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8 Questions Answered About Canada's NAFTA Certificate of Origin

The Canada NAFTA Certificate of Origin is a document used by businesses and organizations that trade goods with Canada. The certificate of origin covers goods imported an

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Canada Cross Border Freight
October 7, 2019
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The Canada NAFTA Certificate of Origin is a document used by businesses and organizations that trade goods with Canada. The certificate of origin covers goods imported and exported between the US, Canada, and Mexico. If an importer has a certificate of origin, which is provided by an exporter, for a product that qualifies for preferential tariff treatment, they can take advantage of more competitive pricing. The primary purpose of the NAFTA Certificate of Origin is to determine whether or not goods that are imported from other member nations are eligible for reduced or favorable tariffs. If products do qualify, and they have a valid certificate, the relevant duties will either be decreased or waived. 

To qualify for preferential tariffs when importing and exporting from Canada, every Canada NAFTA Certificate of Origin should be completed according to specified guidelines. This includes providing detailed information about the goods. If the form isn’t completed properly and signed by the exporter, there may be delays or complications related to duty relief. 

Our informative guide below answers the most common questions regarding the NAFTA Certificate of Origin.  

Do I Need a Certificate of Origin to Ship to Canada?

Businesses and companies that ship freight to Canada may be required to complete a Certificate of Origin, but this documentation is only relevant to a shipment that qualifies for preferential tariffs. A certificate is not needed if an exporter based in a NAFTA nation is sending a shipment to an importer in another NAFTA country where the goods are not eligible for duty reductions or relief. 

If you are dealing with products that do qualify for preferential treatment under NAFTA, you will need to complete a certificate in order to benefit from lower fees, provided that the value of the shipment bound for either Canada or Mexico is lower than $1,000 USD or an export from Canada is worth less than $2,500 Canadian dollars. In this case, the shipment should be accompanied by a statement that confirms that the goods are eligible for lower tariffs under NAFTA rules of origin. The statement should be either typed or handwritten and stamped, and it should be attached to the commercial invoice. 

It is the duty of an exporter to determine whether or not the shipment they are sending needs a NAFTA Certificate of Origin. If a certificate is required, the document must be completed in full, signed, and dated. 

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Where Can I Get a Certificate of Origin?Where Can I Get a Certificate of Origin

A Certificate of Origin is designed to incentivize trade between NAFTA countries and to make it easy for exporters and importers to arrange deals with businesses in member nations. Exporters are required to obtain and complete a Certificate of Origin when seeking preferential treatment for eligible goods that exceed the value of either $1,000 USD or $2,500 Canadian dollars. There are various options when looking for a Certificate of Origin, including:

  • Customs offices: customs offices located in any of the NAFTA countries will be able to provide a Certificate of Origin form
  • Border agencies: documents are also available from border agencies, for example, the Canada Border Services Agency
  • Online: Certificate of Origin forms are available to download online via the Canada Border Services Agency website

Agency websites provide detailed information to accompany the form, which is designed to inform exporters about the data they need to include and ensure they fill in the relevant boxes correctly. It’s crucial to provide the necessary information to prevent delays and to ensure the relevant duties are applied. 

What is a Blanket Period on the Certificate of Origin?

A blanket period is a window of time, which can be specified by an exporter when shipping multiple deliveries that contain identical goods. When exporting shipments from one NAFTA nation to another, you will usually need to complete a certificate for each individual shipment, but this does not apply to exporters who send identical products to the same importer. In this case, the exporter can ship multiple loads within the blanket period. 

The blanket period must be up to 1 year long, and the start and finish dates should be clearly marked. It is important to note that the ‘from’ date constitutes the date upon which the certificate becomes relevant to the goods. It is possible for the date to precede the date of signing. The ‘to’ date is the date of the expiration of the blanket period. To qualify for preferential rates for eligible shipments, the products must be sent during this blanket period. If the blanket period has expired, a new certificate will be required. The time window should not exceed 365 days. If a blanket window starts on January 1st, for example, the period will terminate on December 31st. 

It’s essential for exporters to understand that the blanket period is viable for multiple shipments of identical items. It is not possible to specify a blanket window for shipments of different types of goods to multiple importers. The dates should be accurate and clearly marked on the form. If there is an error, for example, the end date is more than a year away from the start date, the form will need to be redone. 

Who is Responsible for Providing a NAFTA Certificate?Who is Responsible for Providing a NAFTA Certificate

Exporters are responsible for providing a certificate, and they are required to complete the NAFTA certificate in order to benefit from preferential tariffs. 

The first step for an exporter is to determine whether the goods qualify for reduced tariffs. If they do, and the value of the shipment exceeds the base value, a Certificate of Origin will be required. 

It is possible for a producer to complete the certificate for use by an exporter. 

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To fill in a Certificate of Origin, an exporter will need to provide the following information:

  1. Their name and address
  2. Their tax identification number: In Canada, this is the business number provided by the Canada Revenue Agency or the importer or exporter number assigned by the Canada Border Services Agency. In Mexico, this is the RFC, the federal taxpayer’s registry number, and in the US, this is the employer’s identification number or the Social Security number
  3. The blanket period (if applicable): this is relevant to multiple shipments of identical products and will constitute a period of time that is no longer than one year
  4. The full name, address, and tax number of the producer
  5. The full name, address, and tax number of the importer
  6. A detailed description of the goods
  7. The HS tariff number (more information about HS tariff numbers is available in the section entitled ‘What Products are Included in Nafta’)
  8. The chosen preference criterion (A-F)
  9. State ‘yes’ or ‘no’ depending on whether the exporter is also the producer
  10. State whether the goods listed are subject to RVC (regional value content)
  11. Specify the NAFTA country to which preferential tariffs apply, for example, US, MX or CA
  12. Sign the certificate: the form must be signed and dated by the exporter

Who Should Sign the NAFTA Certificate of Origin?

The NAFTA Certificate of Origin should be completed, signed, and dated by the exporter. When signing the document, it’s critical to ensure that the signature is provided by an individual who has in-depth knowledge of the process and the facts that underpin the NAFTA agreement. If the form is signed by a clerk or a packer, for example, this may raise suspicions. Generally speaking, the Certificate of Origin should be signed by those in more senior positions, including plant controllers, engineers or purchasing professionals. 

In order to ensure a smooth transition and enable importers to benefit from preferential tariffs without any hiccups, it’s important to make sure that every certificate is signed by somebody who has the relevant expertise and experience. The form should be signed and dated, and the date provided should represent the date on which the document was signed. 

Which Preference Criterion Should I Choose?

When completing a NAFTA Certificate of Origin, exporters will be asked to select a preference criterion. There are several preference criteria, which are represented by letters A to F. These letters relate to the originating good and provide more information about the composition and origins of the products contained within the shipment. Most commonly, exporters select A, B, C or D, but there are six criteria in total:

  • A: letter A represents goods that are wholly produced or obtained within the NAFTA region, using materials and components that are derived solely from Mexico, the US or Canada. It is uncommon for industrial products to be marked criterion A. This category is usually used for natural, raw materials, for example, crops. 
  • B: letter B relates to goods that have been produced entirely in one or more NAFTA countries and comply with the rules of origin that apply to tariff categories. This is the most commonly used criterion, and it covers a change of tariff, regional value content or a combination of the two.
  • C: letter C indicates that the product has been created using materials produced within NAFTA nations. The difference between criteria A and C is that the materials covered by letter C may qualify as originating, rather than being wholly produced or obtained in a NAFTA country. 
  • D: in this case, the goods are produced in one of more of the NAFTA countries, but the materials do not qualify as originating, as there has not been a change in tariff classification. Criterion D is usually only used for disassembled or incomplete goods, which don’t qualify for tariff changes but do satisfy regional value content stipulations. 
  • E: criterion E relates to automatic data processing products and their components that don’t originate in NAFTA countries, but are considered originating when imported within the NAFTA region from one NAFTA nation to another. 
  • F: letter F is often used for agricultural goods, which do not satisfy criteria A, B or C. 

In order to qualify for preferential tariffs, goods must satisfy at least one of the criteria listed above. Detailed information about the rule of origin and guidelines about the criteria can be found within the Rules of Origin, which are outlined in chapter 4 of the NAFTA Agreement.  

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What Products Are Included in NAFTA?What Products Are Included in NAFTA

NAFTA was introduced to create seamless trade opportunities between Canada, the US, and Mexico. These countries traded with each other on a regular basis, and forming an agreement was a logical step forward. In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement came into play, and over the course of time since then, tariffs on several popular products and commodities have been eliminated. The aim was to encourage economic activity and build stronger trading relationships between the three participating nations. Preferential tariffs now apply to a diverse range of goods, with exporters and importers across the NAFTA region benefiting from lower fees and duties. 

NAFTA was implemented to provide mutual benefits for the US, Canada, and Mexico which traditionally had strong trading relationships. Approximately a quarter of all US imports come from Mexico and Canada, and these countries represent the second and third largest importers to the US. NAFTA tariff preference relates to a host of goods, such as:

  • Crude oil
  • Machinery
  • Agricultural products
  • Gold
  • Minerals
  • Vehicles and automobiles
  • Plastics
  • Vehicle parts
  • Livestock
  • Fresh produce
  • Processed foods
  • Machinery
  • Cork and wood
  • Scientific instruments
  • Chemical materials

Goods that are imported and exported within NAFTA countries are classified according to tariff schedules, which are outlined by authorities in the country into which the shipment is imported. NAFTA nations are members of the World Customs Organization, and as such, they employ a system known as the Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System. This is a system that is utilized by more than 200 countries across the globe and it is designed to simplify international trade processes, to form a basis for customs tariffs and to make data collection more accessible. 

The Harmonized System, also known as the HS, includes thousands of commodity groups, and it uses six-digit codes to classify goods. The 6-digit code represents uniform classification, which facilitates the straightforward, swift movement of goods across borders. The code is created using the first two digits to indicate the chapter, the first four figures to represent the heading and the six numbers to produce the subheading. In some cases, an eight-digit code will be used to provide more information. These longer sequences refer to tariff items. 

Once a product has been classified according to the HS system, the next step is to determine whether the goods are eligible for preferential duties under the tariff schedules set out by individual NAFTA countries. In the US, the tariff schedule has ‘general’ and ‘special’ columns, while in Canada, there are ‘MFN’ or ‘Applicable Preferential Tariff’ columns. If the goods are listed in the general or MFN boxes, this means that no tariff applies, and the duty rate is set at zero. In Mexico, this arrangement is represented by ‘Ex.’ If the figure is not set at zero in the ‘general’ column, the next move is to check the rate that is outlined in the ‘special’ or ‘preferential’ column. Country codes MX, CA, and US will be used to identify the three nations. 

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Who Should I Speak to if I Have Questions About the Certificate of Origin?Who Should I Speak to If I Have Questions About the Certificate of Origin

If you’re not familiar with the NAFTA Certificate of Origin, the process of finding out if you need to complete a form and then filling in the certificate may seem daunting. If you have questions or concerns, for example, you’re unsure which criterion to choose, there is help and advice available online via the relevant US, Mexico, and Canada border agency websites. However, these websites can be difficult to navigate and actually getting in touch with a representative can take a significant amount of time. 

Many people choose to work with an experienced logistics firm to eliminate issues and speed up the process of sending shipments to and from Canada. When looking for a logistics company, it’s important to ensure that they manage shipments in the area that you’re looking for. 

Ship Freight To and From Canada With R+L Global Logistics

At R+L Global Logistics, we understand that our clients want to export and import goods as quickly and seamlessly as possible. These goods include everything from wood to furniture and heavy machinery. We know that our customers have reputations to protect, and we provide a swift, stress-free process for domestic and international clients. We work with customers across a broad spectrum of sectors, specializing in shipping and logistics services for businesses in the technology, consumer goods, life science and medical, chemical, engineering, and business franchise industries. We transport products rapidly, safely, and securely, taking the stress out of domestic and international shipping. Enjoy service across the border, including Detroit and Port Huron in Michigan

We have many years of experience in shipping freight to and from Canada, and we know everything there is to know about getting products to their destination on time. Whether you’re dealing with importers down the road or in another country, we’re confident we’ll exceed your expectations. Give us a call at 855-915-0573 or fill out the form below to get started. 

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