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Taxation and Customs Union

The future of rules of origin in preferential trade arrangements

On 16 September 2004 the Commission has published the summary report on the outcome of the consultation process on the rules of origin applied in preferential trade arrangements.

The report is available here:

The way forward

The results from the consultation process highlight some key issues:

  • The present origin rules do not fit current economic reality.
  • The current origin rules are seen as too complex, restrictive and they lack transparency.
  • There is a clear call for rationalisation and simplification of the origin rules.
  • The current system should be changed in order to provide an adequate level of assurance that the products for which preferential treatment is claimed do actually satisfy the origin rules.
  • The system of paper-based certificates should be replaced by an electronic document.
  • There is a need for increased Community monitoring and greater coordination and cooperation to ensure compliance with the rules of origin.
  • There was support for the introduction into preferential agreements of clauses on suspensions of preferences and financial liability.

The issues raised during the consultation process will be addressed by the Commission when rules of origin will be drafted to support preferential arrangements like the new Generalised System of Preferences.


On 18 December 2003, the European Commission opened a wide-ranging debate on the rules of origin applied in preferential trade arrangements.

These arrangements are intended, through the elimination of or reductions in customs duties, to stimulate reciprocal trade in goods as well as access to the Community market for products of developing countries. They are relevant only if the tariff preferences apply to products actually obtained in the beneficiary country concerned, to products which "originate" there.

The Green Paper (COM(2003) 787) which the Commission has adopted (IP/03/1766 , MEMO/03/261 ) on this subject on 18 December 2003 shows how the context and the objectives of these arrangements have evolved, as well as the impact of this evolution on the definition of rules of origin.

The Commission invited all interested parties to contribute to this reflection exercise by 15 March 2004.