By Tom Reynolds, Export Solutions

Very often, we talk with individuals who are focused on specific needs. They have questions like: “How do I get an ITAR license?” or “What is the ECCN for my product?”

Although these questions are valid and important, sometimes companies need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Instead of focusing on one aspect of import/export regulations, the question they should really be asking is: “Are we trade compliant?”

What is trade compliance?

In today’s global marketplace, companies do business both within and outside the United States. As a result, exporting and importing has become an essential part of day-to-day operations. To remain competitive, companies must have a comprehensive understanding of the laws and regulations which govern their imports and exports. Very simply, that’s what trade compliance is all about!

Trade compliance is the process and system of understanding and adhering to the laws and regulations controlling the export and import of goods, products, information and technology between the United States and other countries.

Why is trade compliance important?

There are several reasons. First, it’s important because countries have the right and need to protect critical products, technology and information from falling into the wrong hands. For example, the United States must protect certain items from going to other countries and individuals who wish to do us harm. It’s also important to safeguard our competitive advantages in a global marketplace.

Second, it’s important that companies and individuals remain compliant to the laws and regulations, in order to avoid the negative consequences of non-compliance. Those consequences can include hefty monetary fines and seized shipments. There can also be jail time for individuals, and the U.S. government can even debar a company from exporting anything to anyone. (The next time you ask yourself how important trade compliance really is, just think about what would happen if your company could not ship any product to any foreign destination!)

Effective trade compliance ensures that goods are classified correctly, origin, and valuation of goods are accurately declared in accordance to the laws and regulations, and that the appropriate duties and taxes are paid. However, this is only a small part of the bigger picture.

An effective trade compliance program protects the company and country from potential danger by: screening new vendors, customers, and visitors; applying for licenses to import and export goods; and by ensuring that all requirements are met regarding exports and imports. Furthermore, your trade compliance program must be cognizant of new and changing regulations, and must ensure that good records are maintained for all export and import transactions.

Trade compliance is a vital component of any global business. It’s everyone’s responsibility and in all our interests to comply with these requirements. So, the next time you hear a specific question or need, take some time to step back and “see the forest through the trees.” It could be that your company is missing some of the larger issues at stake.

Need help improving your trade compliance? Export Solutions has worked with hundreds of organizations to do just that! Let’s schedule a no-charge consultation to begin the discussion today.

Tom Reynolds is the Vice President of Operations for Export Solutions, a consultancy firm which specializes in ITAR and EAR compliance.