Glossary of terms: Certificate of Origin

The knowledge of the most important terms used in international trade is crucial for mutual understanding. We will present the most common international trade terms accompanied with the detailed definition.

What is the Certificate of Origin?
Generally speaking, it is a document, which proves that the goods in a particular export shipment have been wholly obtained, produced, manufactured or processed in a particular country. The name can be abbreviated to C/O or COO. The origin of goods is important for tax and tariff authorities (for example duty is applicable in the case of buying goods in country A, but not in country B). While a lot of Chinese products are exempted from duty, there are still some categories in which the EU uses duty as a market protection tool.


Generally, there are two types of Certificate of Origin. The first one, Non-preferential Certificate of Origin, specifies the place of production, but the goods do not qualify for any exceptional treatment. Preferential Certificate of Origin means that the goods were manufactured in the country which has some trade agreement with our country (it refers, for example, to trade within the Commonwealth of Nations). Other special trading areas include the European Union, ASEAN and NAFTA.

Usually, the Certificate of Origin should be delivered by the Chamber of Commerce from a particular country. For example, for the goods imported to USA, Certificates of Origin can be obtained from the US Chamber of Commerce.

In Mainland China, the person who wants to obtain the Certificate of Origin should visit local entry-exit inspection and quarantine departments under the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine Administration (AQSIQ; Chinese: 中华人民共和国国家质量监督检验检疫总局) or the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade and its local branches.

In Hongkong SAR, institution responsible for issuing the Certificates of Origin is the Chinese General Chamber of Commerce.

In the future, the importance of electronic Certificates of Origin (eCOs) will grow. This method of issuing documents was already adopted by the United States Council for International Business (USCIB), other organizations will follow for sure.

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