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international trade

The basics of exporting: how do I get started?

When selling your product internationally, every company should have an export plan that answers a few basic questions: How do I get my product to market, and how will I get paid? This article will provide guidance on some things to consider when you first decide to export your product.

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Published by DHL EXPRESS

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Congratulations, you have just received your first international purchase order! Or maybe you can remember the excitement of your first sale internationally. That initial excitement fades when you soon realize that selling your product overseas raises a lot of questions. There is a famous saying that people do not plan to fail, but they fail to plan. This is very true in international business.

When considering whether to export your product, the first thing to focus on is your mode of transportation. There are several options: train/rail, ocean, trucking, air freight, express, or human courier physically carrying the goods. A shipment may often require multiple modes. Determining factors include the size of your shipment and the time required for your goods to reach your customers. Your decision on how to deliver your product to the customer may change from time-to-time based on size, cost, and speed.

If your customer is relatively close and you have several days to ship the product, trucking may be the best option. However, if your customer needs the product sooner, shipping by air is often the only choice. An unexpected consideration: Some regions of the world like Europe have credits or certifications based on your total carbon emissions -- not just in the manufacture of your product, but also including the transportation to destination. This can be an important factor when looking at how you move your product to market.

Next, you should decide whether you need the assistance of a broker or freight forwarder. Many countries have an export declaration that is required for controlled goods and high value shipments. In the United States and Canada, anyone can go to a free government website to file this declaration, but that is not true in many other countries where an export broker may be required. Some customers feel more comfortable having a freight forwarder or broker file the export declaration for you because it is that company’s expertise. The paperwork often requires the goods to be classified with a Harmonized Tariff code, which enables customs to better track what is being exported. For example, fresh vegetables and frozen vegetables would be assigned two different codes.

Your freight forwarder or broker should be able to help with these classifications. In countries like Mexico that have export taxes and duties, the declaration helps customs properly assess the fees. Another key reason for using a freight forwarder: They can contract better rates with truck, rail, air, and ocean carriers than you would trying to negotiate a contract directly. and DHL offer you a 20% discount for international shipping. A perfect option for SMEs looking for a quick and easy solution! Check the eligible countries and click here to apply!

Which documentation should you include?

Every shipment requires a waybill or Bill of Lading form that informs the carrier where to move the shipment and explains who is involved. If you are shipping to a distributor or warehouse, that is called the “consignee,” or the party that will receive your shipment after import. If you are shipping directly to the end customer, you need to list them as the consignee.

Remember: Every export will become an import. All customs authorities at the time of export and import ask three questions:

  1. What is the product?
  2. What is the product’s value?
  3. Where was the product made?

Every international shipment requires a commercial invoice that tells customs what is occurring in each transaction. Your commercial invoice needs to fully answer those three questions and also state in detail all the parties involved in the transaction. Your descriptions must be very specific and not use generic terms or part numbers. Some transactions may require additional paperwork such as a Certificate of Origin, a document from a Chamber of Commerce that certifies where your goods came from. This document is used at the time of import, but is best to obtain prior to export.

At the time of export, it is also vital to be aware of any trade restrictions that may apply to your product internationally. These restrictions may require additional documentation or even require obtaining permits or licenses.

Why choose express shipping?

Shipping with an express operator levels the playing field, allowing an SME (small and medium enterprise) to compete internationally with large companies. Express companies enable businesses to reach customers all over the world with a single logistics provider. They also streamline the process by determining which combination of air, truck and human courier gets the product to its end destination the fastest. Express operators will act as your broker or freight forwarder when possible -- or will work with a designated broker for the filing of export declarations -- so you are only contracting with one company for the entire logistics process.

They will also look at the efficiency of your delivery method and try to minimize carbon emissions by using electric and hybrid vehicles, alternative fuels, bicycle couriers, or (in large cities) couriers on foot, which is critical when exporting to Europe if you need carbon credits or certification.

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This briefing was prepared by Phillip Poland, the Director of International Trade Compliance for DHL Express Americas. This article is intended to be general information and not legal advice. Readers are encouraged to seek legal advice to answer questions about their specific exporting situation.

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