Issues to consider when asked to fill out an FTA certificate
Last Published: 3/22/2018
  • Claiming FTA preference allows qualified U.S. products to be more competitive by exempting them from or by being assessed reduced duties (tariffs).  Local taxes still apply.  
  • FTA certificate/certifications are optional.  They are not required for shipments to clear customs.  However, goods shipped without one may be assessed standard tariff rate.  For shipments below $2,500, exporter should indicate on an invoice that a product is of U.S. origin and qualifies for an FTA (e.g. NAFTA). 
  • Any party to the export transaction may ask for an FTA certificate.  For example, a U.S. producer may be asked for a certificate by an exporter (if exporter is not the producer), by a distributor, an importer or Customs authorities.  Certificates should not be provided just because someone asks. You should only provide a certificate if the product meets the FTA requirements. The product must be evaluated and qualified for each FTA according to its specific rules of origin.  Many are similar, sometimes identical, but each must be investigated.
  • Not all FTA agreements require specific forms.  For example, NAFTA shipment, in order to obtain FTA duty exemption requires specific NAFTA form (CBP 434).  
  • Many newer FTA partners (e.g.Israel, Peru, Panama, Colombia, Korea) can accept declarative statements that contain specific data elements including information stating how the product in question qualifies for an FTA.  However, importers may still ask exporters to fill out a specific FTA form.  While the form/format is optional, the information is required for the importer to make a claim of preferential treatment (reduced tariff) and/or exemption from customs processing fee (the fee waiver this is especially helpful with large shipment
  • ​Not all FTA certificates/certification require using specific letter codes for Preference Criteria.  For example, do not write Preference Criterion B on a Korea FTA form just because this was the letter criterion used for NAFTA shipment.    
  • FTAs benefits are not transferable.  Just because product may qualify for one FTA, it may not necessarily be the case for another one (or a product may qualify under a different rule).  Therefore, exporters should not use the same certificate for shipments to different FTA countries. 
  • Certificates may not be necessary if the standard tariff rate is equal to, or lower, than the FTA rate (there will not be a tariff saving).  However, on some occasions, a certificate may be helpful.  For example, when a shipment involves a component which in turn may become part of another product and that other product may be sold to another FTA country.  Having a certificate for a component will help qualifying that product for preferential rate.  Example—U.S. exporter sells a boat engine to Canada. Canadian manufacturer used it to build a pleasure boat and sells it back to US or Mexico.  Having NAFTA certificate for an engine would help qualify the boat for NAFTA.  Certificate may also be useful for large shipments to obtain customs processing fee waiver.      
  • Certificates may not be issued for:
i)  Products made in the U.S. that do not meet FTA rules of origin requirements (they are non-originating products).
ii) Products made in the U.S. which are trans-shipped via third country (some FTA-specific exceptions may apply but differ from FTA to FTA).
ii) Products shipped directly from the U.S. that are not made/substantially transformed in the U.S. in accordance with FTA-specific rules of origin.  
  • Certificates may be for a specific shipment or multiple shipments.  Certificate issued for multiple shipments will include a date range, i.e., “blanket period” during which certification will be valid.  The blanket period can be for a maximum of 365 days.
  • After blanket period is over, a certificate needs to be re-issued, even though no changes/modifications were made to the products. Certificates may either include products currently being shipped or include a list of all eligible products that may be shipped during the blanket period. 
  • ​Non-FTA eligible goods should not be added to the certificate even if packed/shipped together.  
  • Certificates should include only FTA- eligible products (final product to be exported).  Components/materials/ingredients that are part of the products should not be listed on the certificates.
  • FTA certificates/declarations are self-certified by party who is knowledgeable about transaction. They do not need to be notarized/certified/legalized like some generic certificates may. 
  •  FTA certificates and supporting documents should be kept on files for five years in case of a customs audit.  They should be treated as legal documents. 

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