International Trade Procedures and Regulations for Import/Export

By John J. Capela

The single most important document in an import or export transaction is the purchase agreement. With a suitable purchase agreement, you can eliminate or greatly reduce most of the problems that might occur. The terms of sale upon which the seller and buyer must agree include the passage of title, risk of loss, price, and payment.

The terms of sale are conditions regarding who will be responsible for which expenses as the goods move from buyer to seller. In a domestic sales transaction, the buyer may be used to purchasing on open account or receiving credit. But in international purchases, it’s customary to use methods of payment designed to give the exporter and importer a greater level of protection.

If you’re an exporter dealing with a small importer who’s essentially unknown to you — a company with whom you have no prior payment experience — you’ll likely seek some secured method of payment.

On the other hand, if you’re an importer, a payment term that offers assurances that the goods received are exactly as ordered and in good condition is critical. International terms of sale can differ from those used in domestic transactions, so become familiar with Incoterms, the universal trade terminology developed by the International Chamber of Commerce.

If you’re an importer, then to avoid potential problems in the clearance of your merchandise, familiarize yourself with U.S. Customs policies and procedures prior to actually importing your goods. Also be aware of any entry requirements specific to the particular commodity you’re importing, including those of other federal agencies.