There has been a continued shift across the world toward increased importer responsibility as the U.S. experienced with the introduction of informed compliance in the Customs Modernization and Informed Compliance Act of 1993. It is more imperative now than ever for companies to have a solid understanding of all trade regulations for each country in which they operate and each country with which they trade.

Deferring responsibility to your vendor, broker or service provider is no longer an option. Companies now realize the standard set in the U.S. applies globally, and they need to manage compliance in an efficient, informed manner across the world. This requires control and visibility of what you are filing as well as what others are filing on your behalf.

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Among all of the president's plans to boost jobs, some economists say his goal to double exports in five years could do the trick. To steer your shipments through bureaucratic red tape and complex tax laws, make sure to follow these six tips:

  • Commit a manager to the project
  • Examine market opportunities
  • Consider product adaptations
  • Pick a form of distribution
  • Keep taxes in mind
  • Secure financing

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Importers and exporters have spent a lot of time trying to figure out 10+2 lately -- and they are not practicing basic math skills. They are working toward complying with a new U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) cargo security regulation. The Importer Security Filing (ISF) regulation, enacted in 2008, but put into full effect on Jan. 26, 2010, is commonly referred to as the 10+2 initiative because it requires importers/exporters and ocean carriers to provide trade data -- 10 elements and two elements each, respectively -- for all non-bulk ocean cargo shipments arriving into the United States.

"Many importers must deal with a black hole -- from the point in the supply chain when merchandise leaves a manufacturer's factory until a freight forwarder takes possession of the goods," says Virginia Thompson, director of import/export operations and international trade compliance for furniture and home furnishing chain Crate & Barrel.

To help wrestle this large import/export business into ISF compliance, Crate & Barrel selected an ISF system from Charlotte, N.C.-based global trade management software provider Integration Point in early 2009.

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Many companies have been diligent about obtaining missing data such as the intermediate warehouse location, setting up information technology systems to automate data collection and transmission, and filing regularly. But few are yet able to fill all their ISFs on time and with complete accuracy.

So far there have been no consequences for those errors, Virginia Thompson, manager of import/export operations for Crate & Barrel, confirmed in a webinar last week hosted by trade software provider Integration Point.

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Even manufacturers that rely on brokers will need to streamline and automate their internal processes in order to take cost and complexity out of 10+2 compliance. But, though automation is the end goal, most manufacturers start off with a manual, spreadsheet-driven process.

"Many of our customers started early on feeling their way through their supply chains to understand where the data was," Melissa Irmen, vice president of product & strategy at Integration Point, Inc. says. "They would start with a manual process of collecting e-mails, invoices, faxes - wherever they could find the data - then key it into the system."

Many manufacturers then begin to automate gradually, finding trade lanes that have advance shipment notices (ASN) and other commercially available data in electronic form and combining that with data in their classification database, Irmen says. Eventually, they include those elements in their electronic data feeds, modifying programs that communicate with suppliers or brokers to incorporate those additional data elements so that they can be fully automated.

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