Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

Rules of origin

Determining where a product comes from is no longer easy when raw materials and parts criss-cross the globe to be used as inputs in scattered manufacturing plants. Rules of origin are therefore needed to attribute one country of origin to each product. They are the criteria used to define where a product was made and are important for implementing other trade policy measures, including trade preferences, quotas, anti-dumping measures and countervailing duties.

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News 

 

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Introduction

 

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WTO Agreement on Rules of Origin

 

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Work on rules of origin in the WTO

The current chair of the Committee on Rules of Origin is .

Work in the Committee on Rules of Origin

Since the adoption of the Agreement on Rules of Origin, the work of the Committee has focused primarily on the harmonization of non-preferential rules of origin. More recently, WTO members have also initiated some work on preferential rules of origin and, in particular, on the rules of origin used under trade preferences for least-developed countries (LDCs).

Non-preferential rules of origin

Non-preferential rules of origin are those which apply in the absence of any trade preference — that is, when trade is conducted on a most-favoured nation basis. Not all countries apply specific legislation related to non-preferential rules of origin. However, some trade policy measures such as quotas, anti-dumping or “made in” labels may require a determination of origin and, therefore, the application of non-preferential rules.

In the Agreement on Rules of Origin, WTO members agreed to negotiate harmonized non-preferential rules of origin. These negotiations have not concluded, and about 40 WTO members currently apply national rules of origin for non-preferential purposes. See Technical information on rules of origin.

Preferential rules of origin

Preferential rules or origin are those which apply in reciprocal trade preferences (i.e. regional trade agreements or customs unions) or in non-reciprocal trade preferences (i.e. preferences in favour of developing countries or LDCs).

Annex I of the Agreement sets out certain disciplines with respect to preferential rules of origin. More recently, WTO members have adopted additional instruments related to non-reciprocal preferential rules of origin — that is, the 2013 Bali Ministerial Decision on Rules of Origin for LDCs and the 2015 Nairobi Ministerial Decision on Rules of Origin for LDCs.

The Bali Ministerial Decision establishes the first set of multilateral guidelines for rules of origin that WTO preference-granting members apply to their non-reciprocal preference schemes for LDCs. The guidelines are intended to make it easier for LDC exports to qualify for preferences and therefore better utilize market access opportunities that are available to them.

The Nairobi Ministerial Decision elaborates on the 2013 Decision by providing more detailed directions on specific issues which would facilitate LDCs' export of goods to both developed and developing countries under unilateral preferential trade arrangements. See Nairobi Briefing Note.

 

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Notifications

Non-preferential rules of origin

WTO members are required to notify their non-preferential rules of origin (or the absence of these rules) to the WTO Secretariat.

Select a member from the dropdown list to see if they have submitted notifications about their non-preferential rules of origin.

 

Preferential rules of origin

WTO members are required to promptly notify their preferential rules of origin to the Secretariat.

For rules which apply under reciprocal trade preferences, the obligation is reiterated and elaborated in the Transparency Mechanism for Regional Trade Agreements (WT/L/671). Notifications received by the Secretariat can be retrieved in the WTO RTA database: http://rtais.wto.org

For rules which apply under non-reciprocal trade preferences, the obligation is reiterated and elaborated in the Transparency Mechanism for Preferential Trade Arrangements (WT/L/806). Notifications received by the Secretariat can be retrieved in the WTO PTA database: http://ptadb.wto.org.

 

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Official documents

Search Documents Online
Rules of origin documents use the code G/RO/* (where * takes additional values)
These links open a new window: allow a moment for the results to appear.

> help with downloading these documents

  • Annual reports of the Committee on Rules of Origin to the Council for Trade in Goods (Document code varies)   > search   > help
  • Minutes of the Committee on Rules of Origin (Document code G/RO/M/*)   > search   > help
  • Working documents of the Committee on Rules of Origin (Document code G/RO/W/*)   

  •   > search
  • General documents of the Committee on Rules of Origin (Document code G/RO/*)   > search
  • Disputes (requests for consultations) documents involving rules of origin (Document code G/RO/D/*)   > search 

You can perform more sophisticated searches from the Documents Online search facility by defining multiple search criteria such as document symbol (i.e. code number), full text search or document date.

 

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Technical assistance

An online course, “Made in … : Understanding Rules of Origin” allows participants to become familiar with the basic concepts of rules of origin and with WTO disciplines governing their use. The course is available through ECampus, the WTO's e-learning hub.

 

Committee meetings