• Navigating customs around the world

Navigating customs around the world

Familiarise yourself with key customs procedures around the world and explore new markets with confidence.


By Harald Schoenfelder, Managing Director Global Trade Services, FedEx Express EMEA

International trade is one of the fastest growing areas of the world economy. If you’re reading this, it’s because you’re looking to explore new markets and get the most out of this growth – a big part of which is navigating customs.

This short guide will get you off to a flying start so you can take your product to new markets efficiently and trade around the world with ease.

1. Understand the process

Customs processes are different in every country/territory

Customs procedures are in constant flux and each product or commodity has different rules associated with it. Generally speaking, customs in emerging market economies use a higher level of documentation than Europe. They require more steps, processes and paper forms. It usually works on a shipment by shipment basis, typically with more physical inspections involved.

By comparison, the UK, USA and many within the EU have been investing in automation and building relationships with trade bodies for much longer. Their procedures are often more audit-based, with agreements set up to self-control the customs regulatory compliance. This allows for faster release of physical shipments and less physical examinations.

2. The “passport” for your shipment

Check what documentation you need to prepare before shipping

Preparing to ship products is similar to getting ready for a holiday. Before you travel, there are certain checks to make – for instance, whether you need a visa or vaccinations. When shipping abroad, you may also need to prepare documentation such as certificates and licences.

To avoid delays, everything in your shipment must be consistent with the documents. Aside from contact details, VAT or tax numbers and customs registration numbers (EORI) are becoming increasingly important.

Genuine samples aren’t subject to duties if they fall below a certain value – depending on the country/territory. The commercial invoice and air waybill must state “Sample supplied free of cost,” and contents must be marked as samples.

You’ll also need to update the product database, ensuring that the information provided is complete. Also consider dealing with your chosen transportation provider electronically.

3. Get to know the local markets and customs rules

Visit your export market to grow knowledge of the local environment

To achieve real competitive advantage, you must be able to develop intimate knowledge of the local environment and meet the requisite standards. Many companies, such as FedEx Express, already have documentation online to help companies build up their local knowledge on customs, but nothing beats visiting the country/territory itself. Are there any country/territory-specific events you could attend? Have you any contacts who could share relevant knowledge? Is there a local SME organisation you can join to get advice?

4. Expand slowly

Adopt a sustainable and controlled approach to growth

Only take your product global when you feel comfortable doing so, and expand slowly, one country/territory at a time. It’s important to adopt a sustainable and controlled approach to growth.

Ensuring you’re 100% ready before entering new markets will enable you to better navigate customs and achieve real and lasting commercial success worldwide.

5. Find a trusted global express transportation provider

FedEx Express has a global network with outstanding local expertise.

Express carriers (integrators), such as FedEx Express, will not only satisfy your transport needs, but will often have integrated global customs brokerage operations, with brokers whose local customs expertise is outstanding.

In the world of customs clearance, local knowledge and experience go a long way, often making the process much more straightforward.

Never before has global trade been so accessible to SMEs. The fact that you have communications technologies at your fingertips combined with global transportation expertise allows you to focus on your core business, conquer new markets and build a higher level of compliance.


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