Online C/Os: Good for business, bad for scams

11:00 | 12/04/2017 Trade

(VEN) - Certificates of origin (C/Os) are indispensable for companies wanting to benefit from tariff reductions provided by free trade agreements (FTAs). Domestic import, export businesses can now apply for these certificates online to save time and money.  

online cos good for business bad for scams

Reducing fraud In the process of simplifying administrative procedures to enhance the competitiveness of import, export businesses, the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT)’s Agency of Foreign Trade has coordinated with concerned units to expand the issuance of C/Os via the internet.

According to Tran Thanh Hai, Deputy Director of the Agency of Foreign Trade, businesses no longer have to go to local offices to apply for C/Os, and they can use standard company profiles when filing.

Issuing C/Os via the internet also helps minimize mistakes and fraud in proving the origin of products. In the past, some businesses used counterfeit signatures when filling out declaration forms to apply for C/Os in order to enjoy tariff preferences. But when submitting applications via the internet, businesses have to present electronic signatures (which are harder to forge) of owners or authorized signatories. In 2016, the MoIT granted C/Os via the internet to more than 650,000 applicants.

“Businesses from many other countries have used fraudulent C/Os to export their products under the guise of goods originating from Vietnam in order to enjoy FTA tariff preferences,” said Tran Thanh Hai.

“This has badly affected Vietnamese goods. Therefore, businesses should join state management authorities in efforts to prevent such fraud. Applying for C/Os via the internet is an effective solution to this problem.”

Pham Thi Hai, Chief Representative of the Ton Dong A Joint Stock Company, found that getting C/Os via the internet over the last six months has been beneficial. In the past, businesses had to submit various types of documents when applying for C/Os, but now only the application forms and declarations are required. Moreover, the time required to get a C/O has also been reduced from four to 16 hours to one or two hours.

The My Phong Leather Shoes Company Limited, a leading leather shoe exporter from Tra Vinh Province, has also found that the online certificate procedure facilitates customs clearance and saves a lot of time and money. Moreover, quick certification of origin also enhances the competitiveness of products.

System overload

Despite its positive effects, the process of issuing C/Os via the internet still encounters hitches. According to Pham Thi Hai, Ton Dong A and many other companies encountered difficulties when filling declaration forms due to the overload or unstable quality of transmission lines.

To resolve these problems, Tran Thanh Hai said the MoIT will seek technical upgrades to ensure the smooth operation of the network, especially in the early days of the week – a “rush hour” period for many firms needing C/Os. He added that to reduce the system overload on weekdays, the MoIT requested businesses to try and file their declaration forms over the weekend or after standard work hours.

Along with these measures, the MoIT will mount an information campaign to raise awareness among companies of the fact that C/Os are indispensable if they want to enjoy tariff preferences offered by FTAs. At present, applying for C/Os via the internet is compulsory only for exporters to ASEAN member states, but this will soon apply also to those exporting to countries that have FTAs with Vietnam in order to enjoy preferential tariffs. These include Chile, member countries of the Eurasian Economic Union and the former Commonwealth of Independent States.

For their part, in the opinion of Tran Thanh Hai, businesses should cooperate closely with state authorities in boosting C/O online applications so as to increase exports to markets which already have FTAs with Vietnam. They should carefully study C/O-related regulations and solutions to prevent mistakes in applying and getting the required certificates via the internet. Businesses should also send their staff to training courses on C/Os provided by the MoIT and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Phuong Lan