Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

Other available languages: FR DE

European Commission - Press release

Customs: EU and USA agree to recognise each other's "trusted traders"

Brussels, 04 May 2012 – EU and U.S. certified trusted traders will enjoy lower costs, simplified procedures and greater predictability in their transatlantic activities, as a result of a mutual recognition decision signed today. The European Union and the United States of America formally agreed to recognise each other's safe traders, thereby allowing these companies to benefit from faster controls and reduced administration for customs clearance. Importantly, mutual recognition will also improve security on imports and exports, by enabling customs authorities to focus their attention on real risk areas.

There are currently some five thousand companies approved as Authorised Economic Operators (AEOs) in the EU – a number which is growing year on year. The EU and USA are strategic trade partners, with imports and exports accounting for almost €500 billion in 2011. Today's decision will further boost trade opportunities and contribute to the smooth flow of goods between both sides, without compromising the high security standards on either side of the Atlantic. The joint decision will start to be implemented from 1 July 2012.

Commissioner Šemeta said: "Today's agreement is a major step forward in the EU-US trade relationship. At a time when businesses need all the support they can get, this will make life easier and cheaper for many transatlantic traders. It will also help to ensure that security checks on traded goods are more focussed and effective, further improving the protection that customs provides for each and every citizen."

Under this agreement the EU and the U.S. will recognise each other’s security certified operators. Authorised economic operators in the EU will receive benefits when exporting to the US market, and the EU will reciprocate for certified members of the US Customs-Trade Partnership against terrorism (C-TPAT).

Mutual recognition of trade partnership programs prevents the proliferation of incompatible standards, and promotes harmonisation of customs practices and procedures worldwide.


Global trade has soared in the past decade and the chain of transport and logistics system for the world's cargo is becoming increasingly complex. This has forced customs administrations to improve their tools for managing the international movement of goods to better respond to threats related to security, safety and fraud.

Since 2008 European companies can apply for an AEO status to have easier access to customs simplifications and to be in a more favourable position to comply with EU security requirements. The AEO status at EU level identifies safe and reliable businesses that are engaged in international trade. This means they deliver high standards of security and compliance, therefore making these companies highly trusted trade partners at customs checks. Fewer inspections on goods are necessary and formal customs procedures are quicker to fill in. This benefits the companies because the goods can move faster from one destination to another and help to lower transport costs. It also benefits EU customs administrations to concentrate their efforts on checking high risk transactions.

Mutual Recognition of respective trade partnerships is a very important step towards improving the protection of citizens against terrorist attacks. At the same time, recognising each other as "reliable traders" will also lead to more effective container inspection and important cost saving for companies, in particular SMEs.

The EU wants its major trade partners across the globe to recognise the AEO status to facilitate and protect international trade even more in the future. Switzerland, Norway and Japan mutually recognise the EU's certification. A similar agreement is also being explored with China.

The Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC) has offered important political support to achieving EU-US mutual recognition. At its November 2011 meeting a break-through was achieved when the Commission and US Department of Homeland Security announced the completion of preparatory work on Mutual Recognition. The Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC) is the central political platform for EU-U.S. cooperation on a wide range of high profile regulatory and strategic issues, with a view to furthering trade and investment and, ultimately, growth and jobs.

For more details on the EU AEO program see:

For audiovisual material:

Contacts :

Emer Traynor (+32 2 292 15 48)

Natasja Bohez Rubiano (+32 2 296 64 70)

Side Bar