The Harmonization Work Program (HWP) of the nonpreferential rules of origin established pursuant to the WTO Agreement on Rules of Origin (ARO) should have been completed by July 1998. At the time of this writing, such work is near completion, although final agreement is still pending. In this chapter a detailed overview of the current status of the HWP is provided, making ample use of available materials used during the negotiations. Much of the technical work has now been completed, and the final results of the HWP are not expected to differ substantially from what has already been analyzed.
The preliminary results of the HWP extended over three volumes, encompassing more than 2,000 pages and thousands of product-specific rules of origin. A much-needed cleaned-up version of the text has recently appeared with 320 pages (WTO/G/RO/Rev. 2, 23 May 2008). These figures call for some initial comments. At the technical level, the results of the HWP may represent the pinnacle of rules of origin. The amount of energy and human and financial resources spent on the HWP is almost unprecedented although it recalls the more than 10 years of negotiations leading to the adoption of the Harmonized System (HS). However, the high technical level in drafting the HWP has lately given way to compromises in trade policy considerations.