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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