Importers and exporters are turning to a new generation of Web-based compliance platforms to help them navigate the complex world of global trade regulation as compliance matures into a core logistics function. Much of the action in recent months has come as the Importer Security Filing, or 10+2, mandate went into effect. Under the U.S. Customs and Border Protection program, importers and carriers must file 12 data elements before a U.S.-bound container is loaded aboard a ship at a foreign port. Enforcement began on Jan. 26.

"Visibility is not just about watching stuff happen," said Melissa Irmen, vice president of products and strategy for Integration Point, a Charlotte, N.C.-based provider of global trade and compliance solutions. "Things are changing so fast, and to have connectivity to all partners is just critical."

South Korea is a case in point. The United States' seventh-largest trading partner, the country has at least 14 free trade agreements signed or in process and is looking to expand FTAs to 60 different countries.

To help clients comply, Integration Point recently announced a strategic relationship with Samjong KPMG Advisory, a consulting firm and business unit of KPMG Sejong Customs Corp. "More and more companies are looking for assistance in understanding all the compliance rules of FTAs as well as how to benefit," said Young Hyo Kim, managing director of Samjong KPMG Advisory.

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During the past two years, many supply chain organizations have gone to extraordinary lengths to help their enterprises weather the economic storm. Now, however, the economy has tilted - at least tentatively, into positive territory, and supply chain executives must orient themselves to supporting growth in the post-recessionary environment.

This year's "Supply & Demand Chain Executive 100" feature focuses on how supply chain solution and service providers are assisting their customers and client achieve supply chain excellence and prepare their supply chains for the post-recessionary return to growth. In this year's article, we turn to the Supply & Demand Chain Executive 100 for not only "lessons from the Great Recession" but also for insights into the range of tools, tactics and strategies that supply chain executives can leverage today to achieve supply chain excellence now and ensure growth and profitability tomorrow.

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For an idea on how 10+2 compliance has been going, you only have to look at the requests importers are making of their trade management software vendors.

To collect as much of the required information as early as possible - and see what's missing - filers say they must be able to gather data from multiple sources here and abroad. That led one software developer, Charlotte, N.C.-based Integration Point, to develop a program that allows "any commercially available electronic data [to] be mapped directly into filings, in any combination," says Melissa Irmen, the company's senior vice president-products and strategy. Irmen says that capability makes it wasy for "customers [to] focus on the highlighted gaps in the data."

But it's not enough to pull in data from multiple sources; importers are finding they also need a means of sharing it with supply chain partners. "[Using software to develop] a centralized repository for product classification that allows for data, including updates, to be shared automatically with the entire supply chain ensures that everyone is using the same database for item classifications," says Irmen. With tight deadlines to meet, having standardized information readily available helps support supply chain partners process information quickly and accurately and makes for more timely ISF filings, she adds.

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Discussions of U.S. foreign-trade zones usually highlight the benefits they offer importers. After all, the ability to defer payment of duties, or reduce tariffs by taking components that have relatively high duty rates and making them into products subject to lower duties before they enter the commerce of the United States, are lucrative reasons to take advantage of FTZs.

Another major benefit for companies using FTZ is speed within the supply chain, said Melissa Irmen, senior vice president of products and strategy for Integration Point, Inc., whose products include software aimed at FTZ users. "If you are the owner of goods and can show the repetitive nature of your business, you can get a benefit called 'direct delivery,' which means you can be authorized to move your goods directly from the port to the zone and then report after the fact so you don't have to wait at the port for approval for entry. Some distribution facilities take advantage of that just for time-to-market purposes."

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It has been said before that a typical international transaction requires 35 documents across 25 parties complying with more than 600 regulations and more than 500 trade agreements. (SC Digest, June 2008) If you stop and think about it, that is a lot of places for errors to occur, steps to overlook and savings opportunities to miss.

Realizing you need to move your company past the manual processes of classifying products, qualifying for free trade agreements, completing customs forms, and screening for denied parties is a great first step. However, before you implement any type of automation tool, you need to make sure it has everything you need to not only automate these processes but also provide a single platform for compliance, content and connectivity.

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