Domestic shipping is pretty straightforward for e-commerce operators. Those who sell through their own sites set up accounts with shipping partners. Then they print labels and pay for shipping right from their offices before scheduling pickups. There isn’t much to it. When you are talking about international e-commerce shipping though, you’re looking at a completely different animal.
There is more to international shipping than printing accurate labels and paying higher rates. In addition to pricing structures and taxes, international shippers have to deal with a plethora of import and export regulations.
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This suggests that an e-commerce operator’s global shipping partner should be a customs expert.
Rules for International Trade
Preferred Shipping is a Texas company that operates as an authorized DHL reseller. Utilizing DHL’s global network of resellers and shipping partners, they can get packages from the U.S. to just about any global destination. Preferred Shipping is also a customs expert.
They explain that the rules and regulations governing international trade run the gamut from the incredibly simple to the overwhelmingly complex. Moreover, the rules and regulations apply differently depending on what is being shipped, its destination, its quantity, and its eventual end use.
As a retailer, you do not necessarily have the knowledge to navigate import and export regulations. You probably don’t have the time to learn it all, either. So you rely on your shipping partner for help. That is not a bad idea if you choose a shipping partner with a proven history of trade compliance.
Confusing Product Classification
The simplest part of trade compliance also tends to be the most confusing: product classification. All products exported from the U.S. must be classified using an extensive list of codes developed under the Harmonized Tariff System of the United States (HTSUS). The HTSUS is based on the globally standardized HTS, but with additional codes for tracking purposes.
Here is the most important thing you need to know about product classification: there are literally thousands of codes to choose from. Some products can be classified using multiple codes. You need to decide based on how end-users will ultimately use the products you ship.
One last thing to note is that product classification must be included in your shipping paperwork and on shipping labels. Working with a shipping partner capable of handling this for you is a big plus.
Restricted Countries and Persons
Another big issue for trade compliance is shipping to restricted countries and/or persons. This becomes an issue whenever the U.S. decides to sanction another country or entity. Some sanctioned countries and entities cannot receive any shipments from the U.S. Others can receive limited shipments. This is something you need to know if you ship internationally.
How do you determine what restrictions apply? You check government lists. Unfortunately, there are numerous lists to check, and they change frequently. Keeping up can be a burdensome task to say the least. But that is yet another reason to work with a shipping partner that offers customs expertise.
A Partnership Worth Developing
Finding a shipping partner with customs expertise is just the start. Developing a solid relationship with that partner is critical to the success of your international sales. It is a relationship worth developing at any cost.
Domestic e-commerce shipping is pretty straightforward. You do not need to know a lot or bend over backwards to make it happen. But international e-commerce shipping is another matter. It pays to work with an international shipping provider that not only gets your packages where they are going, but also applies its customs expertise to make sure all your shipments are compliant.