Trade & investment

Business recommendations to facilitate the use of return-refill container systems in cross-border trade

  • 11 May 2017
ICC policy statement on rules of origin in preferential trade

The rise of global value chains and the e-commerce boom have led to an increase in the use of small consignment in the cross-border movement of goods.

With the rise of e-commerce and globalisation, the use of small consignments in the cross-border movement of goods has become increasingly prevalent. As such, more companies are adopting the use of return-refill reusable packaging and container systems as part of their shipments to transport goods internationally. Tracking and tracing systems are often included as part of the return-refill system, and can enhance transporters’ ability to monitor shipments and containers during transport for safety, security and logistics reasons.

However, such systems are often subject to stringent customs clearance formalities upon their empty return. Return-refill containers and their tracking and tracing systems are subject to different, and often disparate, compliance requirement regulations from Customs administrations around the world. Such inconsistencies create costly uncertainties and pose serious challenges for stakeholders at the border. Consequently, these hurdles discourage traders from moving towards a more efficient and sustainable means of trade through the use of return-refill and tracking and tracing systems.

Therefore, ICC calls for a similar customs clearance treatment as applies to large shipping containers. ICC recommends that as long as the packaging has been used and/or will be reused and that there is no change in ownership, return-refill systems should be allowed to cross borders without formal customs declaration, without duties, taxes and customs fees and without the necessity of re-exportation.

In this Policy Statement, ICC calls upon the World Customs Organization (WCO) to develop guidance for Customs administrations, in close cooperation with the private sector, to ensure countries harmonise their regulatory frameworks with the above mentioned conventions, enabling the use of return-refill systems and related tracking and tracing systems.

See related ICC webstory: ICC Calls for Global Guidance on Return-Refill Container Systems.