What Is International Trade Compliance?

Geri Terzo

International trade compliance involves the participation of exporting and importing nations adhering to certain standards in order to promote and protect free trade. Countries that adhere to international standards are committing to support the elimination of any illegal trade practices surrounding the goods that are being transported and also the business practices that trade participants enforce. In some cases, countries could violate international trade standards, in which case the nation becomes subject to certain penalties.

Foreign shipping regulations may play a role in the final cost of the goods.
Foreign shipping regulations may play a role in the final cost of the goods.

Countries that decide to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) must adhere to the established international trade compliance. This could become controversial because every nation also has its own set of rules, standards, and expectations. When a country opts to become a member of an international group, it may be forced to abandon some of its own procedures, methods, and practices in favor of the international trade compliance. A country could, for instance, appear to set its own limits on certain export activity for competitive reasons, which could violate free trade agreements. If one country believes that a competing nation is in violation of international trade compliance, they must request the larger trade organization enforce the rules appropriately.

World Trade Organization law is controversial within many countries and areas of the world.
World Trade Organization law is controversial within many countries and areas of the world.

International standards could also establish limits on the tax that individual countries are permitted to charge for certain export items, such as commodities and natural resources. An exporting nation might prepare for a certain duty to be applied to goods but when dealing with foreign importers there could be unanticipated challenges and expenses. In the U.S., there is a Trade Compliance Center to help resolve conflicts that arise with international trade.

For exporting nations to ultimately deliver goods and services to importing countries, exporters must pass through the importers customs procedures. Otherwise, the items will not be cleared and deemed accepted for distribution, which poses a problem for both the exporter and the importer. Exporters could issue formal complaints against countries that appear to be in violation of any international trade compliance that is meant to enforce fair customs procedures. Any party that violates international standards could be subject to financial penalties.

The process of international trade can be highly complex considering all of the competing standards and participants involved. Importers and exporters could turn to international trade compliance consultants to help facilitate the process. These professionals may be able to shed insight on the various licenses or other regulatory obligations that must be met with each transaction. Consultants can also help trade participants to remain current on any other documentation that is involved with international trade compliance.

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