The ATA carnet system is unusual, in being a unified agreement covering much of the globe. Managed by the World Customs Organization and International Chamber of Commerce, rather than individual nations.
An idea which took shape a little over half a century ago is now used 200,000 times every year. Around £20 billion worth of goods are entered on carnets annually but this does not tell the whole story.
They may be samples, or exhibition items, which yield far more, or relate to presentations which do the same. A small part of a blockbuster’s budget might appear on ATA carnets but the film couldn’t be made without them.
A single carnet can be used for almost any goods, to enter multiple countries, multiple times, without paying customs duties and taxes. The international guarantee chain underlying them brings wide access.
The ultimate economic output of ATA carnets is impossible to calculate but would exceed the GDP of many countries. A sound reason for the system to be a business requirement, in the developed world and beyond.
Where Carnets Are Used
The chart below is based on ATA carnets issued in 2019, by region, rather than individual countries. With trade blocs (such as the EU) having no internal borders for goods, this offers greater clarity:
The high European use may be slightly surprising, especially compared to the US, yet is a reflection of economic differences. The US population is not so much smaller but their economy is more self contained.
Neither are high import/export ratios to GDP always a clear indicator. A country may be close to the top of the international range due to oil exports, or have unusual trading positions, such as Singapore.
Even so, ATA carnet usage is an indicator of the development level of a country’s economy and the divergence. Businesses of all sizes are able to benefit, from individuals, to SMEs and corporate bodies.
Looking To The Future
Economic highs and lows will occur, or unique issues such as coronavirus. ATA carnets will still be of value and help member countries trade successfully.
Growing economies such as Brazil and India will see higher carnet volumes, they are essential tools. As we leave the EU, the United Kingdom may see significantly greater use, not least to trade with mainland Europe.
An international, independently governed system has advantages. Less political influence, financial security for members, global reaction to issues, such as a request for leeway during Covid-19 by the World Customs Organization.
ATA carnets are interwoven with the global economy and support enterprises of many types. Carnet use will change, through increased digitalisation and the needs of members but the principles should remain the same.
If we can offer advice on an international system for your business, please get in touch with our support team at any time.