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HMRC internal manual

Import preference guidance notes

Guide Notes: transport rule

Involvement of intermediate countries

The objective of the transport rule is generally met when goods are exported from the country of origin to fulfil an order placed by a customer in the EU.

Goods may travel via an intermediate country through geographical necessity (eg from Lesotho via South Africa) or if there are sound transport or economic reasons. If other reasons are suspected then documentary evidence may be called for (see Notice 826 Tariff Preferences: Imports).

Invoice raised in an intermediate country, goods transported directly

A company raising such an invoice may be regarded as having acted merely as an agent. It will have gained a financial advantage from the transaction but that alone does not represent a breach of the transport rule.

Invoice raised in the preference country, goods transported via an intermediate country

The transport rule is not broken if this occurs through geographical necessity (if the preference country is landlocked) or transport needs (eg where there is no direct transport link between the preference country and the EU).

You may wish to consider asking for evidence to show that the goods were not delivered for home use in the country of transit or did not undergo any further processing there (ie a single transport document covering the passage of the goods from the exporting country through the country of transit or a certificate / statement from the customs authority in the country of transit confirming that the goods were not manipulated / processed during their stay in or transit through the country concerned).

Invoice raised in and goods transported via an intermediate country

In these circumstances it may be necessary to establish whether or not they were exported from the preference country as a direct result of an order placed by an EU customer. A single transport document, such as a through bill of lading or air waybill indicating the transport route from the preference country to the EU is an example.

The following factors may indicate that the goods were sold to an EU customer after export from the preference country of origin and that the transport rule has been broken:

  • the production of a retrospectively issued preference document
  • the marks and numbers for the goods on the preference document do not agree with those on the import entry and / or invoices, and
  • the originating goods represent only part of the consignment invoiced by the intermediary country company.

GSP goods originally consigned to Norway or Switzerland and re-exported to the EU

In these circumstances a replacement certificate must be issued in the country of transit (IPGN5450). This can only be done by the overseas customs authorities if the goods have remained under customs control, have not been delivered for home use and have not undergone further processing.

Chinese goods transported via Hong Kong or Macao

In the rare case of Chinese goods transported via Hong Kong or Macao, a GSP Form A endorsed by the Hong Kong / Macao based China Inspection Company Ltd with the following statement, may be accepted:

‘This is to certify that the goods stated in this certificate have not been subjected to any processing during their stay / transhipment in Hong Kong / Macao’.

Special problems of containers

The transport rule produces special problems in the case of cargo containers (tariff heading 86.09). Their purpose is to carry goods and it is not economical to transport them long distances to the EU unless they are packed with goods.

Containers directly transported

Containers which originate in a preference country and are covered by a valid preference document may benefit from preferential treatment if they have been transported to the UK direct, or via another EU Member State, whether or not they have been packed with cargo in the country of origin.

Containers not directly transported

Containers which originated in a preference country and are covered by a valid preference document but which are transported via an intermediate country (eg Japan) and packed with cargo there are not entitled to preference.