By Emmalie Armstrong, Export Solutions

It’s almost Thanksgiving and when I think Thanksgiving, I think about traditions. Truthfully, no one in my family even likes turkey and we’ve discussed deviating from eating it every year, but we just can’t do it! Why? Tradition! We have all kinds of traditions at this time of year: fighting over (ahem, I mean breaking) the wishbone, pretending to like Aunt Ida’s pumpkin pie (seriously-why is it green?), and watching football. In the spirit of traditions, here are five (5) annual traditions your company should adopt when it comes to export compliance.

  • Reviewing and updating your processes and procedures– In other words, your export compliance manual shouldn’t be dusty. Your processes and procedures should be living documents that you review and update as needed. Regulations change and that means some of your processes must change too. Check out one of our recent blogs to see if it might be time for a new manual. Make it an annual tradition to review your export compliance manual and ensure the information is still accurate and up-to-date. Don’t have a manual? Well, now you have that new year’s resolution you’ve been pondering.


  • Distributing your Export Compliance Policy– The Export Compliance Policy is a cornerstone of every export compliance program. It serves as a way to affirm your company’s commitment to export compliance and communicates to your staff the importance of compliance. It should be reviewed, updated, and disseminated to all staff annually. Just think of it as a precursor to all of those Christmas cards you will be writing out next month.


  • Updating your classification matrix– Classification is a crucial part of a trade compliance program, determining whether or not a license is required for export and determining duties on the import side. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the U.S. Department of Census update the Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) and Schedule B codes annually. New codes are implemented and old codes discontinued. Your compliance routine should include reviewing your classification matrix to ensure that the classifications are correct and current. While you are reviewing the HTS and/or Schedule B codes, be sure to take a look at your ECCNs and USML Categories. Those also are subject to change throughout the year and must be kept up-to-date. Classifications don’t last forever and neither does that pumpkin pie. So grab seconds and update your classification matrix while you are at it.


  • Export Compliance Training- To ensure the success of an export compliance program, it is crucial that all employees understand the basics of export compliance and the companies’ policies and procedures surrounding the program. All employees should attend an annual refresher on export compliance, with those employees whose responsibilities include export compliance receiving more in-depth training. The basic overview should contain: a review of the Policy Statement, the basics of U.S. Export Controls, organizational structure of the export compliance staff, the purpose and scope of export controls, visitor controls, determination of U.S. persons and foreign persons, identification of non-compliance issues and reporting suspected incidents and/or violations, and any specific requirements related to job function.


  • Auditing your program- My mashed potatoes are the BEST! If we have Thanksgiving dinner somewhere else, I always bring them. I have tested them, changed them, and perfected them over the years. I’ve come a long way since serving up instant mashed potatoes, but it has taken time. The same goes for your export compliance program. You can’t just put one into place and expect it to just run smoothly. You have to test it, modify it, and update it as necessary. Audits are an important part of any compliance program and should be conducted annually to measure the program’s effectiveness, ensure the program has been implemented properly, and determine if there are any inconsistencies that need to be corrected. Annual reviews should encompass the full range of export compliance from cradle to grave. The findings should be reviewed with senior management and a corrective action plan implemented to correct any inefficiencies. This will ensure your export compliance program is solid.

By the way, the secret to my mashed potatoes? Shameful amounts of butter and cream cheese.

One more tradition our family has is going around the table and saying the things we are thankful for. In the spirit of that, we here at Export Solutions are so thankful for our amazing clients and all of you who read our blog. May you all have a Thanksgiving full of fun traditions, wonderful company, and delicious food.

If you need assistance implementing any of these export compliance traditions, contact Export Solutions for a free consultation. We would be happy to help you. Happy Thanksgiving!

Emmalie Armstrong is a Trade Compliance Consultant with Export Solutions – a firm specializing in U.S. import/export regulations.