The Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) entered into force in 2003 and is subject to regular reviews. As a result of the amendments to SAFTA announced on 13 October, it should now be easier for Australian and Singaporean traders to claim preferential treatment under the Agreement.
The changes announced include that the Rules of Origin will now have a full schedule of product specific rules. This is simpler than the existing general 50 per cent content rule that requires businesses to record all production costs. The press release advised that SAFTA’s updated rules of origin will be in line with those of AANZFTA and the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement.
Importantly, SAFTA will switch to a self-certification process, meaning an importer, exporter or producer can self-certify that the good meets the applicable rule of origin for the good. If the certificate is not issued by the producer of the goods, the certification (they’re not calling it a COO) is completed on the basis that the exporter has information to show the goods are originating. Exporters may however continue to have COO issued by a third party as is the current process. The date of effect of this change has not yet been announced.
Article 19 provides that the importer can also issue certify the origin on the basis of having documentation that the good is originating; or reasonable reliance on supporting documentation provided by the exporter or producer that the good is originating.
Article 18 provides that the certification of origin:
need not follow a prescribed format;
must be in writing, including electronic format;
must specify that the good is both originating and meets the requirements of the ROO; and
must contain a set of minimum data requirements as set out in Annex 3-A to the Agreement. These are:
Whether certification of origin is by the importer, exporter or producer;
The certifier’s name, address (inc country), phone and email.
The exporters details as above if different from the certifier. (not required if the producer is completing the COO and is not aware of identity of exporter);
The producer’s details as above if different from the certifier or exporter. If there are various producers then “various” is an acceptable input. If the information is confidential then a statement that it is “Available upon request by the importing authorities” may be input.
The importer’s details as above.
Description and HS tariff classification of the good to 6 digit level.
If the certification relates to only one consignment, then the invoice number relating to the exportation.
The period if the certification covers multiple consignments. Maximum period is 12 months.
Authorised signature and date with the following statement: “I certify that the goods described in this document qualify as originating and the information contained in this document is true and accurate. I assume responsibility for proving such representations and agree to maintain and present upon request or to make available during a verification visit, documentation necessary to support this certification.”
The certification of origin may apply to:
a single shipment of a good into the territory of a Party; or
multiple shipments of identical goods within any period specified in the certificate of origin, but not exceeding 12 months.
The certification of origin is valid for one year after the date that it was issued or for such longer period specified by the legislation of the importing country.
Article 20 provides that each Party shall not reject a certification of origin due to minor errors or discrepancies in the certification of origin. Back to the ChAFTA issue - what’s a “minor” error or discrepancy?
Please note that Article 20 provides that if the importer has reason to believe that the certification is based on incorrect information that could affect the accuracy or validity of the certification of origin, the importer must correct the importation document and pay any customs duty and, if applicable, penalties owed.
This Article also provides that no importing Party shall subject an importer to a penalty for making an invalid claim for preferential tariff treatment if the importer, on becoming aware that such a claim is not valid and prior to discovery of the error by that Party, voluntarily corrects the claim and pays any applicable customs duty under the circumstances provided for in the Party’s law.
Article 25 addresses verification of origin by DIBP and provides that written request from the regulator to the importer, exporter or producer must allow a period of 30 days from the date of the written request to respond. During this period the importer, exporter, or producer may request, in writing, an extension not exceeding 30 days. Upon completion of the verification action, the customs administration shall provide written advice to the importer, exporter or producer of its decision as well as the legal basis and findings of fact on which the decision was made within 90 days.
Failure to comply with the above can lead to a denial of the claim for preference.
In regard to repair and returned goods, the Agreement provides at Article 5 that:
“Neither Party shall apply a customs duty to a good, regardless of its origin, that re-enters the Party’s territory after that good has been temporarily exported from the Party’s territory to the territory of the other Party for repair or alteration, regardless of whether that repair or alteration could have been performed in the territory of the Party from which the good was exported for repair or alteration or increased the value of the good. “
Note that “repair or alteration” does not include an operation or process that destroys a good’s essential characteristics or creates a new or commercially different good