10 Tips for Ensuring Trade Compliance

Many companies do not prioritize regular trade compliance check-ins until they’re dealing with a problem. Here’s how to manage and improve your international trade processes so you can catch a problem before it arises and remain compliant.

1. Stay up to date on changing regulations. For information on evolving U.S. import and export regulations, as well as Partner Government Agencies (PGAs) guidelines that may be specific to your industry, one helpful strategy is to review the Federal Register daily. This will inform you of any new or pending regulatory changes that would affect your business.

2. Conduct periodic self-assessments. Whether you are an importer or an exporter, it is imperative that you act with reasonable care. One way is to periodically review your processes to ensure they work appropriately and that you are adhering to established internal controls.

3. Contract for external assessments. It can also be beneficial to get an extra set of eyes on your internal compliance programs. Consider periodically contracting with an outside party to assess your import and export compliance programs.

4. Have consistent partner reviews. Establish a regular cadence of business reviews with your supply chain partners, whether they be your customs brokers, authorized agents, or suppliers.

5. Revise SOPs regularly. Implement regularly scheduled conversations with your business partners to ensure they are effectively and correctly completing any developed standardized procedures. This is key to nip any issues in the bud as soon as possible and helps prompt updates to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) that should be updated regularly.

6. Look to minimize duty fees. With the onslaught of regulatory increases in duty such as Section 301, Section 232, anti-dumping and countervailing duties, as well as the potential implementation of Digital Service Taxes, it is important to look at opportunities to minimize duties. Look toward using strategies that make sense for your business, such as duty drawback, classification engineering, first sale for export, deduction of non-dutiable charges, use of free trade agreements/special trade programs, and/or alternative sourcing options.

7. Get familiar with regulations. Whichever duty minimization or other trade strategy you implement, do so compliantly. Each strategy has specific regulations you must adhere to, and since they reduce duty payment, they carry inherent risk of additional scrutiny from U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP).

8. Understand the ACE portal. The ACE Secure Data Portal is a powerful way to manage your trade compliance program. This tool enables you to receive paperless notifications from CBP, monitor your brokers, audit entries in real time, and much more.

9. Utilize data and technology. Using the right technology that integrates with your historical customs data can help you declutter the complex details of your customs activity. Solutions companies have been able to implement due to the support of technology, data, and global trade experts include identifying duty minimization opportunities, improving entry times, refining filer and carrier performance, and more.

10. Don’t be a bystander. Compliance takes consistent work, but negligence or non-compliance will cost a lot more time and money in the long run. Establish an in-house compliance program and enlist a third party to help if applicable. Also, take advantage of the free resources available to you.

SOURCE: Kevin Doucette, Director of Trade Policy and Security, C.H. Robinson