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9 Questions Answered About USMCA Certificate of Origin

On July 1, 2020, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) officially replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in an effort to tweak some parts of

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Jon Michael Soracchi
April 30, 2021
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On July 1, 2020, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) officially replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in an effort to tweak some parts of the agreement while also updating it to reflect a few things that weren’t issues when NAFTA was originally enacted in 1994. One thing that didn’t change, however, was the need for a Certificate of Origin. The NAFTA Certificate of Origin is no more, having been supplanted by the USMCA Certificate of Origin. You might be wondering, as someone who wants to do business across borders, how it all affects you.

The USMCA Certificate of Origin is a document containing specific information about many aspects of your shipment and are required for nearly any importing or exporting between Canada, Mexico and the United States. While it’s not an overly complicated thing, there are differences between the NAFTA and USMCA certificates, and general best practices.

What is USMCA Certificate of Origin? What is the USMCA Certificate of Origin? 

The USMCA Certificate of Origin is a crucial part of shipping goods between the countries of Canada, Mexico and the United States. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to look at the specific relationship this import document has in relation to Canada and the United States — although much of this information can also be applied to Mexico as well.

This certificate is used for the primary purpo      se of helping Canada or the United States make the determination on whether goods entering their respective countries qualify for a claim for preferential tariff treatment.

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First of all, the USMCA Certification of Origin is a document that contains fields which must be fully and accurately completed. There are nine minimum data elements and the certificate is also accompanied by a statement. Points 1 through 4 are counted as five points by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency because it is referred to as all information about those entities. 

  1. The certifier of the goods
  2. The exporter of record
  3. The producer of the goods being shipped
  4. The importer of record
  5. The Harmonized Tariff System’s (HTS) description and the corresponding 6-digit code that classifies it.
  6. The criteria which qualifies the origin of the good.
  7. If the certificate covers multiple shipments, also known as the blanket period. 
  8. The authorized date of the shipment and a signature.

Again, there is no specific way that all of this information needs to be arranged on the certificate, it’s only mandated that it all be included. This document can be filed electronically, but it should also be included in a physical form with the commercial invoice with the actual shipment.

It’s also worthy of notation that there are various levels of preference criteria. If a good is made and assembled solely in Canada, the United States or Mexico, it will receive the highest level of preference, which will result in little to no tariffs assessed.

Differences between USMCA and NAFTA Certificate of Origin Differences between USMCA and NAFTA

NAFTA was created with the intention of normalizing the trade relationship between the three member countries. It existed for 26 years before NAFTA was re-negotiated into USMCA. As expected, there have been some changes. 

While the differences between the two Certificates of Origin are not a wide chasm, there are enough that it’s important to note the changes so your business can continue to thrive when exporting goods to Canada.

Now the producer, exporter or importer can be the one to complete the USMCA certificate. Before under NAFTA, the importer was not able to fill out this document.

The USMCA has also changed the format for the Certificate of Origin. With NAFTA, it was a requirement that all three countries used a uniform document format to prove they qualified for preferential treatment regarding tariffs. The USMCA, in contrast, must have the 9 data points asked for, but there is no must-have format denoted by the agreement.

Another way that the USMCA has improved upon its predecessor is by no longer requiring a wet signature on the Certificate of Origin. With the update, digital or electronic signatures will now be accepted.

In some cases, clarification was added to an aspect that was up for interpretation for each country. One such case involved how errors or discrepancies used to be handled under NAFTA, where there was no such provision on how these mistakes would be dealt with and was up to the discretion of each nation in the agreement. Now, under USMCA, it is clearly stated that Certificate of Origins should not be rejected due to minor errors and that the importer should be given a minimum of 5 business days to send a corrected certificate.

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Finally, there have been several changes to the basis for which a Certificate of Origin is needed. This five-part list with several sub-points can be viewed on the CBP website.

While we outlined the differences of the two Certificates of Origin, there are two very important ways there were no changes. The 9 data elements mentioned in the previous section is a holdover from NAFTA to USMCA. Also, in regard to single or multiple shipments, the threshold value of $1,000 is unchanged.

Goods Affected By Change to USMCA Goods affected by change to USMCA

While the Certification of Origin has changed somewhat, it’s also helpful to see what products see the biggest impact from the recent shift. One of the largest modifications affects the automobile industry. In order to pay zero tariffs on automobiles that cross any of the three countries’ borders, 75 percent of the materials used to manufacture the vehicles must be made in Canada, the U.S. or Mexico. 

This is a change from NAFTA, where previously the percentage was 62.5. In the same sector, 40 to 45 percent of car parts are mandated to be produced by employees that make a minimum of $16 per hour.

Another product, this one from the agricultural sector, is the diary market. In the USMCA, America was able to negotiate that Canada give it more access to sell its milk-based goods in the Great White North. 

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

This question was partially answered earlier, but the answer is conditionally yes. The reason that is conditional is because the USMCA Certificate of Origin exists for a highly specific purpose — which is when an exporter is trying to get his goods from one of the three participating countries into another and is attempting to prove that those products actually qualify for preferential tariffs. So the answer is yes in that case. 

However, if for some reason, you are not claiming that your goods should receive special treatment in regard to tariffs, then a USMCA Certificate of Origin is not required as part of the process of clearing customs and moving your freight from one country to the next. This point was touched upon earlier, but if you do need the Certificate of Origin included to qualify for preferential tariff treatment, the certificate has to be with the commercial invoice.

In summary, not every shipment to Canada requires a certificate — only shipments where special consideration is given in regard to tariffs.

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Where Can I Get a Certificate of Origin? Where can I get a USMCA Certificate of Origin?

Previously addressed, the certificate of origin can be a document that you create, or can even be created on your behalf by a company you employ to help you with shipping through customs and borders.

Having said that, the U.S. CBP does actually provide a Certificate of Origin form template on their website. The document, which is downloadable as a PDF and can be viewed and edited in Adobe Acrobat Reader, is a good resource to use. This can be to follow a format that the CBP prefers the necessary information to be composed but the government organization states on the same weblink that it is not mandatory to compile the data in the specific fashion the template is laid out in.

This article also doesn’t suggest you organize the document any particular way, but since the CBP offers a template that can be filled out and electronically saved by an exporter, importer or other person of record, it might take some of the guesswork out of how to build the USMCA Certificate of Origin and show you how to successfully complete this step, at the bare minimum.

Still, it bears repeating you are in no way required to use the CBP’s template and, if you so choose, it doesn’t need to be used as a resource whatsoever.

Who is Responsible for Providing USMCA Certificate of Origin?

With the expansion by the USMCA regarding their Certificate of Origin, there are now 3 parties who can take responsibility for submitting this document. This trio is any one of the following:

  • The exporter
  • The importer
  • The producer of the good

While any one of these 3 can complete and provide the document, in the most likely of any scenarios, the exporter or importer will predominantly assume this task on behalf of the manufacturer. This is really dictated by the reality of the supply chain — an importer or exporter could absolutely be working on behalf of the manufacturer, but for sizable or constantly repeated shipments, the importer or exporter would usually take the lead on compiling all the paperwork and documents associated with this endeavor.

So, in short, the same people who are allowed to actually create and sign the Certificate of Origin are the same ones who are able to take responsibility for providing it.

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Who Should Sign the USMCA Certificate of Origin? Who should sign the USMCA Certificate of Origin?

Now that a digital or electronic signature is permitted with the USMCA rather than the wet signature required under NAFTA, while also expanding to allow the importer to complete the Certificate of Origin,  it’s gotten a whole lot easier to have any number of parties associated with the shipment to sign.

In fact, it’s now easy for the importer, exporter or even the manufacturer to electronically or digitally sign the certificate and then electronically submit it ahead of the shipment so that you’re set. So the most basic answer is any of those three can sign the certificate and it will really come down to what the individual parties who are part of the shipment agree on. In this case, the CBP or Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) just want the certificate submitted with all the information and signed and the USMCA offers more options than NAFTA did in regard to the Certificate of Origin.  

What Products are Included in USMCA?

There are really very few changes from NAFTA to the USMCA on which specific goods qualify or are disallowed. So the easiest answer on a general level is almost any commodity is allowed to enter Canada from the United States.

While the individual country in question might have their own restrictions on how a particular good has to cross their border — shipping alcohol into Canada from the U.S. is a good example — it is not the USMCA that is actually placing those limitations. In fact, the way to get the most direct information is to look at the agreement yourself before you even begin the freight shipping process and make sure that anything you used to know about NAFTA is still valid after the rollover into the USMCA. 

How to Get Help with USMCA Certificate of Origin

If you decide to employ a customs broker or another company to help you cross the border and get your goods shipped, they can easily help you get set up with a USMCA Certificate of Origin and also help you pinpoint which of your commodities could benefit from including one with your cross-border paperwork.

In essence, this would be a small item that the customs broker or import consultant could assist you with while giving you the bigger helping hand of their knowledge or actually being present at the U.S.-Canada border in order to deal with the CBP or CBSA

Truthfully though, if you really felt like you wanted the import consultant to help with the certificate, that could be done over the course of a 30 to 60-minute consulting session rather than a bigger investment of time or money.

Another important part of the USMCA Certificate of Origin to pay attention to is the blanket period. The blanket period lasts up to 1 year and covers multiple shipments of identical products shipped over a designated period of time. The start and end dates of these particular products must be listed on the certificate and once you are finished with that time period, you must submit a new Certificate of Origin.     

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

Now that you’re fully up to speed on what a USMCA Certificate of Origin is and why it’s needed, consider partnering with R+L Global Logistics for all of your shipments going across both sides of the border between the U.S. and Canada. We can absolutely offer you fair-priced, expert help either importing or exporting goods and will make the process as seamless as possible.

No matter the type of goods — beef, medicine or even clothes — R+L Global Logistics excels at both domestic and international shipments for clients all over the world. We have agents well-versed in how to get truckloads into or out of Canada, and who know the relatively new USMCA inside and out so that you’ll never be caught flat-footed during the process. R+L Global Logistics also employs dedicated customs brokers who can simplify or even handle the hurdles many companies having their products shipped can encounter.

Yet, when you choose R+L Global Logistics, you’re not just getting a truckload and a rules expert. We also boast industry-leading customer service to assist you every step of the way and include real-time freight visibility so you always know where your freight is at a given moment. Any cross border shipping services can be rendered by us.

R+L Global can help you understand quickly if the goods you’re having shipped require a USMCA Certificate of Origin. To get started on importing to or exporting from Canada — or if you are just looking for a free quote — call us today at (855) 915-0573 to find out how we can make the difference for you right now.

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