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The ICC WCF International Certificate of Origin Council (ICO) gathered virtually for their annual meeting to address recent developments in Certificate of Origin (CO) and digital initiatives.

ICC WCF welcomed 47 CO experts from 32 countries to the online meeting which was chaired by Peter Bishop, Chairman of ICC World Chambers Federation (WCF) International CO Council and Deputy CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Martin Van der Weide, Deputy Chair of the CO Council and Policy Manager on Origin of the Netherlands Chamber of Commerce.

Deliberations included ICC WCF initiatives and CO issues encountered as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic. Information relevant to world trade regulation and CO updates from national and regional chambers of commerce were also shared, reinforcing the central role of trade documentation in global trade facilitation.

In addition, topics were centered around the benefits of using ICC WCF CO Quality Labels to enable trade facilitation. The Certificate of Origin Accreditation Chain (CO Chain) has 27 member countries, including a total of 684 chambers that follow universal certification standards and ICC’s CO Guidelines to issue trade documents in their countries. Following the recent accreditation of the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Beirut and Mount Lebanon (CCIA-BML) to the CO Chain, the objective remains to include more chambers and move towards a global harmonisation for rules regarding the issuance of COs around the world.

Peter Bishop, Chairman of ICC World Chambers Federation (WCF) International CO Council and Deputy CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry said: “Trade has continued throughout the COVID-19 crisis and trade facilitation has only gained in importance as we all seek to get back to the levels of economic activity the world needs.

“This meeting was truly global and included representatives from the Antipodes, North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia – defying the logistical challenges that varying time zones present. All delegates were intent on overcoming the problems that the pandemic has presented and were also keen to exploit the accelerated progress that has been made in electronic documentation by governments, issuers and traders” he added.

Highlights from the meeting included:

  • ICC WCF CO Verification Website saw a significant increase in use with more than 140,000 users to date in 2020, compared to 48,000 in 2019 and 27,000 in 2018.
  • More than 8 million COs were issued in 2019 that included the ICC WCF CO Quality Label.
  • It also confirmed what was in the ICC WCF International CO Guidelines, that there should be a logical connection between the country where origin documents were issued and the export shipment itself.
  • Due to Covid-19 restrictions placed on postal services due to government advice, it was noted that the delivery of paper trade documents has proven challenging in some countries. However, it was recognised that chambers which have successfully managed the continuity of their trade operations are those that have implemented an electronic system.

ICC and its chamber members unanimously agreed that the use of electronic CO’s is the way forward and expect all chambers around the world to adopt an electronic system soon. ICC has published two guides – one for chambers and an additional focus for importers/customs – to promote the use of electronic COs to the whole chamber community and to raise the issue of tackling counterfeit COs in circulation.

Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, the Secretariat has received numerous requests from importers requesting assistance on how to check the authenticity of COs they have received. The vast majority of them ware forged COs, that included the fraudulent use of the ICC logo or other chambers’ logos. These guides aim to provide help in issues such as these.

The meeting was concluded by Bryan Staples, President of Trade Facilitation Services (TFS) and Founding Director of the Origin Institute and Norbert Kouwenhoven, Global Authorities Leader for IBM’s Core TradeLens Team (Customs and Authorities Lead), who presented successful projects on the advancement towards digitalisation of trade documents.

For further information, please contact

Julie Sonladuangchanh

Project Manager, World Chambers Federation

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