A Certificate of Origin (COO) is a document commonly used in international trade. It establishes the country of origin of the product, which is particularly important for an exporter claiming import duty benefits against the product(s). It is often in the form of a statement attached to the commercial invoice, or a separate declaration, which gives a line item-wise list of the origin of all products.

A COO is signed by the exporter (or an authorized representative) and certified to be true and correct.

What types of COO are there?

There are two categories of COO: preferential and non-preferential.

Under the preferential scheme, a COO is issued in case of exports for which India receives tariff preferences. The preferential arrangements and agreements for which the Certificate of Origin is required are:

  • Generalized System of Preferences: Unilateral tariff concessions granted to developing countries by selected developed countries
  • Global System of Trade Preferences: Tariff concessions exchanged between developing countries. India has this agreement with 12 countries at present and on a selected range of products
  • SAARC Preferential Trading Agreement: Tariff concessions agreed upon by the seven SAARC nations among themselves
  • Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement: Aims for relaxation of the tariff as well as non-tariff obstacles across the Asia-Pacific region and India is a part of it
  • India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement
  • India-Thailand Free Trade Agreement
  • India-Malaysia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement
  • India-Korea Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement
  • India-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement
  • ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement: An agreement for comprehensive economic cooperation between India and the 10 ASEAN countries

For exporters seeking to enjoy preferential tariffs under these arrangements/agreements, COO is required to establish the eligibility of the exports for the same. In the case of preferential COO, the Directorate-General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) has identified a list of agencies authorized to issue the COO (see Fig. 1 below).

COO Authorized Agencies Fig. 1: List of Agencies authorized to issue Certificate Of Origin (Preferential)

A non-preferential COO certifies the origin of the goods but does not grant any preferential tariff rights to the exporter. The Indian government has nominated agencies across the country to issue COO as per Article II of the International Convention Relating to Simplification of Customs Formalities, 1923.

All-India organizations authorized to issue COO are DGFT and its regional offices, the Textile Committee and its offices, FIEO and its branches, CII and its branches, and the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Apart from these, certain state-wise agencies have also been authorized to issue non-preferential COOs.

Self-certification of Origin

The DGFT also allows self-certification of origin by exporters. To be able to do so, the exporter must be recognized by the DGFT under the Approved Exporter System for Self-certification of Origin.

Statusholder exporters (One/Two/Three/Four/Five Star Export Houses) are eligible under this scheme. It is available for products manufactured by these exporters that are listed in SSI/IEM/IL/LOI registration certificate. These products must have appeared in the list of products in the exporter’s application for recognition as an approved exporter.

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How is COO issued/obtained?

A COO may be obtained on a regular basis or on a shipment basis. The format for requests under both is different. While applying for a COO on a regular basis, the exporter has to furnish a permanent indemnity bond on Rs. 50 stamp paper in the format given in Fig. 2 below (when applying to FIEO):

FIEO COO Format Fig. 2: Format for COO Application to FIEO (Regular)

COO can also be applied for on individual shipments, for which the exporter needs to furnish an indemnity bond on Rs, 10 stamp paper in the format given in Fig. 3 below (when applying to FIEO):

FIEO COO Format Individual Fig. 3: Format for COO Application to FIEO (Individual Shipments)

A fee of Rs. 100 is charged for eight copies of the COO. Some exporters also apply for the certification of their invoices. The fee for certifying eight copies of the invoice is Rs. 50. Certification of other documents such as the packing list is also done at a nominal rate.

While applying for a COO, a cover letter must be sent to the authorized agency, along with the indemnity bond, eight-nine copies of the duly filled COO application, and a copy of the invoice. The stamp paper used for this purpose must be purchased in the name of the exporting entity. The bond has to be signed by the Director/Partner/Proprietor of the entity.

Final thoughts

The COO captures information regarding the product, its destination, and the country from where it originates. It determines whether the incoming product is eligible for import and if duty needs to be charged upon it. Customs authorities at the destination treat the COO as a document separate from the commercial invoice and the packing list.

A notarized signature of the exporter, along with the signature and stamp of the authorized agency of the origin country, is expected to be seen in a COO by the customs authorities at the intended destination. In some countries, e-COOs (which have been electronically signed by the authorized agency/chamber of commerce) are also accepted.

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