Welcome to e-CertNL

E-CertNL is the official application for Dutch exporters to get legally certified the export of their consignments and for stakeholders to verify the authenticity and validity of these certificates (at the moment operational for food only).

On these pages you can find information about this national application, the connection to international systems for electronic export certificates, and explanation of the electronic signature.

E-CertNL is maintained by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority.

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Written text

BENNO SLOT (SPEAKS DUTCH): The electronic certification of agricultural goods is important to the Netherlands. Firstly, for combating international trade fraud, secondly, to enable the smoothest possible border passage without delays, and, thirdly, to enable the checks on agricultural goods to flow optimally. Export certification is particularly important to the Netherlands because we have an enormous flow of goods in and out of Europe. Schiphol, the Amsterdam airport, and Rotterdam port comprise about 25 to 33 per cent of the total European import and export. So you can imagine, that in this enormous flow of goods in and out support for logistics and enforcement is very important for both the Netherlands as a country, but also for the rest of Europe. To give you an idea: the Netherlands exports agricultural goods for about 75 billion annually, of which about 13 to 14 billion is outside of Europe and needs supporting with export certificates.

We import products from about one hundred countries and export goods to one hundred and eighty countries. That’s almost every country in the world. In the private sector the emphasis lies mainly on the speed with which the products are available for trade, and in reducing the administrative burden by the multiple reuse of data and the single collation of that data.

For governments it is predominantly the quality and efficiency of the supervision that is important. But also because the available data can be used at a later stage in the process.
Additionally, everything you know, all that you have collated, can be statistically applied to companies and, as such, is a source of risk-based management.

We produced a system that we call “CLIENT” and that is actually the Netherlands’ national eCert system. We created a very open system that can cope with multiple standards since, after all, we’re a small country but we want to trade with everyone. So our solutions have to be very flexible. Electronic certification is the flow of information between the competent authorities of the receiving country and the sending country, whereby you can thus better guarantee the data quality. The receiving country is irrefutably assured that the information comes from the sending country.

LEX MORET (SPEAKS DUTCH): The IPPC was a lead player in developing electronic certification. An electronic certificate is the equivalent of a paper certificate, it has the same content and provides the same guarantees. People who are familiar with paper certificates know it’s just data on a form that has to be stamped and signed. Stamping and signing are the most important part of paper certificates because it proves the non-repudiation and authenticity of the document. The electronic certificate doesn’t only carry the equivalent data as the paper form, it’s the equivalent in terms of authenticity and carries the same guarantees. What are the elements you should acknowledge when referring to electronic certification? For computers to communicate with each other, you need your data in an electronic format. After capturing the data you need to be able to transmit it as an electronic form as well. But the internet is vulnerable, so to transfer data reliably you need security, which is an important element of electronic certification. Also authenticity, because data transferred via SPS certification needs to be reliable. An important change from the traditional paper certification is that the data is exchanged directly between one competent authority and another.

In electronic certification the process starts with the exporter asking for an export certificate. The competent authority of the exporting country doesn’t provide a certificate anymore, it provides a certificate number. The electronic certificate itself is communicated directly to the competent authority of the country of destination, using a secure internet connection. Now the exporter only needs to provide the certificate number to the importer. And the importer provides the number for their import application to the competent authority of the importing country. By referring to the number, the competent authority of the importing country is then able to work with the electronic certificate received directly from the exporting country.

There are benefits for the importer and the exporter as well. If any last-minute changes are made to the document, a paper certificate would take a lot of work, and be an administrative burden, to get the document from the exporting country to the importing country. Now, a replacement document can be transmitted in a split second, which is logistically a major improvement. We use XML language, which is a common form for communication between computers today. All the elements that are captured on a paper document we’ve created in XML. This is a phytosanitary certificate and the model which is used by the Netherlands. For all the elements which are present on a paper certificate, there are corresponding elements in the XML. Not very difficult, but this is all we did. This XML is standardized by a committee called UN/CEFACT, which is a UN organisation that is involved in trade elements. The IPPC, being the regulator for phytosanitary SPS certification, invited UN/CEFACT to create a standard for SPS certification based on the elements that were already present in the libraries of UN/CEFACT. In the most simple form, you can print the data you have captured electronically onto paper again and continue with your paper during the process.

The next scenario is a little more sophisticated. Actually, this is the form we see mostly worldwide. You can put your E-cert data directly into your Import System. Now your inspectors can review the data directly from the screen instead of using the usual certificate. It reduces fraud because you’re working with electronic data, which is exchanged directly, and it’s more efficient because the data can be sent to all the inspectors in your organisation as soon as it’s been received by the Import System.

The third form is even more sophisticated. We use computers now to process the data that has been received from the importing country. Of course, you can check where it came from but the computer can do this for you as well. Another requirement is to check if the document number has been used before. The computer can easily detect this, more efficiently and reliably than any human being can.

And the fourth form is the most sophisticated. This is actually the dot on the horizon that we all want to work towards. In this form the electronic certificate is the full equivalent, in terms of process, of the paper certificates currently used. This brings a lot more changes to IT and procedures, because now you have to rely on the electronic information because there’s no alternative anymore. This is the best protection against fraud because of the reliability of the documents. This can only work with additional security in the form of digital evidence, which is known as the “electronic certificate”.

(BENNO SLOT:) And the following step is that you also explain where in the XML message you will find which quality of data. That is not already standardized in relation to UN/CEFACT but still needs to be arranged by the OIE, IPPC and CODEX. We also work with UNCTAD, the UN Conference on Trade and Development. So as well as the ASYCUDA module for customs, we have also developed the ASYCER, enabling developing countries to send electronic certificates to other countries.

If you are interested in more information or require further explanation, then please contact: Benno Slot or Lex Moret.

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