Import/export: exceptional and temporary measure

April 23, 2020
by Najat Akodad

The present health crisis makes it impossible for goods to be circulated and presented to customs accompanied by a certificate of preferential origin that satisfies the usual conditions, i.e. an original document in the proper paper format bearing the signature and stamp of the customs authorities of the country of departure.

To respond to this problem, the European Commission has initiated an exceptional and temporary alternative designed to offer businesses a more simplified procedure. In a note addressed to operators on 9 April 2020, the French customs authorities (Direction des douanes et droits indirects, “DGDDI”) have provided further details on the solutions available to companies to import and export under the preferential customs regime.

The DGDDI invites companies to favor use of the existing solutions before resorting to the alternative solution.

Reminder of the existing solutions:

  • For all exporting French companies, it is possible to issue a declaration of preferential origin on a commercial document for dispatches below €6,000.
  • French companies with approved exporter status can, when exporting, declare the preferential origin on a commercial document for sales of any amount, without limitation. For the A.TR certificate (applicable only within the EU-Turkey customs union), approved exporters can also use the pre-authentication process.
  • For imports, the DGDDI recommends that companies pay the customs duties and, to obtain a refund, carry out an ex post facto regularization by presenting the certificate at the end of the lockdown period.

The DGDDI urges companies to favor use of the above described existing solutions before resorting to the alternative solution.

Exceptional COVID measure:

This measure consists of accepting, on an exceptional basis and subject to conditions, a copy of EUR.1, EUR.MED, FORM.A certificates of preferential origin and of A.TR certificates of circulation.

  • This provision is based on reciprocity and thus is not available for imports into the EU unless the partner country agrees to accept the same process. To verify this condition, the European Commission has made available a list of the countries granting this facility.
  • This measure is conditioned on a situation that makes it impossible to issue proofs of origin or certificates of circulation. In any event, this condition is deemed satisfied for the period beginning on 1 March 2020.

If the above conditions are met, companies should then proceed as usual during the import process and notably indicate code “2” on the customs declaration in order to benefit from the preferential regime. No specific guarantee need be provided, as the copy of the certificate of preferential origin or of the certificate of circulation is treated as an original.

However, this exceptional measure does not preclude the customs authorities from carrying out checks on the authenticity and validity of the proof produced. In case of non-conformity, the customs administration could require the importing company to provide a guarantee or to pay the customs duties.

To benefit from this measure, companies must follow the following procedure:

  • The exporting company sends the filled-out and signed certificate, via email, to the customs administration for validation,
  • The customs administration validates, signs and sends back the certificate to the company concerned,
  • The company forwards the copy to the importer in the partner country for presentation at the time of importing.

At the end of the lockdown period, the French customs administration will be able to issue an a posteriori certificate only upon request.

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