Is CUSMA a Certificate of Origin, and How Can You Use It for Your Business?


On July 1st, 2020, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was replaced with the CUSMA agreement. What does CUSMA stand for? CUSMA is an acronym for ‘Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement.’ This agreement maintains all of the benefits these member countries enjoyed under NAFTA, but with revisions and changes to the agreement that put critics at ease and open opportunities for all three countries.

But what industry does CUSMA affect the most, and who benefits the most from CUSMA? CUSMA impacts a wide range of industries for all member countries, but the automotive industry has been impacted the most, compared to the previous NAFTA agreement. When Canadian representatives negotiated the CUSMA, they highlighted benefits for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and the legislation detailed in the agreement provides expansive opportunities for SMEs. 

CUSMA is simply a free trade agreement between these three countries. Under CUSMA, the process for the certification of origin is simplified. There is no prescribed format for a certificate of origin, unlike with NAFTA. CUSMA only requires a set of minimum data elements to be provided that indicates the good is an originating good.

What Is a Certificate of Origin?

A certificate of origin (CO)–or a declaration or origin–is a document widely used in international trade transactions. It certifies that the products or goods listed on the document have met the criteria required for it to be considered as originating from a particular country. In short, it’s a document that certifies a good originates from a particular country.

What Is a Certificate of Origin Used For?

A CO confirms the ‘nationality’ of a product and serves as a declaration that satisfies customs or trade requirements. They’re required for customs clearance procedures to determine duties or legitimacy of imports.

This matters for enterprises that are based in one of the three member countries of CUSMA that wish to trade, import, and transport goods with other member countries. If you want your product to reap the benefits of preferential tariff treatments, you need to provide a CO to prove your goods qualify under CUSMA regulations.

How to Fill Out a Certificate of Origin Under CUSMA

Only the importer, exporter, or producer of the goods can complete the CO. When completing the CO, you are confirming that you:

  • Have researched the item listed on the CO
  • Confirmed the item meets the rules of origin as outlined under CUSMA
  • Can produce proof via documentation that the items meets the rules of origin of the specific CUSMA guidelines upon request from customs

CUSMA requires importers, exporters, and producers to include nine required data elements in addition to the certification statement. While these data elements do not need to follow a specific format, they must include:

The Certifier

In this field, you must indicate who you are as the certifier. Are you the exporter, producer, or importer of the good? This element tells the form’s reviewer who filled out the form.

Certifier Details

This is where you can input your contact information, including:

  • Your name
  • Title
  • Your company’s complete address (including the country)
  • Your phone number
  • Your email address

This information will tell reviewers who to contact and how to contact them if more information is needed.

Exporter Details

If this information is different from the certifier details, you should include these details:

  • Exporter and certifier: This field should be completed or at minimum include your company name.
  • Producer: If you don’t know the identity of the exporter, this information is not required.
  • Importer: Complete this field entirely and note that the address of the exporter should be the goods’ place of export and reside within a member country.

Producer Details

If you’re the producer and certifier, you can fill this section out completely or only include your company name, provided you already listed the necessary information in field two (certifier details).

If there are multiple producers, you may state “various” or list the producers. If your producer wishes to remain confidential, you may state “available upon request by importing authorities.” If this information is requested, you must provide it. 

Importer Details and HS Tariff Classification

If you are the producer or exporter and know the importer’s information, you may provide it in field five. 

For field six, you must provide the HS code or HS tariff classification of the goods to the six-digit level located in the Customs Tariff. You must also include a description of the good and the invoice number if the invoice number is known.

Origin Criteria

The origin criteria under which the good qualifies is determined using letters A, B, C, or D. 

  • A: The goods on this line were made, grown, or produced entirely in North America.
  • B: The goods on this line were made entirely within North America but contained parts from somewhere else.
  • C: The goods on this line were manufactured within North America with North American components.
  • D: This is very specific to the goods and designates certain goods that do not fall under A, B, or C. Contact a customs broker and work with a Trade Advisor to ensure your products qualify.

Period Covered By Certification 

This is straightforward in that if your certification covers multiple shipments of identical goods, include the date range for the specified period. That period can extend to up to twelve months.

Lastly, provide your autograph and date it. By signing this CO, you confirm you are familiar with chapter 5, article 5.2 and annex 5A of the agreement and your goods listed qualify.

About the author

Author: FITT Team

The Forum for International Trade Training (FITT) is the standards, certification and training body dedicated to providing international business training, resources and professional certification to individuals and businesses. Created by business for business, FITT’s international business training solutions are the standard of excellence for global trade professionals around the world.

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