At the invitation of the Korean Customs Service (KCS), the WCO participated in the International Origin Conference, held in Seoul, Korea, on 8 November 2016.
In his opening speech, Mr. Hong-Uk Chun, Commissioner of KCS, stated that free trade agreements (FTAs) were very beneficial to traders and to the economy of the involved countries. However, due to complicated rules, the FTAs were also a challenge to traders and to Customs. As an example, he mentioned that different views on the classification often lead to the refusal of preferential treatment and he invited the participants to share constructive ideas during the conference.
The WCO representative from the Tariff and Trade Affairs Directorate made a presentation on "Tariff Classification and Origin" with focus on mis-classification and settlement of disputes among the exporting and importing countries. It was explained that classification disputes should, as far as possible, be settled by negotiation between the involved countries, as stipulated in the Harmonized System Convention. If the dispute cannot be settled, it shall be referred to the Harmonized System Committee, which will make a recommendation for its settlement. The use of advance rulings was also recommended as a means for ensuring correct classification in preferential transactions.
In the ensuing panel discussion it was noted that the Harmonized System Committee procedure could take a long time. A representative from industry also indicated that sometimes countries did not follow the decisions of the Committee. It was acknowledged that advance rulings were beneficial, but there were limitations and not all countries issued advance rulings. Furthermore, it was noted that rulings were often delayed and issued after the shipment had arrived. It was also noted that in case of low duty rates, not much attention was paid to the classification, but for statistical reasons classification should be correct.
Representatives from Australia, New Zealand and China made presentations on the Korea-Australia FTA, New Zealand Customs' approaches to FTAs, and cultural differences to be considered by the traders, respectively.
The around 100 participants appreciated the various presentations.