In collaboration with the African Union (AU) and Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA), and under the sponsorship of Korea Customs Service, the WCO held its first Global Origin Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 3 to 4 May 2017.
As regional integration continues to be a driving force for the Global Supply Chain, rules of origin remain a prominent feature of today's international trading system. In the context of the various regional trade agreements, being negotiated around the world, the rules of origin enable the implementation of preferential agreements, and impact on the flows of trade and investments.
The Conference provided a platform for the exchange of knowledge and forged new partnerships between the public sector, the private sector and the academia in the area of origin. Among the issues addressed were:
- What are the latest trends in regional integration and what is their economic impact on the rules of origin? And what will be the impact of globalization and Global Value Chains on rules of origin?
- What are the latest developments in Africa – and how to define the role of rules of origin in regional integration on the African continent?
- What is the effectiveness and efficiency of preferential rules of origin and how can we ensure further promotion and utilization of free trade agreements?
- What progress has been made in relation to the WTO Nairobi Decision on Preferential Rules of Origin for Least Developed Countries? What are the challenges and future direction in relation to the implementation of the Decision?
- How can procedural harmonization facilitate trade? How can the WCO Revised Kyoto Convention and other WCO origin tools play a better role in further simplifying and harmonizing Customs procedures?
- How can the trade community and Customs actively contribute to and initiate a useful roadmap for the way forward on rules of origin?
The discussions during the Conference confirmed that free trade agreements are beneficial for regional integration and foster foreign investments, and that rules of origin are crucial for the implementation of these agreements and for securing the revenue collection.
Delegations agreed that there is a need to streamline administrative procedures linked to origin in order to facilitate legitimate trade, possibly through modernizing the Revised Kyoto Convention (Annex K) and that further technical assistance both to Customs Administrations and economic operators, especially SMEs, and other stakeholders is required.
In line with the discussions on future actions, the WCO continues to take the lead in the area of rules of origin through sharing best practices and to promote the application and implementation of already existing WCO tools on origin, especially on origin certifications, origin verifications, advance rulings and the update of preferential rules of origin to fit newer editions of the Harmonized System.
At the occasion of the Conference, WCO Secretary General Kunio Mikuriya launched the WCO Origin Compendium, which compiles all information regarding origin published by the WCO in different tools and instruments in order to facilitate the immediate access to the knowledge on origin-related topics.
Secretary General Mikuriya had bilateral meetings with Mr. Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the AU Commission, and Mr. Albert Muchanga, AU Commissioner for Trade and Industry, to explore the way to enhance cooperation between the two organizations, especially in support of regional integration and improving economic competitiveness in Africa.
He also took the opportunity to meet Mr. Ato Kebede Chane, Director General of ERCA, and his senior management team to discuss the way to support Ethiopian economic growth through modernization of Customs in the context of the WCO Mercator Programme.