Happy New Year!
The beginning of a new calendar year is an optimistic time. It provides a chance to allow the challenges of the past to fade in your memory and to focus on the opportunities ahead. In the spirit of the New Year I encourage you to harness that sense of optimism and to resolve that this year will be different. This will be the year your company gets its compliance house in order!
To help you achieve that goal I encourage you to make a few New Year' compliance resolutions. To get you started I’ve drafted a few resolutions you might wish to adopt as your own.
This year I resolve to:
1. Attend at least one seminar.
One of the challenges of working within international trade is keeping up with the constantly changing environment. As a professional, you owe it to yourself and your employer to attend at least one seminar this year to help you remain current with these changes.
2. Make a site visit to my broker, freight forwarder or other service provider.
As they say, a picture speaks a thousand words. Meeting the people you work with daily can only help improve that relationship. Visiting their facilities will give you a clearer understanding of their capabilities as well as the challenges they face in servicing your account.
3. Finally understand the idea of tariff change for trade agreements.
Even for experienced compliance professionals the concepts buried within trade agreements can be complex, none more so than the idea of tariff change. If you really don' understand the concept it is OK to admit it. Do something about it, however! See resolution #1 above.
4. Discontinue issuing country of origin certificates for trade agreements before I complete #3 above.
Issuing certificates of origin without having documentation supporting those certificates is highly risky behavior for a company. It is only a matter of time before the regulators will catch up with your company. Rest easier by resolving to do it right, or not at all.
5. Win over Joe/Jane in (sales, purchasing, engineering, traffic, finance, supply chain...) and finally convince him/her to comply with and support company trade compliance policy.
"What?" you reply. "Are you crazy, John? Joe will never get it!" I agree that resolutions should generally be reasonable and achievable. I think getting the cooperation of your colleagues with the fundamentals of compliance is reasonable and achievable. What is not reasonable is that you have given up trying to raise awareness of compliance with your colleagues.
6. Hold at least one internal trade compliance awareness event within the company.
If you are not willing to do this, I know a guy that does a great compliance presentation and is happy to work with your company. (See the byline to this article.)
7. Start/complete/update the trade compliance policy and procedure manual for the company.
You know it has to be done. Stop delaying the inevitable. This is the year it will happen!
8. Attend at least one outreach event sponsored by a regulator of my importing and exporting activities such as CBP, BIS, Census and the State Department.
These events may be few and far between in your area so achieving this goal may be a challenge.
9. Visit the CBP, Census, BIS, State or Treasury websites periodically to keep abreast of developments.
Perhaps attending a regulator's outreach event is not possible. Why not, at least, make an appointment to meet with them online?
10. Perform or hire a third party to perform a mock assessment of my company's importing and exporting activities.
What does your company do well? Where could it make improvements? If you haven't analyzed your trade compliance program how are you even managing? Increasingly the regulators are holding webinars or posting videos of their conferences.
11. Identify and implement at least one software application that will improve efficiency and accuracy of my company's trade compliance activities.
As a result of the assessment performed in #10 above you will likely identify an opportunity to automate some of your company's compliance function. Perhaps you need to generate better quality export documents. Maybe you are looking to go online with AES. Is your classification database up to snuff? Let's face it. Your employer is probably not hiring an assistant for you. Automating some of your procedures may be your only option for moving your trade compliance program forward.
12. Join a local or national trade association.
It can be difficult to bounce ideas off of your coworkers, who aren't familiar with trade compliance. Joining a trade association allows you to network with your peers and to learn that there are others facing similar challenges as you.
Which of the above resolutions can you adopt and which can you adhere to? Perhaps this list has sparked additional ideas for you. Whatever you decide, pick a few resolutions and stick to them. We'll chat again later in the year to see how you are doing.