The proliferation of new Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) will attract more imports and give U.S. shippers more options as they attempt to penetrate ripe markets and strike up fresh sourcing relationships. And while much has been written about the demise of the World Trade Organization (WTO) as a negotiating forum, two announcements late last year indicate forward momentum, which may establish a new relevance for the organization, say trade experts.

So, while an importer should consider the overall savings by using an FTA both in duties and merchandise processing fees, they should also bear in mind the documentary responsibilities of proving compliance with the FTA.

“That seems obvious, but Customs clearance will also become more complex if certain immediate steps are not taken to ‘leverage’ these agreements,” says Angela Chamberlain, vice president of global trade content at Integration Point, a provider of global trade management and trade compliance solutions.

With limited resources to manage a single trade agreement, and no system in place to automate many of the tasks involved, some shippers may be in a poor position to maximize duty saving potential and fully incorporate free trade agreements into their sourcing strategy.

“Furthermore,” says Chamberlain, “shippers who fail to generate or apply for documentation required to move goods under an agreement may lose duty savings that could otherwise be easily captured. The same holds true if the shipper does not create the necessary audit trail when preference is claimed.”

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