When and how to use an ATA Carnet for trade shows and projects

Mar-01-2017 | by: TWI Group

What is an ATA carnet?

The ATA carnet was established in 1961 by the World Customs Organization to facilitate world trade. The ATA carnet, which is an acronym of “Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission”, is a temporary export-import and international customs document. It permits the duty-free and taxes-free temporary importation of goods in more than 80 countries. A separate specific carnet is required to temporarily import goods to Taiwan. The use of the carnet is limited to fairs and exhibition in China, United Arab Emirates and India. The ATA carnet acts as a Merchandise Passport that covers virtually all goods and eliminates the need to acquire customs bonds for temporary imports when shipping wares to trade shows, exhibitions, etc.    


When to use an ATA carnet?

People who use the most the ATA carnet are sales peoples and manufacturers to ship goods for exhibitions and trade shows, to ship commercial samples and professional equipment that will be re-exported within 12 months (within 6 months for goods intended for exhibition and fairs). Some countries also have a different validity period. Items considered as commercial samples are merchandise temporarily imported to show potential customers to generate orders or to display at trade shows or exhibitions. Professional equipment includes any tools that are required to work or to set-up booth and/or projects in a foreign country. Lastly, the goods for exhibitions and fairs category include all other items required for trade shows or exhibitions.

A carnet may not be used for all goods. Here is a list of some of the exceptions:


  • Goods intended for sale
  • Perishable or consumable items
  • Agricultural products
  • Explosives
  • Postal traffic



How the carnet works?

The ATA carnet helps trade shows exhibitor to simplify and save time on customs procedures. This document can be used several times in multiples countries during its period of validity if the same items are shipped. At each country’s customs, officials validate the carnet. This document guarantees customs authorities that all taxes and duties will be paid to them if the conditions of importations are breached.

Carnets list all applicable goods with their respective values and all countries where the shipment will transit. Inside the carnet are color-coded counterfoils and vouchers. Always in sets of two, they act as control documents. The white pages are used in foreign countries and the blue pages are for use when the shipment is transiting through a foreign country. It also includes yellow counterfoils used by the home country for exportation and re-importation, as a record that goods will return to the country. Carnets facilitate re-entry into a country by providing proof to customs that the goods originated from that country. Counterfoils remain in the carnet for its holder records while vouchers are removed and kept by customs. Always in sets of two, counterfoils and vouchers act as control documents.


An ATA carnet can help you save time and money for the exportation, transit and importation of goods for trade shows, exhibitions and projects. Due to its extensive experience in International trade and transportation, TWI Group can assist you for the issue of an ATA carnet for you or your client.  Contact us to learn more about our services.