Taxation and customs union

Generalised System of Preferences

Summary:
Facility granted unilaterally to developing countries including the 'Everything but arms initiative' for Least Developed Countries.

a) General introduction

The principle of GSP was agreed at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and is a facility granted to developing countries ("beneficiary countries") by certain developed countries ("donor countries"). It is not negotiated with them: the preferential treatment is non-reciprocal.
The GSP schemes offered by the various donor countries and their rules of origin differ fundamentally. Goods complying with the conditions of the GSP of the USA, for example, will not necessarily comply with the EU GSP.

Special arrangements have been established in order to address the special needs of the least developed countries. Following the so-called "Everything But Arms" (EBA) initiative introduced in 2001, the EC GSP grants these countries duty-and quota-free access for almost all their exports.

For more detailed information on general aspects of the GSP and its background, see the GSP pages of DG Trade.

Exporters in developing countries may also be interested to see the Export Helpdesk for Developing Countries of DG TRADE.

For more detailed information on the rules of origin aspect, see the Commission's guide for users on GSP rules of origin (The European Union's rules of origin for the GSP: A Guide for users).

Warning : not all countries listed as beneficiaries may actually qualify. Belarus for example is temporarily suspended from GSP, while some other countries have not yet complied with the administrative cooperation requirements, which are a pre-condition for goods to be granted the benefit of the preference. If in doubt, your competent customs authorities will advise.

b) Legal framework

GSP rules of origin are contained in

  • Articles 37 and 41-58 of the Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446 of 28 July 2015 supplementing Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards detailed rules concerning certain provisions of the Union Customs Code;
  • Articles 60 and 70-112 of the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/2447 of 24 November 2015 laying down detailed rules for implementing certain provisions of Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards detailed rules concerning certain provisions of the Union Customs Code.. The list rules are contained in Regulation 2015/2446, Annex 22-03 (Introductory notes and list of working or processing operations which confer originating status).

Please note that these are large regulations, which do not concern only origin. However, the Commission's guide for users on GSP rules of origin (The European Union's rules of origin for the GSP: A Guide for users) includes an unofficial consolidated version of the legal text concerning GSP rules of origin.
It is pointed out that GSP is a single regime. The special arrangements it includes (EBA, the Special Incentive arrangement for sustainable development and good governance (GSP Plus)) are part of GSP, so the same rules apply to them.

The GSP regulation for the period to 31/12/2023 is Regulation (EU) No 978/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council applying a scheme of generalised tariff preferences and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 732/2008. The text may be found on the GSP pages of DG Trade.

c) Specific provisions

NOTICE: These specific provisions only contain information on cases where the rules of the particular arrangement differ from the common provisions, or where these common provisions need to be complemented. Therefore, always check the common provisions too.

Cumulation

  • Bilateral cumulation
  • Regional cumulation
  • Extended cumulation
  • Cumulation with goods originating in Norway, Switzerland and Turkey

Neither diagonal cumulation nor full cumulation is permitted.

Regional cumulation of origin

The groups that may benefit from this are:

  • Group I: Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar/Burma, Philippines and Vietnam;
  • Group III:  Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. 

Two other groups contain now only one country (Group II: Bolivia and Group IV: Paraguay) therefore the cumulation is impossible.

Regional cumulation between countries in the same regional group shall apply only under the condition that the working or processing carried out in the beneficiary country where the materials are further processed or incorporated goes beyond "minimal" operations and, in the case of textile products, also beyond the operations set out in Annex 22-05 (Working excluded from GSP regional cumulation (textile products)).

In order to guard against distortion of trade between countries having different levels of tariff preference, certain sensitive products are excluded from regional cumulation as set out in Annex 22-04 (Materials excluded from regional cumulation). In addition, cumulation is now possible between individual Group I and Group IV countries, upon request and under certain conditions.

Extended cumulation of origin

Extended cumulation between a beneficiary country and a country with which the European Union has a free-trade agreement in force, may be granted by the Commission upon request of a beneficiary country, provided that the countries involved in the cumulation have undertaken, inter alia, to provide the necessary administrative co-operation both with regard to the European Union and also between themselves and that the undertaking has been notified to the Commission by the beneficiary country concerned.

Materials falling within Chapters 1 to 24 of the Harmonized System are excluded from extended cumulation.

Cumulation with goods originating in Norway, Switzerland and Turkey

Because the GSP schemes offered by Norway, Switzerland and Turkey are similar to EU GSP, a certain linkage between them is possible. Beneficiary countries have, since 2001, been permitted to cumulate origin with goods falling within Chapters 25 to 97 of the Harmonized System originating in Norway and Switzerland. This cumulation will continue and is extended to Turkey. Materials (other than agricultural products or products covered by a derogation) which originate in Norway, Switzerland or Turkey which undergo more than a minimal operation in a beneficiary country, are considered to originate in that beneficiary country, and may benefit from preferences when imported to the EU, to Norway, to Switzerland or to Turkey.

In addition, the customs authorities in the EU, Norway, Switzerland or Turkey may, for the purpose of sending the goods to one of the other parties, replace a Form A issued by the authorities of a beneficiary country.

The legal provisions are complemented by an agreement in the form of an exchange of letters between the parties, published in OJ L 38, 8/2/2001, p. 25.

"Insufficient working and processing" (Minimal operations)

The list of minimal operations may be found in Article 47 of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446.

General tolerance rule

The general tolerance rule is set out under Article 48  of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446.

No drawback rule

There is no "no drawback" rule.

Principle of territoriality

Working or processing outside the territory of the beneficiary country (without prejudice to regional cumulation) is not permitted. Goods exported and subsequently returned may be considered as originating only if it can be demonstrated that they are the same as those exported, and that they have not undergone any operations beyond those necessary to preserve them in good condition.

Non-manipulation/Non- alteration rule

The long-standing direct transport rule previously existing in the GSP rules of origin has been replaced by a more flexible non manipulation principle (see Article Article 43 of Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446). This means that the products declared for release for free circulation in the European Union must be the same products as exported from the beneficiary country in which they are considered to originate. They must not have been altered, transformed in any way or subjected to operations other than operations to preserve them in good condition.

Proof of origin applicable until the full application of REX

The normal proof of origin for goods exported from a beneficiary country to the EU is the certificate of origin Form A. Except for derogations, an invoice declaration may be used for goods whose total value does not exceed Euro 6 000.

Where goods of EU origin are exported to a beneficiary country with a view to bilateral cumulation, the EU exporter must use a movement certificate EUR 1. An invoice declaration may be used by approved exporters and also by any exporter for goods whose total value does not exceed Euro 6.000.

The period of validity is 10 months.

The maximum value limit of the exemption from the requirement to present a proof of origin for small packages sent from one private person to another is Euro 500 and for goods contained in travellers' personal luggage, it is Euro 1.200.

Derogations

Upon Commission's initiative or in response to a request from a beneficiary country, a beneficiary country may be granted a temporary derogation from the provisions where internal or external factors temporarily deprive it of the ability to comply with the applicable rules for the acquisition of origin where it could do so previously, or where it requires time to prepare itself to comply with the "normal" rules for the acquisition of origin.

The temporary derogation is limited to the duration of the effects of the internal or external factors giving rise to it or the length of time needed for the beneficiary country to achieve compliance with the rules.

A request for derogation is made in writing to the Commission. It states the reasons why derogation is required and contains appropriate supporting documents.

When derogation is granted, it is subject to compliance with any requirements laid down as to information to be provided to the Commission concerning the use of the derogation and the management of the quantities for which the derogation was granted.

REX as of 1 January 2017

A new system of certification of origin of goods, the Registered Exporters system (the REX system) has been replacing the system of certification of origin by public authorities as from 1 January 2017. An eLearning explaining all changes related to this new system can be downloaded without any charges.

Administrative cooperation

Access to the GSP scheme is conditional upon beneficiary countries putting into place and maintaining the necessary administrative structures and systems required for the implementation and management in that country of the GSP rules of origin and origin-related procedures, including where appropriate the arrangements necessary for the application of cumulation. The competent authorities of beneficiary countries are required to co-operate with the European Commission and the customs authorities of the EU Member States.