Canada, Mexico and the United States established a uniform Certificate of Origin to certify that goods imported into their territories qualify for the preferential tariff treatment accorded by the NAFTA. Only importers who possess a valid Certificate of Origin may claim preferential tariff treatment for originating goods.
A uniform Certificate of Origin is used in all three countries and is printed in English, French or Spanish. The Certificate shall be completed in the language of the country of export or the language of the importing country, at the exporter's discretion. Importers shall submit a translation of the Certificate to their own customs administration when requested.
A Certificate of Origin may cover a single importation of goods or multiple importations of identical goods. Certificates that cover multiple shipments are called blanket certificates and may apply to goods imported within any twelve-month period specified on the Certificate. Although a Certificate of Origin may cover goods imported over not more than a twelve-month period, it remains valid for NAFTA preference claims made up to four years from the date upon which it was signed.
A machine made in Canada qualifies for NAFTA tariff treatment and is exported with a Certificate of Origin signed on January 1, 1995. The U.S. importer does not enter the machine for consumption but instead places it in a customs bonded warehouse. He overlooks the Certificate of Origin and fails to claim NAFTA treatment for the machine upon entry into the warehouse. If the U.S. importer withdraws the machine from the warehouse for consumption on January 17, 1999, he will be barred from claiming NAFTA treatment upon withdrawal because the Certificate is over four years old and is no longer valid.
Completion of Certificate
The Certificate of Origin must be completed and signed by the exporter of the goods. Where the exporter is not the producer, the exporter may complete the Certificate on the basis of:
- knowledge that the good originates;
- reasonable reliance on the producer's written representation that the good originates; or
- a completed and signed Certificate of Origin for the good voluntarily provided to the exporter by the producer.
Importers claiming NAFTA preferential tariff treatment shall make a declaration, based on a valid Certificate of Origin in their possession, on the import documentation. Where no claim for preferential tariff treatment is made at the time of importation, importers may request preferential tariff treatment no later than one year after the date on which the good was imported, provided a Certificate of Origin for the goods is obtained.
Importers must provide the Certificate to the importing country's customs administration upon request, and must submit a corrected declaration and pay the corresponding duties whenever there is reason to believe that the Certificate contained inaccurate information.
The customs administration of the importing country may deny preferential tariff treatment to the goods if the importer fails to comply with any of the customs procedures set out in Chapter Five of the NAFTA.
Importers must maintain records pertaining to the importation for five years or such longer period as may be specified by their country.
Exporters' and Producers' Obligations
Exporters or producers that prepare Certificates of Origin shall provide copies to their own customs administration upon request.
Exporters or producers that provide a Certificate of Origin must maintain records pertaining to the exportation for five years or such longer period as may be specified by their countries.
Exporters or producers that complete a Certificate of Origin shall notify all parties to whom the Certificate was given of any change that could affect its accuracy or validity.