Preferential trade agreement

Selective commercial policy to grant a particular country or group of states preferential tariff treatment and the elimination of quantitative restrictions so as to achieve a harmonious developnt of international trade.

Trade agreement providing access to administrative facilities and a reduction in import/export customs fees

What is a preferential trade agreement ?

A preferential trade agreement (PTA) aims to facilitate trade between two countries or groups of countries. It allows companies from one signatory country (or economic zone) to enjoy import or export benefits.

The benefits granted may be:

  • related to price, such as a reduction in customs fees ;
  • or not related to price, notably concerning easier formalities.

Depending on its scope, a preferential trade agreement may be regional or international. Unlike a free trade agreement, a preferential trade agreement does not seek to cancel fees completely but rather to reduce them.

The characteristics of a preferential trade agreement

A preferential trade agreement is usually unilateral.

It does not have to be reciprocal so this must be verified considering the country concerned and the goods exported.

To benefit from a reduction in customs fees for exports, an exporting company must prove the preferential origin of its goods.

Examples and application

Examples of preferential trade agreements negotiated or signed by the European Union (EU)

In recent years, the European Union has signed several preferential trade agreements including the following:

  • the CETA (Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement) between the European Union and Canada published in the OJEU L11 of 14 January 2017
  • the trade and cooperation agreement between the European Union [...] and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland published in the OJEU of 31 December 2020 negotiated following England's decision to leave the EU (Brexit).

The Council of the European Union resumed negotiations with the United States in 2019 for the signing of a transatlantic free trade agreement, known as TAFTA. Its negotiations were put on ice in 2016.


How to benefit from a reduction in customs fees for a preferential agreement signed by the EU ?

If the preferential trade agreement has been signed by the European Union, the exporter must fill in a Eur1 certificate to benefit from a reduction in customs fees when the amount of goods exceeds 6,000 euros exclusive of tax.

This form is available from approved organisations: in France, these are Chambers of Commerce and Industry. This document is filled in and signed by the exporter and then stamped at customs.

Below 6,000 euros, an invoice declaration is sufficient to prove the preferential origin. This is a special mention made by the exporter on the invoice sent to the recipient of the goods. This mention gives access to the tariff advantage on customs fees.

The status of approved exporter (AE) also allows the Eur1 certificate to be replaced by an invoice declaration.

Preferential trade agreements in figures

Since 1995, the number of preferential trade agreements listed with the World Trade Organization (WTO) has literally exploded.

At the end of 2008, the WTO had a record of 421 preferential trade agreements, including 230 current PTA.

Regulatory framework

•        Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 October 2013 laying down the Union Customs Code;

•        Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/2446 of 28 July 2015 supplementing Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards detailed rules concerning certain provisions of the Union Customs Code;

•        Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/2447 of 24 November 2015 laying down detailed rules for implementing certain provisions of Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down the Union Customs Code;

•        Preferential origin agreements (