Reducing business costs in international trade
Phil Smith, Managing Director, BusinessWest
Certificates of Origin, ATA Carnets and EUR1s are just some of the intricate and often arcane documents which underpin the world of exporting and without which global trade would reach a shuddering halt. Next time you see, in real life or on film, a ship laden sky scraper high with Maersk shipping containers, just pause to think how much associated ‘paperwork’ must accompany each container load.
Business West, the chamber of commerce for Bristol, Bath, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, certifies over 40,000 such documents each year, making us one of the UK’s leading suppliers of international trade documents. Our team of 20 documentation experts and 300 others across the chambers of the UK provide these unsung but vital trade facilitation services which keep the wheels of international trade and commerce turning.
Manifests and Bills of Lading are vestiges of a centuries old ship based trading system that continues into the modern day alongside e-enabled trading, an emerging environment where innovations like digital signatures are confusing as they are sometimes acceptable and sometimes not. Indeed, in some countries some export documents still require completion on certain weight paper and with certain coloured ink! As a result navigating the byzantine world on international trade certification is not for the faint hearted, but that’s where chambers of commerce fit in. In an increasingly uncertain world where all forms of expertise and authority are being called into question and with some nation states’ relationships in disarray the chamber of commerce based, ICC overseen, globally recognised and trusted trade documentation agreements are ever more important.
With over 50% of UK trade being with the EU, a hard Brexit may see many British companies who sell into Europe, face for the first time, the bureaucracy of providing certificates of origin to accompany their sales. With the UK government rightly obsessed with growing the number of new exporters, we must not take our eyes of the many thousands of businesses who will need education and help in accessing their hitherto easily reached continental markets which, post Brexit, may become that little bit more challenging.
Freight forwarders, letters of credit, currency hedging, shippers, Incoterms, forfaiting and other cogs in the export ecosystem also play key roles, but the seemingly second order documents that accompany each export are almost as important as the good themselves. A ship stuck for a week in a foreign dock prevented from unloading 50,000 tonnes of raw material because of an incorrect document can cost both supplier and customer millions of pounds.
International trade and the benefits it engenders requires openness and trust, but it also relies heavily on a commonly held system of authority and documentary evidence which is provided in towns and cities around the globe by the local chamber of commerce.
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is the world’s largest business organisation with a network of over 6.5 million members in more than 130 countries. ICC’s three central functions are to promote open cross border trade and investment, provide the rules and standards that govern international business and provide world-class dispute resolution services. For more information or to write for the ICC, please contact email@example.com.
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