ICC policy statement on rules of origin in preferential trade

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

In this context, more and more companies are employing 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.

Currently, traders are confronted with a situation in which return-refill containers and packaging are often subject to stringent customs clearance formalities upon their empty return. Customs administrations across the world have different and often disparate compliance requirement regulations for such containers and packaging as well as for their tracking and tracing systems. These different approaches create uncertainty and pose a serious challenge to traders at the border. This, in turn, discourages the use of return-refill and tracking and tracing systems. ICC calls for a similar customs clearance treatment as applies to large shipping containers.

Many of the challenges faced by traders could be addressed by the proper implementation and compliance with the 1972 Customs Container Convention and Annex B.3 of the 1990 Istanbul Convention on Temporary Admission. The former covers any container above one cubic meter and is therefore in fact applicable to most of the concerned refill systems. The latter provides for the temporary admission of containers, pallets, packaging and other goods imported to facilitate carriage in connection with a commercial operation.

In its statement, ICC calls upon the World Customs Organization to develop guidance for customs administrations, in close cooperation with the private sector, to ensure countries harmonize their regulatory frameworks with the above mentioned conventions – enabling the use of return-refill systems and related tracking and tracing systems.