Today, determining where a product comes from is no longer easy when raw materials and parts criss-cross the globe as inputs in scattered manufacturing plants. But rules of origin are important in implementing such trade actions as anti-dumping and countervailing duties, origin in marking, and safeguard measures. The WTO, in July 1995, launched a programme on harmonizing non-preferential rules of origin to be applied by all member governments, which is scheduled to be completed in July 1998. The work is being conducted by a Committee on Rules of Origin in the WTO and a Technical Committee on Rules of Origin under the auspices of the World Customs Organization in Brussels.

    The first of the programme's three phases has been largely completed except for two outstanding issues:

    -    Parts recovered from used articles for recycling - concerned that these components could come from the disassembly of originally hazardous, toxic or even radioactive products in various countries that would be difficult to trace back, some members have objected to the inclusion of this trade in the harmonization programme, while some other countries believe that discussion of non-trade factors like environmental concerns belongs to other fora and do not fall under the mandate of the Committee; and

    -    Goods obtained on ships in international waters - there is growing support that the country of origin of these products should be the country of the ship's registration.

Substantial progress has also been made in drafting product specific rules of origin on the basis of the use of the criterion of change in tariff classification or other supplementary criteria.