The European Commission (“Commission”) and the Dutch customs authority (“Dutch Customs”) have introduced additional COVID-19 related trade measures in order to facilitate international trade in these difficult times.
In our earlier message, we have elaborated on several trade measures in view of COVID-19. One of these measures comprised a customs duty exemption upon import of donated personal protective equipment in the Netherlands. The Commission introduced – by means of an official decision – an EU-wide exemption of customs duties and VAT upon import for various goods destined to combatting the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The customs duty and import VAT exemptions are based on and subject to the general rules for customs duty and import VAT exemptions and is applicable for various goods that are imported by or on behalf of:
- disaster relief agencies for disaster relief related to COVID-19;
- State organisations including State bodies, public bodies and other bodies governed by public law or by or on behalf of organisations approved by the competent authorities in the Member States and if such goods are intended to be:
o distributed free of charge in view of COVID-19; or
o made available free of charge in view of COVID-19 (while remaining in ownership of aforesaid organisations).
Member States are to provide a list of approved organisations to the Commission. Furthermore, it is of importance that the customs duty and import VAT exemptions apply retroactively as from 30 January until 31 July 2020 (end date subject to review).
The EU has free trade agreements (“FTAs”) in place with several countries. Goods originating from such countries generally benefit from preferential customs duty rates which often amounts to 0%. In order to benefit from such a 0% customs duty rate, the importer must demonstrate that the imported goods concerned originate from such a country by means of a preferential origin certificate.
Normally, the original preferential origin certificate is to be submitted to Dutch Customs. Commission guidance stipulates that EU customs authorities may accept copies of preferential origin certificates which are either issued on paper or electronically.
Dutch Customs allows – based on the Commission’s guidance – that copies of preferential origin certificate are submitted to Dutch Customs upon import for the following certificates:
- EUR.1 (e.g. Colombia)
- EUR-MED (e.g. Morocco)
- FORM A (certain developing countries)
- A.TR (e.g. Turkey)
For the sake of completeness, please note that the original preferential origin certificates must be available in the administration of the importer that earlier submitted a copy thereof.
Conclusions and remarks
The COVID-19 trade related measures are to be regarded as being part of a broader package of measures in order to assist businesses in these difficult times. We refer to our dedicated COVID-19 In Focus page for an overview of other measures taken in the EU and in the Netherlands.
Last reviewed: 07 April 2020
 Commission Decision (EU) 2020/491 of 3 April 2020 on relief from import duties and VAT exemption on importation granted for goods needed to combat the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak during 2020 (notified under document C(2020) 2146).
 Council Regulation (EC) No 1186/2009 of 16 November 2009 setting up a Community system of reliefs from customs duty OJ L 324, 10.12.2009, p. 23–57 for customs duties; Council Directive 2009/132/EC of 19 October 2009 determining the scope of Article 143(b) and (c) of Directive 2006/112/EC as regards exemption from value added tax on the final importation of certain goods, OJ L 292, 10.11.2009, p. 5–30 for import VAT.