Trade and Export

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Certificate of Free Sale (CFS)

What is a CFS?

When exporting to third countries, companies are often asked to provide a Certificate of Free Sale (CFS) as part of their export documentation.  A CFS is an attestation made by, or on behalf of, the UK Responsible Person* that products comply with:

and may be freely sold across:

  • GB; and/or
  • NI.

A CFS is also regarded as a 'Certificate of Manufacture' or a 'Health Certificate' or 'Safety Certificate' by certain countries.

*Article 5A of the UK Cosmetics Regulation, which was introduced by the latest amendment Product Safety and Metrology etc. (Amendment etc.) (UK(NI) Indication) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020, gives the conditions for an NI-based importer or RP to be recognised also in the UK.

Who can issue a CFS?

A CFS is issued by or on behalf of the UK Responsible Person.

The Responsible Person (RP) is a legal or natural person located in the UK, responsible for ensuring that its products are safe and in full compliance with the regulation(s).  The RP is easily identifiable as its name and address are labelled on pack.

According to the UK and the EU cosmetic Regulations, each cosmetic must be assessed for safety by a duly qualified safety assessor before it is made available to the public.  The RP is also responsible of ensuring that the product has been manufactured under Good Manufacturing Practices. This requirement applies even if the product has been manufactured by another entity such as a contract manufacturer.  Information relating to each cosmetic product, including its formula, its method of manufacture and its safety assessment must be readily available to the UK Competent Authorities.

A CFS can be requested on behalf of the RP by its sub-contractors or consultants.

Which organisation in the UK can deliver a CFS?

A CFS, as a self-declaration issued by the UK RP, is a valid document accepted by several countries. However, some authorities require the CFS to be issued by the national Competent Authority or a relevant organisation, which could be a Government Department, a Trade Association, or a Chamber of Commerce.

In the UK, a CFS can be delivered on behalf of the UK RP by the Import Licensing Branch, under the Department for Business and Trade (DBT), a UK Government Department.  The DBT's CFS declaration effectively confirms that the goods listed meet the UK and/or the EU's high safety standards as they are being sold in the GB and/or NI market.  To apply for a CFS from DBT, please go to:

Is there any difference in the CFS issued by EU Member States?

In the EU, a CFS is issued by or on behalf of the EU RP, and certifies that the products comply with the EU Cosmetic Products Regulation (EC) No. 1223/2009 and may be freely sold across the EU.  Further information can be found on the Cosmetics Europe website.

Can CTPA deliver a CFS for China?

Following a change in interpretation by the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) of the Chinese laws, the CTPA continues to be able to issue CFS for China.  The CFS will be issued only on behalf of CTPA members acting as RP, on completion of an application identifying the member company, the person making the request and the products in question.  CTPA members interested in obtaining a CFS for China may visit the Reference Zone Page.

Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)

What are FTAs and why are they important?

Trade agreements set out the rules that cover trade between two or more countries.  They aim to make trading easier between those countries, and do this by reducing the restrictions on imports and exports between them.  Depending on how ambitious the trade negotiations are, FTAs could include several benefits for businesses, such as:

  • reduce or eliminate tariffs;
  • reduce ‘non-tariff barriers’;
  • establish a framework for future cooperation;
  • guarantee UK companies can compete on equal footing;
  • make business travel easier;
  • provide a resource to dispute settlement.

2020 marked for the UK an end and a beginning to international trade and political relations with the world.  The departure of the UK from the EU meant that it would no longer benefit from the range of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements that have been established between the EU and other countries.  Therefore, to ensure its ability to trade internationally, the UK is seeking new opportunities to secure future trade prosperity.

How to Contribute into the Trade Negotiations?

Before officially launching any trade negotiation, the UK Government will seek input from stakeholders on which aspects of current trading arrangements with the country the UK should look to improve or amend through a consultation process.

In addition, UK businesses can engage in stakeholder forums and through discussions into the negotiations, as well as collaborate with DBT negotiating teams on showcasing the benefit of a deal.

Member companies are also welcomed to reach out to CTPA, who can not only contribute to the discussions, but support making cosmetics an area of priority for the talks with the understanding that common ground would be beneficial for both parties.  CTPA also works closely with its International Regulatory and Trade Committee (IRTC) to work on the relevant objectives to the negotiations and contribute to the ongoing dialogue, working together with the relevant cosmetics trade associations in other countries.

Which FTAs the UK has signed so far?

The list of trade agreements the UK has signed with non-EU countries can be found on the UK Government website.  In addition, the UK has signed an FTA with Australia (which includes a Cosmetics Annex), and New-Zealand, is currently negotiating trade deals with several countries (see further details on the UK Government website).

How to benefit from FTAs?

Whilst some changes may not happen immediately, the provisions will be made available on the UK Government website.  After an FTA is signed and has entered into force, companies can find out more on how using an FTA via the UK Government website.  DBT may also release series of webinars explaining the provisions of the deal, to ensure businesses are effectively using it. 

Rules of Origin, Tariffs and Customs

Before moving goods into or out of the UK, traders need to ensure to:

  • classify their goods;
  • look up the Rules of Origin (RoO) in the relevant UK FTA;
  • check their goods meet the rules as set out in the corresponding FTA;
  • sort out supply chain documentation (e.g., declarations from suppliers/exporters).

The UK Government published several guidance to support businesses in understanding their obligations, including the launch of the UK Integrated Online Tariff tool to look up commodity codes, import duties, taxes and controls, and how to check goods meet the RoO.  A full list of guidance documents can also be found on the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) webpage.

Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)

What are TBTs?

TBTs are technical measures on goods, including regulations, standards, and related conformity assessments procedures (certification, testing and inspection) that a product should have, that may be discriminatory and create unnecessary obstacles to trade.  TBTs are usually introduced by Government Authorities with a legitimate public policy objective in mind.  Nevertheless, TBTs often have an impact on trade and the competitiveness of exporters.

WTO TBT Agreement

At the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a TBT Agreement has been put in place to balance the right to regulate against impacts on trade.  The Agreement also recognises WTO members’ right to implement measures to achieve legitimate policy objectives, such as the protection of human health and safety, or protection of the environment.  The TBT Agreement also strongly encourages its members to base their measures on international standards as means to facilitate trade.

How to Raise a TBT?

Member companies affected by trade measures are recommended to contact CTPA, who will engage with DBT TBT teams and escalate accordingly.  DBT, with the support of CTPA, will go through a resolution pathway to find the most appropriate solution for each trade barrier.  For example, through enquiry points and negotiations, or bilateral engagement, or raising trade concerns to the relevant stakeholders.  Companies can also contact the DBT TBT team directly at [email protected].

WTO Notification

A WTO member planning to introduce a measure that might have an important impact on trade should notify this to the WTO, and take into account comments submitted by other countries on the draft legislation.

The WTO TBT Agreement requires member countries to:

  • notify draft measures at an early stage, when comments from third countries can still be taken into account in the legislative process;
  • allow sufficient time (usually 60 days) for other members to comment on the draft;
  • take these comments into account in the final version;
  • ensure that all adopted measures are promptly published and allow a reasonable period between the publication and entry into force of the measure. This delay should be of at least six months, except in those cases where a measure needs to be implemented immediately in order to address an urgent health, safety, environmental or national security concern.

Where can I see notified TBTs?

The ePing notifications database is a very useful tool to keep up-to-date with TBT notifications in the category and/or country of interest.  It offers the possibility to receive daily or weekly targeted summaries of notifications send directly by email, as well as viewing any related documents available (such as the draft measures for example).

WTO e-Leaning Programme

WTO launched an e-Learning programme dedicated to offering training courses on the WTO Agreements and matters related to international trade.  This includes courses on WTO notifications, market access and much more.  Whilst the courses are primarily geared towards government officials from developing countries, least-developed countries, and countries in the process of joining the WTO, they are also available on a self-study basis to anyone interested in learning about the WTO and what it stands for.

Companies can join the WTO e-Learning programme for free by signing in via the WTO website.