What is a Certificate of Origin?

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A certificate of origin (CO or COO) is a document which provides information about the origin of a product being shipped. In this case, “origin” refers to the nation of manufacture, or the country in which the product was most recently modified or substantially changed. In cases where products include components from multiple countries the certificate of origin usually declares the nation which contributed the highest percentage of materials in terms of purchase price. These documents must be included in shipping manifests for many international exports and imports.

A typical shipping manifest usually lists the origins of the products anyway, but an additional certificate of origin may also be required, depending on the nation of origin and where the products are being shipped to. Numerous companies make boilerplate certificates of origin which people can fill out with all of the necessary information, and it's also possible to generate the document from scratch. Companies which regularly ship goods internationally may have a computer program which makes certificates of origin for them.

There are a number of reasons why a certificate of origin may be required. In the case of nations which have free trade agreements with each other, the COO is used to demonstrate that tariffs and fees should be reduced or waived for the shipment. In other cases, certificates of origin are used to document the movement of goods across the border for the purpose of monitoring quotas and keeping track of imports and exports. Treaties and trade agreements usually specify when and where certificates of origin will be required.

Some nations require certificates of origins for some products, but not all, from other countries. It is usually possible to obtain a specific list so that someone can see whether or not the document will be needed. For example, a company intending to ship medical supplies made in Switzerland to New Zealand can check with trade authorities to see whether or not a certificate of origin will be required.

Country of origin labeling of products is also something which some consumers expect and demand. Consumers may want to avoid products from countries which they do not wish to support, or to seek out products made in other nations. A certificate of origin makes it easy to document where products were made so that labels can be accurate and consumers will be able to make informed choices when they are making decisions about what they want to buy at the store.

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