Article 10.2: Acceptance of Copies


Traders must be allowed to submit, where appropriate, paper or electronic copies of supporting documents needed to import, export and transport goods

What is covered?


The Measure requires Member to make efforts to reduce the burden of compliance upon the traders by providing for the:

  • Acceptance by border regulatory agencies of paper or electronic copies of the required documentation;
  • Acceptance by border regulatory agencies of paper or electronic copies from another authorities to which the original has already been submitted.

The Measure also contains a binding obligation that a Member shall not require from the importer copy of export document submitted to the customs of the exporting Member.

Core obligation

This Measure aims to minimise the cost of compliance for traders by fostering the use of electronic or paper copies of all the supporting documentation necessary to trade across borders. In particular, the Article appeals WTO Members to make arrangements to accept paper or electronic copies of the required documentation imposed on export, import and transit formalities.

The overall intent of the Measure is to accelerate the clearance process as much as possible, building on the requirements / guidelines provided for in Article 10.1, whereby the documentation requirements or formalities should be as fast and efficient as possible, and should not be implemented in a trade-restrictive manner.
However, the use of a qualifying language – shall, where appropriate, to endeavour – indicates that while Members are required to make efforts to undertake certain steps towards compliance, they are nonetheless not obliged to achieve a specific outcome, enjoying a wide degree of flexibility.

Transmission of documents between agencies

The Measure additionally requires Members to take measures to allow government agencies to exchange paper or electronic copies of a document, when needed. More specifically, the Measures provides that, when a government agency holds the original copy of a document that has been submitted by a trader, any other agency of the country must accept a paper or electronic copy of that document from the agency that possesses the original one. The copy, in this case, must be considered as having the same legal effect as the original document.
However, the use of the wording “where applicable” dilutes the breadth of efforts required upon Members to implement the provision, and allows each Member to evaluate in which specific cases the operationalization of this action is deemed admissible.

Export declarations

The Measure additionally requires Members not to request original or copies of export declarations submitted to customs authorities of an exporting Member country as a pre-requisite to process the import of the goods in their territory. In this case, the use of the forceful wording “shall not require” without the addition of a “watering down” term obliges Members to fully implement this provision as set out.

Importation of controlled or regulated goods

A footnote to paragraph 2.3 specifies that nothing prevents Members from requesting documents such as certificates, permits or licenses from traders as a requirement for the importation of controlled or regulated goods. Therefore, authorities in the importing Member have the absolute right to request the mentioned documents to clear the controlled or regulated goods in their territory.

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