
The seminar was organized jointly by UNCTAD and by Japan Customs (Ministry of Finance). It was hosted at the Tokyo customs offices. The training was held as part of the UNCTAD technical cooperation project entitled "Assistance to countries of the Asian region on most favoured nation (MFN) and preferential tariff negotiations and GSP utilization". The project is financed by Government of Japan.
Participants at the seminar in Tokyo, together with Mr. Yasusuke Tsukagoshi, Director-General of Tokyo Customs
Exports from developing countries, including the six Asian countries, are eligible, in principle, for preferential market access to Japan and other developed-country markets under GSP, as well as under various reciprocal free trade agreements that are increasingly being formed between developing and developed countries. However, in order to benefit from these preferential trade arrangements, exported goods must meet the relevant rules of origin. Failure to comply with these rules has often resulted in commercial losses for importers and exporters alike.
Against this backdrop, origin-certifying authorities in exporting countries (for example ministries of trade and industry that are responsible for issuing "certificates of origin") face the challenge of ensuring the proper application of relevant rules of origin in order to pre-empt such problems. The seminar was intended to help them better perform this important function, and to provide them with the opportunity to foster a common understanding between the authorities issuing certificates of origin in exporting countries, and customs authorities in the importing developed countries. (Customs authorities in importing countries examine and clear certificates of origin.)
The sessions of the seminar addressed such topics as substantive aspects of rules of origin under the various GSP schemes and the Japanese EPAs; administrative aspects of certification and verification of origin; and emerging trends in rules of origin, such as self-certification systems by approved exporters or importers. Presentations were delivered by UNCTAD experts and by officials of Tokyo Customs, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), and the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The seminar's programme also included field visits to various customs facilities, including clearance and inspection areas and a container inspection centre. This provided an opportunity for participants to observe state-of-the-art facilities and operations. In addition, the seminar promoted exchanges of experiences and a review of the lessons learned by the participants.
As a follow-up to the seminar, national advisory missions will be undertaken by UNCTAD in cooperation with Japan Customs (Ministry of Finance) to selected countries to better disseminate relevant information on rules of origin.