Exporting International trade essentials

If you think ‘exporting’ might be the next step for your product and business, you might want to consider the following points as a guide before you begin your plan.

Anyone who has had experience of exporting also knows what a minefield it can be and that mistakes can be costly not only in money, but time too!

We want to help you to get your products to market and support your business in the process to make it happen efficiently and effectively at the outset.

We have put together a few notes to assist at the outset, in what to consider when exporting goods or services.

We would always advocate that Exporting is not to be avoided but embraced if it suits your business needs and has clear commercial benefits, supported by structure and resource allocation.

It’s all about the detail. Not knowing what you need to do is one thing, but not being precise in covering the detail can have considerable consequences. Keeping focused on ‘doing things right’ be the difference between profit and loss!

Responsibility - Important points as part of your preparation

  • Whether you use an Agent or Freight Forwarder you are responsible for accurate paperwork and detail.
  • Inaccuracies may result in shipments being ‘held’ or returned at considerable cost.
  • Documents provided must be ‘locally’ compliant. It is Prudent to enlist the help of your customer in ensuring any paperwork is both locally acceptable and allows no potential for doubt at borders. This may be in multi- language, own country formatted documents etc.
  • Have a clearly defined contract in place for all elements
  • Check carefully that you do not require specific licences or legal documents – this may apply to products or countries or a combination of both.
  • Description and labelling - clarity is key, and must match documentation accompanying shipment

Is the basis of your contract agreed, correct and accurate?

Whether providing goods or services a clear contract agreed and validated between both parties is essential.

We would suggest that contracts are checked and validated by a competent legal person.

Key Points

  • Use Incoterms wherever possible as this international structure removes doubt and will make remedy easier to apply. (There are exceptions where ‘service providers’ will need to define by legal agreement)
  • Check on UK Gov’t website whether you require a specific license. In general, this applies to Military type products but does also include some other categories such as dual technology products, agriculture, artworks.

Please note it is an OFFENCE to export without the correct licences.


  • Construct a checklist based on supply to ensure you have asserted as terms and then inferred via contract detailed delivery of the goods including labelling, insurance, payment structure and who is responsible for customs clearing etc.
  • Delivery of goods. It is essential you have agreed how the goods will be packed and the packing agreed is fit for purpose. In general, the goods are handled often and the potential for in transit damage is high.
  • Safety and compliance certification. This should be defined in contract but is essential to research if the standards that are in place in the supply country are transferrable and relevant.
  • Taxation - within the EU it is relatively straightforward, outside of the EU requires additional detail and reporting. We advise to obtain specialist advice, either directly from HMRC or a qualified accountant.

The services you provide to other businesses are charged VAT where your customer is based, not where your business is established. If you are supplying services to private customers, VAT is charged where the customer is based.

  • Non - EU goods require a classification code which must also be stated on all invoices. It is good practice to agree this where possible in advance with your customer as can affect import duties and other requirements. A freight forwarder or clearing agent can assist here. Again, we advise that you ensure that detail is contracted as remedy is always difficult and expensive.
  • This must be clearly defined by contract but does have some fundamental inclusions and requirements. We would always suggest don’t buy on price but on overall ‘Value’ - remember your goods may be thousands of miles away!!
    • The documentation provided by you, should clearly describe the goods, confirm the amounts and aid in verifying accuracy on receipt. The documents in general follow a standard convention

Important points on SSN (Standard Shipping Note):

  • Where possible, you should avoid completing the SSN by hand because handwritten documents are often difficult to read and are more likely to contain inaccuracies
  • You can only include goods for a single shipment to a port or airport, or for a single sailing or flight, on one SSN if you need to use continuation sheets they should be numbered and attached to each copy of the SSN
  • Note: if there are multiple drops, remember to use multiple copies of the paperwork to accompany the product through to delivery

Agreements with shippers/transporters

  • The agreement between the exporter and the transporter/shipper must be clearly defined as a ‘contract’ whilst a degree of ‘working together’ is required a clear structure should always be in place.

Ensure the contract contains the following information about your consignment:

  • The nature of the goods
  • The route to their destination
  • Transport requirements
  • Customs information
  • Who should receive specified documents
  • Allocation of costs and payment terms

Note: It’s very important that the information you provide on the formalised documentation (ECSI) is accurate.

What can we do to help you?

Our aim is to make the process as smooth as possible. We do this by removing the common pitfalls and assisting in completing all relevant procedural needs. These of course, vary considerably depending on the product (or service) you wish to export.

We will assist from the outset, as required, establishing your needs, selecting the best delivery partners and most of all helping you, our clients; feel comfortable about the Export process.

We will also ensure you have a structured approach, as the costs and expectations regarding Exporting must be clearly understood with a clear set of benefits established. This is particularly relevant when exporting outside of the EU and with goods that contain a high degree of intellectual property and or value.

Things are rarely as straight forward as they initially seem, so talk to us to see if we can help! Here at u-look-i-c Ltd we provide professional and practical business growth advice to help you achieve sustainable benefits. We’re very hands on and work with you to set up a programme to deliver the support you need over all your business areas from process to people.

Call Paul on 07742 955199 for an initial conversation or email

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