How Budget counters ‘origin fraud’ in
FTAs (The Hindu)
Mains Paper 3: Economy
Prelims level : Origin fraud in FTAs
Mains level : Counter mechanism to fraud in trade sector
Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) signed by India with any country or group
of countries entitle exports from such countries to India to a preferential
customs duty rate, often nil rate.
Budget 2020-21 has proposed a change in the Customs Act that places the
onus on the importer to verify the origin of goods being imported into India
using the FTA route.
Country of origin:
Goods from an FTA partner are eligible for benefits only if it is the
country of origin (COO) of such goods.
A COO is one in which at least 35 per cent value addition of the good
has happened. But it is difficult for India to find out how much of a good
coming to Indian shores has been developed in the FTA partner country. This
constraint is often exploited to commit origin frauds.
Origin frauds are of two types — transshipment and general assembly.
Under transshipment, goods originating from a third country are routed
through an FTA partner into India, to take advantage of low duty rates.
Under general assembly, parts are separately exported from the third
country to the FTA partner, where assembling happens before despatch of the
goods to India.
In both cases, fraudsters manage to get COO certificates from the FTA
For instance, the import of stainless steel from Indonesia grew from
about 8,000 tonnes in year ending March 2018 to 67,000 tonnes in year ending
March 2019: a spike of over 700 per cent in a single year.
Indonesia cannot add this much additional production capacity in a
single year. The Indian Stainless Steel Development Association (ISSDA)
claimed that these goods are of Chinese origin.
They were routed through Indonesia because China has an FTA with ASEAN
(which includes Indonesia), and ASEAN has an FTA with India. India imposes
customs and countervailing duty on direct import of stainless steel from
Artificially low prices:
Prices of Chinese goods are artificially low, as pointed out by
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce of the Rajya Sabha in a report
tabled in 2018.
The report has pointed out that China has been found guilty of unfair
trade practices like export incentives and deep subsidies in contravention
of WTO regulations.
China has also been long accused of manipulating its currency to
maintain export competitiveness. The report mentions that maximum
anti-dumping measures world over have been imposed on China.
It leads to under-utilisation of existing capacity and unforeseen crisis
for domestic entrepreneurs. Origin frauds circumvent the country’s trade
defence measures by routing Chinese goods through India’s FTA partners.
The problem has become especially acute in recent times due to two
events: the US-China trade war and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) of
The US could influence other countries to go after origin frauds because
of its economic might.
The Belt and Road Initiative gives China logistics access to many
countries along the old Silk Route and the so-called maritime Silk Route.
Chinese exporters can use the logistics and port infrastructure in any of
these countries to export Chinese goods to India. It will be extremely
difficult for India to verify the country of origin.
There is zero deterrence on origin frauds, because India cannot go after
foreign suppliers. As per Section 9A of Customs Tariff Act 1975, India can
impose anti-circumvention duties on conduit countries.
However, investigations by following due process have proved to be quite
Impact of origin fraud on domestic industry can be dramatic in the
short-term. Hence, there is a need to implement anti-abuse checks at the
point of entry.
Placing the onus of proof of ‘country of origin’ on the importer is
normally not a sensible approach. Buyers and sellers in an open market
interact on a contingent basis, and cannot be expected to know each other’s
But this is not an ideal situation, and this is perhaps the best action
that can be taken by a destination nation to prevent abuse of free trade
In contemporary times, production process is highly technology driven.
Goods differ widely on technical specifications.
Volume importers generally inspect the factories of their suppliers, and
appoint sourcing agents for quality control.
They would normally be aware of the value addition to their goods in
Placing an onus on importers will deter them from purchasing
Q.1) With reference to the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), consider the
following statements: 1. Every year, February 6 is observed as the International Day of Zero
Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
2. WHO classifies four types of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM).
Which of the statements given above is/are correct? (a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
Q.1) What do you mean by origin fraud? What are the types of it? How it
puts the onus of verifying ‘country of origin’ of goods on importers?