By Emmalie Armstrong, Export Solutions

Does My Business Need Help With Global Compliance?

Exporters often find themselves in need of assistance at various stages of the exporting process- from building a complete program to getting products out the door. Deciding on where to begin and who to contact can be difficult, and not least of the difficulties lie in figuring out if you need a trade compliance consultant or a trade broker.

Our team at Export Solutions often receives inquiries from potential clients looking for assistance. We receive customers’ questions just like you are looking for customs compliance training, international trade compliance, and export compliance consulting.

At Export Solutions, we take global trade consulting seriously. Our trade compliance specialists are experts in their fields. In many cases, we can assist them; however, sometimes, they need a freight forwarder.

Do you know the difference between a trade consultant vs. a freight forwarder? Do you know when you need a freight broker vs. when you should work with a professional trade compliance consultant? If not, then just know that you’re not alone- most people get confused about the difference between a trade consultant and a freight forwarder.

It is easy to confuse the two roles because consultants and freight forwarders often work very closely to achieve export compliance. However, while the two functions have some similarities, there are distinct areas that each role is an expert in, and there are specific situations when a trade consultant makes sense for your project vs. a trade broker, and vise versa.

Let’s clear the air and look at some key roles that consultants and freight forwarders play to meet your global trade compliance needs today!

Trade Consultant vs. Freight Forwarder: What’s the Difference?

In terms of freight forwarders and trade consultants, let’s consider the consultants as the vacation planners and freight forwarders as your travel agent.

A consultant’s role is to help you navigate the complex world of trade compliance regulations. International trade consultants use statistics, forecasting, and projecting for clients. International trade consultants also navigate policy and laws while processing necessary government forms to help businesses operate seamlessly.

On the other hand, a freight forwarder is a business that organizes shipments to ensure goods are delivered to a final point of distribution. Freight forwarders assist with details associated with actually moving your freight or arranging transportation for it.

An international trade consultant is dedicated to assisting you in putting together a complete compliance program identifying gaps, assisting you in closing those gaps, training employees in all areas of compliance, and helping your company be compliant, thus preventing issues down the road.

Your trade consultant will help ensure that everything is in place before any products going into the box, much like a vacation planner, ensures that every detail is taken care of before you jump on the plane.

However, a trade consultant doesn’t typically assist with arranging the actual export of your goods. That is the role of a freight forwarder, and while this is an essential part of the trade process, it is distinctly different from what an international trade consultant helps your business with.

Freight forwarders are dedicated to getting your goods where they need to be logistically, much like a travel agent assists in all of the transportation logistics for a trip.

With careful planning and forethought, a trade consultant and a freight forwarder work to prevent costly mistakes and ensure your products get to where they need to be.

Now that we have a basic understanding of high-level differences between an international trade consultant and a freight forwarder let’s dive into specific details around each area of trade compliance.

What Is A Trade Consultant?

Compliance consultants are dedicated to assisting you in putting processes into place, which will allow your goods to move efficiently and compliantly once they get to the forwarder- without physically moving the goods and arranging for transportation. Some tasks this involves are:

  • Ensuring you have accurate documentation and classification for your products, services, country of origin, and shipping destination.
  • Researching to help you determine if a license is required and obtaining that license on your behalf.
  • Assisting with ITAR registration and other compliance requirements.
  • Acting as a sounding board between you and the government for all of your compliance and regulatory-related questions, no matter how big or small.
  • Providing representation and guidance with voluntary audits or other actions if the government finds you in violation of any area of trade compliance.

Our team at Export Solutions invests ourselves in each business we take on to deliver unique solutions tailored to your specific requirements, whether that be a classification project or development of an entire program.

We pride ourselves on becoming invested in the success of your business because we know that our role as trade consultants has a direct impact on your future success. Because of this, we strive to develop long-term relationships with our clients while also working to help each company be as independent as they desire to build their programs.

Since your business needs are unique, the responsibilities and actions we take on can vary greatly depending on your needs.

Our expertise in global trade compliance is not limited to consulting projects, but we also assist in managed services for those clients needing additional resources for effective trade compliance. Here are just a few ways that our trade compliance experts help businesses just like yours:

  • Development of a complete import or export compliance program, including processes and procedures.
  • HTS/Schedule B and ECCN classification of product lines and inventory or of individual products.
  • License determination, as well as license submittal and maintenance (license logs, review of conditions and provisos, edits and updates to permits).
  • Assessment of gaps in an existing compliance program, as well as practical guidance and assistance in how to close those gaps for a more compliant program.
  • Filing of ITAR Registration and associated documentation.
  • Creating and reviewing documentation including commercial invoices and AES/EEI filings, as well as auditing those documents for accuracy if created by a third party.
  • Development and presentation of training in all aspects of trade compliance.
  • Drafting and submittal of voluntary disclosures.
  • Identification of export risks for a company.
  • Guidance on all trade-related topics ranging from one-off questions to complex issues.
  • Managed Services to provide dedicated on-going support for those needing additional internal resources.

Now that we have a deep understanding of what compliance consulting is and what trade compliance consultants do, we can take a more in-depth look to understand more about freight forwarders.

What Is A Freight Forwarder?

Freight forwarders are there to assist you in arranging the actual shipment of goods. These freight brokers have an intimate knowledge of how to get products to their destination, and they are supply chain experts dedicated to the logistical and practical aspects of the transportation of your goods.

A freight forwarder coordinates the shipment of products from one destination to another, acting as an intermediary for the shipper and transportation services. They negotiate the best prices and determine the fastest and most efficient route for your goods. Freight forwarders get your products to their destinations and track them on the way.

Freight forwarders play a large role in your items getting to their final destination since they oversee the physical movement of goods throughout the entire process. Freight forwarders provide specific services to get your products to their destination as safely and efficiently as possible:

  • Arrangement of physical shipping for products for all modes of transportation and assisting in the smooth movement of those goods from dock to door.
  • Negotiating pricing and services for that transportation, liaising with carriers to determine the most efficient and economical routes.
  • Arrangement of warehousing for products and booking cargo space.
  • Assistance with packaging, insurance, and documentation requirements for goods being transported.
  • Intermediary between the exporter/shipper and all transportation services.
  • Tracking transportation of goods from point of exit to point of entry.
  • Guidance and communication on modes of transportation, packaging, required documentation, and routes.

At this point, we have discussed the difference between a trade consultant and a freight forwarder when it comes to global trade compliance. While each expert is vital in their own way, we can see that there major differences between how to trade compliance consultants and freight forwarders operate, their responsibilities, and roles throughout the entire trade process.

Since we know details about each area of expertise, now is the time to look at when you need a freight forwarder vs. when you need a trade compliance consultant.

How Do I Know If I Need A Freight Forwarder or Trade Consultant?

Now the million-dollar question is how do you know if you need a trade consultant or a freight forwarder for your trade compliance needs? We have a pretty good understanding about what an trade consultant and a freight forwarder does, but how can you be sure you are reaching out the right expert for your specific needs?

In some cases, it may be easy to determine whether you need a freight forwarder or a trade consultant. Other times, it may be more difficult – you may even need both.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the questions you should ask yourself when reaching out to a trade expert to make sure you are getting the right support that you need.

When You Need A Trade Consultant

If you require on-going assistance in building and maintaining a compliance program involving varying aspects of the list above, you should contact a trade consultant.

Here are some indicators that you need a consultant to help you with your trade compliance:

  • I have products ready to export but don’t have a classification, and I’m not sure if I need a license or not.
  • I think I need to be ITAR-registered, but I’m not sure how to do that.
  • I’ve been contacted by BIS about a possible violation and need assistance in knowing how to proceed.
  • I would like to begin or have already begun exporting, but we lack formal programs and/or procedures.
  • I have specific questions about exporting and need someone to assist me in navigating the regulations.
  • Someone in my company told me there were certain countries we shouldn’t ship to, and I would like more information on which ones and how to prevent issues.
  • We really need resources in Trade Compliance, but would rather a professional company assist us with that.
  • My company would like training on the various aspects of the export regulations.

When You Need A Freight Forwarder

If you need practical, logistical assistance in getting your product from point A to point B (particularly a specific item with specific certification requirements), chances are you need a freight forwarder.

Here are some sure-fire indicators that you need a freight forwarder to help you with your upcoming project:

  • I have an effective export compliance program and just need someone to help logistically move my products.
  • I need to arrange for my items to be warehoused.
  • My goods are ready to ship, but I need to determine what specific certifications I might need, such as FDA or TSCA.
  • I need specific information regarding packaging and marking my items.
  • I need information about container costs and shipping my goods.
  • I would like information on shipping art between Canada and the United States.
  • My company needs assistance with exporting and importing specific goods, obtaining certifications, and shipping requirements for those goods.

Your Solution For Holistic Trade Compliance & Consulting

After reading the above information, it should be a bit clearer the differences between a trade consultant and a freight forwarder. In addition, you should have a little more insight into whether you need a trade compliance consultant or a freight forwarder for your upcoming project.

Freight forwarders and trade consultants both play a huge role in exporting, oftentimes working together to make sure all of the pieces are covered.

Export Solutions is an extension of your business and has built a reputation as the world’s leading trade experts by offering a comprehensive range of regulatory compliance services to our clients across multiple industries. Our clients love to work with us because we always deliver our expert consulting on-time, within budget, and to the highest standards.

Now is the time to schedule your 30-minute free consultation if you would like to learn how our team can make your job easier and more efficient while protecting your company from crippling penalties and fines from violating trade compliance regulations.

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