Certificate of origin – what is this?

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While importing goods from China, it is necessary to have documents required at customs. One of such documents is the Certificate of origin, which we are going to discuss in the following article.

What is the Certificate of origin?

The Certificate of origin (C/O, COO or CoO) is a document issued while purchasing goods from the company that is located in a different country that the importer’s country. It is an obligatory document in many countries in the world, and it is checked by the Customs Office of the importer’s country. C/O is aimed at providing information about the country where the products were produced. It happens that the importers pay lower duty (because of some concessions in customs tariffs) if they have such a document. In case of the embargo occurrence, the document allows to transport the goods in a safe way.

What should one remember about while applying for the Certificate of origin?

When the company wants to get the C/O, it has to remember about the most important rules connected with issuing this document. These are:

  1. The institution that issues the document is the Chamber of Commerce.
  2. The party that applies for the document is the importer.
  3. The application must be signed by a legal representative of the company. However, such a person does not need to appear in person on the Chamber of Commerce in order to get the document. It may be done by correspondence. There is also possible to delegate another company which deals with applying for customs documentation to do that.
  4. In order to get the Certificate of origin, the company registration documents must be submitted, as well as other documents such as business registration certificate, specimen signature of a legal representative of the company, documents that confirm the origin of goods (product data, the way and place of manufacturing).
  5. The issued document concerns the particular products or a production batch that includes different products.

The good news is that the document is issued immediately when the appropriate documents and the application have been submitted. Unlike to other documents, you do not have to wait long time.

How to determine the country of origin of goods?

The country of origin is a crucial information that the Certificate of origin includes, because it is the core of this document. In fact, determining the country of origin is not a simple task as it may seem to be, because legally the real country of origin may be completely different than we think.

In practice, it is done in the following ways:

  1. When we want to determine the country of origin of finished products or semi-finished products, it is the country where they were manufactured. The same goes if it comes to agricultural products.
  2. We have to deal with more complicated situation while determining the country of origin of modified products. Then, it is the country where modification took place. However, there is one condition that needs to be fulfilled, i.e. the value of modification (including the cost of materials and labour) performed in that country must be higher than 50% of the overall value of the product.
  3. Separate rules are applicable to products that were taken from sea and goods that are made from such products, e.g. fish preserves. Then, the country of origin is the country where the company which collected such products is registered.

In practice, the Chamber of Commerce makes concessions when it is not possible to clearly determine the country of origin. In case of such a situation, the most important thing is the time the particular product was marketed in the particular country.

What are the types of the Certificate of origin?

There are two basic types of this document:

  1. Non-preferential COO – the most common type. It acknowledges where the goods were produced. It does not provide customs concessions.
  2. Preferential COO – a certification that allows to take advantage of customs concessions while importing and selling goods in countries which have signed a free trade agreement.

While importing products from China, the Customs Office rarely imposes lower duty due to the fact that most of products are imported from that country, so an average tariff is usually applicable.


The Certificate of origin is an important trade document. While importing most goods from China to Europe, it is obligatory. It is worth to have both types of this document. The green version does not provide customs concessions, however it is still worth to have it, much less the Chinese exporters usually own it and they agree to submit it if it is necessary.

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About ChinaSafeImport Blog
Our blog contains articles about trade with China. Publications available on this blog allow you to find very important information and practical tips about import from China. We add new articles every Wednesday.

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