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Noting that Ministers on 20 September 1986 agreed that the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations shall aim to “bring about further liberalization and expansion of world trade”, “strengthen the role of GATT” and “increase the responsiveness of the GATT system to the evolving international economic environment”;
Noting that a number of developing country Members have recourse to preshipment inspection;
Recognizing the need of developing countries to do so for as long and in so far as it is necessary to verify the quality, quantity or price of imported goods;
Mindful that such programmes must be carried out without giving rise to unnecessary delays or unequal treatment;
Noting that this inspection is by definition carried out on the territory of exporter Members;
Recognizing the need to establish an agreed international framework of rights and obligations of both user Members and exporter Members;
Recognizing that the principles and obligations of GATT 1994 apply to those activities of preshipment inspection entities that are mandated by governments that are Members of the WTO;
Recognizing that it is desirable to provide transparency of the operation of preshipment inspection entities and of laws and regulations relating to preshipment inspection;
Desiring to provide for the speedy, effective and equitable resolution of disputes between exporters and preshipment inspection entities arising under this Agreement;
Hereby agree as follows:back to top
Article 1: Coverage — Definitions
1. This Agreement shall apply to all preshipment inspection activities carried out on the territory of Members, whether such activities are contracted or mandated by the government, or any government body, of a Member.
2. The term “user Member” means a Member of which the government or any government body contracts for or mandates the use of preshipment inspection activities.
3. Preshipment inspection activities are all activities relating to the verification of the quality, the quantity, the price, including currency exchange rate and financial terms, and/or the customs classification of goods to be exported to the territory of the user Member.
4. The term “preshipment inspection entity” is any entity contracted or mandated by a Member to carry out preshipment inspection activities.(1)back to top
Article 2: Obligations of User Members
1. User Members shall ensure that preshipment inspection activities are carried out in a non-discriminatory manner, and that the procedures and criteria employed in the conduct of these activities are objective and are applied on an equal basis to all exporters affected by such activities. They shall ensure uniform performance of inspection by all the inspectors of the preshipment inspection entities contracted or mandated by them.
2. User Members shall ensure that in the course of preshipment inspection activities relating to their laws, regulations and requirements, the provisions of paragraph 4 of Article III of GATT 1994 are respected to the extent that these are relevant.
Site of Inspection
3. User Members shall ensure that all preshipment inspection activities, including the issuance of a Clean Report of Findings or a note of non-issuance, are performed in the customs territory from which the goods are exported or, if the inspection cannot be carried out in that customs territory given the complex nature of the products involved, or if both parties agree, in the customs territory in which the goods are manufactured.
4. User Members shall ensure that quantity and quality inspections are performed in accordance with the standards defined by the seller and the buyer in the purchase agreement and that, in the absence of such standards, relevant international standards(2) apply.
5. User Members shall ensure that preshipment inspection activities are conducted in a transparent manner.
6. User Members shall ensure that, when initially contacted by exporters, preshipment inspection entities provide to the exporters a list of all the information which is necessary for the exporters to comply with inspection requirements. The preshipment inspection entities shall provide the actual information when so requested by exporters. This information shall include a reference to the laws and regulations of user Members relating to preshipment inspection activities, and shall also include the procedures and criteria used for inspection and for price and currency exchange-rate verification purposes, the exporters’ rights vis-à-vis the inspection entities, and the appeals procedures set up under paragraph 21. Additional procedural requirements or changes in existing procedures shall not be applied to a shipment unless the exporter concerned is informed of these changes at the time the inspection date is arranged. However, in emergency situations of the types addressed by Articles XX and XXI of GATT 1994, such additional requirements or changes may be applied to a shipment before the exporter has been informed. This assistance shall not, however, relieve exporters from their obligations in respect of compliance with the import regulations of the user Members.
7. User Members shall ensure that the information referred to in paragraph 6 is made available to exporters in a convenient manner, and that the preshipment inspection offices maintained by preshipment inspection entities serve as information points where this information is available.
8. User Members shall publish promptly all applicable laws and regulations relating to preshipment inspection activities in such a manner as to enable other governments and traders to become acquainted with them.
Protection of Confidential Business Information
9. User Members shall ensure that preshipment inspection entities treat all information received in the course of the preshipment inspection as business confidential to the extent that such information is not already published, generally available to third parties, or otherwise in the public domain. User Members shall ensure that preshipment inspection entities maintain procedures to this end.
10. User Members shall provide information to Members on request on the measures they are taking to give effect to paragraph 9. The provisions of this paragraph shall not require any Member to disclose confidential information the disclosure of which would jeopardize the effectiveness of the preshipment inspection programmes or would prejudice the legitimate commercial interest of particular enterprises, public or private.
11. User Members shall ensure that preshipment inspection entities do not divulge confidential business information to any third party, except that preshipment inspection entities may share this information with the government entities that have contracted or mandated them. User Members shall ensure that confidential business information which they receive from preshipment inspection entities contracted or mandated by them is adequately safeguarded. Preshipment inspection entities shall share confidential business information with the governments contracting or mandating them only to the extent that such information is customarily required for letters of credit or other forms of payment or for customs, import licensing or exchange control purposes.
12. User Members shall ensure that preshipment inspection entities do not request exporters to provide information regarding:
data related to patented, licensed or undisclosed processes, or to
processes for which a patent is pending;
unpublished technical data other than data necessary to demonstrate
compliance with technical regulations or standards;
internal pricing, including manufacturing costs;
(e) the terms of contracts between exporters and their suppliers unless it is not otherwise possible for the entity to conduct the inspection in question. In such cases, the entity shall only request the information necessary for this purpose.
13. The information referred to in paragraph 12, which preshipment inspection entities shall not otherwise request, may be released voluntarily by the exporter to illustrate a specific case.
Conflicts of Interest
14. User Members shall ensure that preshipment inspection entities, bearing in mind also the provisions on protection of confidential business information in paragraphs 9 through 13, maintain procedures to avoid conflicts of interest:
preshipment inspection entities and any related entities of the
preshipment inspection entities in question, including any entities in
which the latter have a financial or commercial interest or any
entities which have a financial interest in the preshipment inspection
entities in question, and whose shipments the preshipment inspection
entities are to inspect;
preshipment inspection entities and any other entities, including
other entities subject to preshipment inspection, with the exception
of the government entities contracting or mandating the inspections;
(c) with divisions of preshipment inspection entities engaged in activities other than those required to carry out the inspection process.
15. User Members shall ensure that preshipment inspection entities avoid unreasonable delays in inspection of shipments. User Members shall ensure that, once a preshipment inspection entity and an exporter agree on an inspection date, the preshipment inspection entity conducts the inspection on that date unless it is rescheduled on a mutually agreed basis between the exporter and the preshipment inspection entity, or the preshipment inspection entity is prevented from doing so by the exporter or by force majeure.(3)
16. User Members shall ensure that, following receipt of the final documents and completion of the inspection, preshipment inspection entities, within five working days, either issue a Clean Report of Findings or provide a detailed written explanation specifying the reasons for non-issuance. User Members shall ensure that, in the latter case, preshipment inspection entities give exporters the opportunity to present their views in writing and, if exporters so request, arrange for re-inspection at the earliest mutually convenient date.
17. User Members shall ensure that, whenever so requested by the exporters, preshipment inspection entities undertake, prior to the date of physical inspection, a preliminary verification of price and, where applicable, of currency exchange rate, on the basis of the contract between exporter and importer, the pro forma invoice and, where applicable, the application for import authorization. User Members shall ensure that a price or currency exchange rate that has been accepted by a preshipment inspection entity on the basis of such preliminary verification is not withdrawn, providing the goods conform to the import documentation and/or import licence. They shall ensure that, after a preliminary verification has taken place, preshipment inspection entities immediately inform exporters in writing either of their acceptance or of their detailed reasons for non-acceptance of the price and/or currency exchange rate.
18. User Members shall ensure that, in order to avoid delays in payment, preshipment inspection entities send to exporters or to designated representatives of the exporters a Clean Report of Findings as expeditiously as possible.
19. User Members shall ensure that, in the event of a clerical error in the Clean Report of Findings, preshipment inspection entities correct the error and forward the corrected information to the appropriate parties as expeditiously as possible.
20. User Members shall ensure that, in order to prevent over- and under-invoicing and fraud, preshipment inspection entities conduct price verification(4) according to the following guidelines:
inspection entities shall only reject a contract price agreed between
an exporter and an importer if they can demonstrate that their
findings of an unsatisfactory price are based on a verification
process which is in conformity with the criteria set out in
subparagraphs (b) through (e);
preshipment inspection entity shall base its price comparison for the
verification of the export price on the price(s) of identical or
similar goods offered for export from the same country of exportation
at or about the same time, under competitive and comparable conditions
of sale, in conformity with customary commercial practices and net of
any applicable standard discounts. Such comparison shall be based on
prices providing a valid basis of comparison shall be used, taking
into account the relevant economic factors pertaining to the country
of importation and a country or countries used for price comparison;
preshipment inspection entity shall not rely upon the price of goods
offered for export to different countries of importation to
arbitrarily impose the lowest price upon the shipment;
the preshipment inspection entity shall take into account the specific
elements listed in subparagraph (c);
at any stage in the process described above, the preshipment
inspection entity shall provide the exporter with an opportunity to
explain the price;
conducting price verification, preshipment inspection entities shall
make appropriate allowances for the terms of the sales contract and
generally applicable adjusting factors pertaining to the transaction;
these factors shall include but not be limited to the commercial level
and quantity of the sale, delivery periods and conditions, price
escalation clauses, quality specifications, special design features,
special shipping or packing specifications, order size, spot sales,
seasonal influences, licence or other intellectual property fees, and
services rendered as part of the contract if these are not customarily
invoiced separately; they shall also include certain elements relating
to the exporter’s price, such as the contractual relationship between
the exporter and importer;
verification of transportation charges shall relate only to the agreed
price of the mode of transport in the country of exportation as
indicated in the sales contract;
following shall not be used for price verification purposes:
the selling price in the country of importation of goods produced in
the price of goods for export from a country other than the country of
(iv) arbitrary or fictitious prices or values.
21. User Members shall ensure that preshipment inspection entities establish procedures to receive, consider and render decisions concerning grievances raised by exporters, and that information concerning such procedures is made available to exporters in accordance with the provisions of paragraphs 6 and 7. User Members shall ensure that the procedures are developed and maintained in accordance with the following guidelines:
preshipment inspection entities shall designate one or more officials
who shall be available during normal business hours in each city or
port in which they maintain a preshipment inspection administrative
office to receive, consider and render decisions on exporters’ appeals
exporters shall provide in writing to the designated official(s) the
facts concerning the specific transaction in question, the nature of
the grievance and a suggested solution;
(c) the designated official(s) shall afford sympathetic consideration to exporters’ grievances and shall render a decision as soon as possible after receipt of the documentation referred to in subparagraph (b).
22. By derogation to the provisions of Article 2, user Members shall provide that, with the exception of part shipments, shipments whose value is less than a minimum value applicable to such shipments as defined by the user Member shall not be inspected, except in exceptional circumstances. This minimum value shall form part of the information furnished to exporters under the provisions of paragraph 6.back to top
Article 3: Obligations of Exporter Members
1. Exporter Members shall ensure that their laws and regulations relating to preshipment inspection activities are applied in a non-discriminatory manner.
2. Exporter Members shall publish promptly all applicable laws and regulations relating to preshipment inspection activities in such a manner as to enable other governments and traders to become acquainted with them.
3. Exporter Members shall offer to provide to user Members, if requested, technical assistance directed towards the achievement of the objectives of this Agreement on mutually agreed terms.(5)back to top
Article 4: Independent Review Procedures
Members shall encourage preshipment inspection entities and exporters mutually to resolve their disputes. However, two working days after submission of the grievance in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 21 of Article 2, either party may refer the dispute to independent review. Members shall take such reasonable measures as may be available to them to ensure that the following procedures are established and maintained to this end:
these procedures shall be administered by an independent entity
constituted jointly by an organization representing preshipment
inspection entities and an organization representing exporters for the
purposes of this Agreement;
the independent entity referred to in subparagraph (a) shall
establish a list of experts as follows:
a section of members nominated by an organization representing
preshipment inspection entities;
a section of members nominated by an organization representing
a section of independent trade experts, nominated by the independent
entity referred to in subparagraph (a).
geographical distribution of the experts on this list shall be such as
to enable any disputes raised under these procedures to be dealt with
expeditiously. This list shall be drawn up within two months of the
entry into force of the WTO Agreement and shall be updated annually.
The list shall be publicly available. It shall be notified to the
Secretariat and circulated to all Members;
exporter or preshipment inspection entity wishing to raise a dispute
shall contact the independent entity referred to in
subparagraph (a) and request the formation of a panel. The
independent entity shall be responsible for establishing a panel. This
panel shall consist of three members. The members of the panel shall
be chosen so as to avoid unnecessary costs and delays. The first
member shall be chosen from section (i) of the above list by the
preshipment inspection entity concerned, provided that this member is
not affiliated to that entity. The second member shall be chosen from
section (ii) of the above list by the exporter concerned,
provided that this member is not affiliated to that exporter. The
third member shall be chosen from section (iii) of the above list
by the independent entity referred to in subparagraph (a). No
objections shall be made to any independent trade expert drawn from
section (iii) of the above list;
the independent trade expert drawn from section (iii) of the
above list shall serve as the chairman of the panel. The independent
trade expert shall take the necessary decisions to ensure an
expeditious settlement of the dispute by the panel, for instance,
whether the facts of the case require the panelists to meet and, if
so, where such a meeting shall take place, taking into account the
site of the inspection in question;
if the parties to the dispute so agree, one independent trade expert
could be selected from section (iii) of the above list by the
independent entity referred to in subparagraph (a) to review the
dispute in question. This expert shall take the necessary decisions to
ensure an expeditious settlement of the dispute, for instance taking
into account the site of the inspection in question;
the object of the review shall be to establish whether, in the course
of the inspection in dispute, the parties to the dispute have complied
with the provisions of this Agreement. The procedures shall be
expeditious and provide the opportunity for both parties to present
their views in person or in writing;
decisions by a three-member panel shall be taken by majority vote. The
decision on the dispute shall be rendered within eight working days of
the request for independent review and be communicated to the parties
to the dispute. This time-limit could be extended upon agreement by
the parties to the dispute. The panel or independent trade expert
shall apportion the costs, based on the merits of the case;
(h) the decision of the panel shall be binding upon the preshipment inspection entity and the exporter which are parties to the dispute.back to top
Article 5: Notification
Members shall submit to the Secretariat copies of the laws and regulations by which they put this Agreement into force, as well as copies of any other laws and regulations relating to preshipment inspection, when the WTO Agreement enters into force with respect to the Member concerned. No changes in the laws and regulations relating to preshipment inspection shall be enforced before such changes have been officially published. They shall be notified to the Secretariat immediately after their publication. The Secretariat shall inform the Members of the availability of this information.back to top
Article 6: Review
At the end of the second year from the date of entry into force of the WTO Agreement and every three years thereafter, the Ministerial Conference shall review the provisions, implementation and operation of this Agreement, taking into account the objectives thereof and experience gained in its operation. As a result of such review, the Ministerial Conference may amend the provisions of the Agreement.back to top
Article 7: Consultation
Members shall consult with other Members upon request with respect to any matter affecting the operation of this Agreement. In such cases, the provisions of Article XXII of GATT 1994, as elaborated and applied by the Dispute Settlement Understanding, are applicable to this Agreement.back to top
Article 8: Dispute Settlement
Any disputes among Members regarding the operation of this Agreement shall be subject to the provisions of Article XXIII of GATT 1994, as elaborated and applied by the Dispute Settlement Understanding.back to top
Article 9: Final Provisions
1. Members shall take the necessary measures for the implementation of the present Agreement.
2. Members shall ensure that their laws and regulations shall not be contrary to the provisions of this Agreement.
- 1. It is understood that this provision does not obligate Members to allow government entities of other Members to conduct preshipment inspection activities on their territory. Back to text
- 2. An international standard is a standard adopted by a governmental or non-governmental body whose membership is open to all Members, one of whose recognized activities is in the field of standardization. Back to text
- 3. It is understood that, for the purposes of this Agreement, “force majeure” shall mean “irresistible compulsion or coercion, unforeseeable course of events excusing from fulfilment of contract”. Back to text
- 4. The obligations of user Members with respect to the services of preshipment inspection entities in connection with customs valuation shall be the obligations which they have accepted in GATT 1994 and the other Multilateral Trade Agreements included in Annex 1A of the WTO Agreement. Back to text
- 5. It is understood that such technical assistance may be given on a bilateral, plurilateral or multilateral basis. Back to text
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