Leverage Your Freight Forwarder to Boost Your Compliance Program
In trade compliance, we find ourselves needing to overhaul or develop trade compliance controls within our company, often alone. Executing a classification/licensing process, recordkeeping methodology, auditing calendar, or automation solution can be overwhelming.
Whether you are in the position of establishing trade compliance controls, or looking to strengthen an existing compliance program, don't overlook your freight forwarder as a way to supplement your internal controls.
From a compliance perspective, consider these four core elements when assessing and establishing your partnership:
- Put procedures in place. Develop standard operating procedures (SOPs) that are to scale with your business and your needs. Large companies do not necessarily need a large freight forwarder. Identify whether your freight forwarder supports your industry, review other clients, and ask questions.
To establish a solid foundation with your freight forwarder allies:
- Define SOP expectations early in the relationship.
- Review performance regularly.
- Treat the standard operating procedures as a living document and update as needed.
- Communicate often. Ongoing communication is key to managing a strong relationship with your freight forwarder. Address:
- New products and product changes. Communicate all new products and any existing product changes to your freight forwarder. Do not assume a part was changed in such a minor way it may not merit an update.
- Communication methods. Define how communication will take place. How are you relaying new products and any product changes to your freight forwarder? Will your company use an FTP site or an automated email alias?
- Maintain records. Importers and exporters have a regulatory obligation to retain records for specific time periods. Define recordkeeping expectations within the SOP, and remember to consider:
- Filing records. Is your freight forwarder filing exports on your behalf? Establish an FTP or auto email alias so filings are automatically transmitted to your company.
- Periodic assessments. If you establish an automatic file-share of records, check the correct documentation is being sent and that the data transmitted is accurate.
- Develop safety nets. Leverage any tools your forwarders might offer to supplement your program, such as:
- Antidumping/countervailing flags. Cases and scopes of antidumping and countervailing fluctuate constantly. Does your forwarder have tools that capture these changes and could flag your product if it falls subject?
- Country research functionality. Can your forwarder provide resources to help you understand import/export restrictions within foreign countries?
Ultimately, compliance is your responsibility. You can, however, select allies wisely to support your internal controls. Don't overlook your freight forwarder as an asset.