Compliance – the afterthought of many export processes and how it will become more important in a post-Brexit environment

Compliance is often the most overlooked part of an export process for sending goods to non-EU countries. Often it is only considered when a forwarder or logistics provider advises the exporter that the goods may require a pre-shipment inspection and certificate of conformity (COC) to be issued before they can be exported or when the importer advises them that they need a COC to clear the goods on arrival. Usually this leads to the exporter frantically making contact with the mandated inspection company to arrange a COC, normally completely unaware that a technical review of quality documentation and inspection is required before one can be issued. This often leads to delays in the goods being shipped and represents additional costs to the exporter that may not have been considered when the sale was initially agreed. Sometimes the goods may have already been shipped, meaning that the importer is going to experience a problem clearing them when they arrive and, in some cases, might not even be able to clear them at all. If you need to urgently get a shipment to an overseas customer this small oversight can be quite costly in terms of time, money and reputation.

There are various export guides available that can help exporters identify which export locations may require a COC.  However due to the changing nature of international compliance it is virtually impossible for a comprehensive export guide to exist–there are also changes to applicable standards, verification methods, regulated items and prohibited imports on an almost daily basis so navigating the world of compliance can be a bit of a minefield.

Compliance therefore, really should be one of the first considerations when selling goods to an international customer. Along with quotes for shipping, the exporter should also seek guidance on compliance measures in order to factor the timescale and cost of certification into their shipping process so that they can adjust price and ETA as appropriate. At the moment COCs are only really required for specific destinations outside of the EU. However the UK’s impending exit from the EU could well mean that conformity plays a much bigger role when shipping goods to the EU post Brexit and to new third countriesas international trade agreements materialise. As the standard of manufactured and imported products diverges from EU standards and regulations, proving the compliance of exported goods will become more and more important.

Consequently, testing will need to play a more vital role in production processes and supply chains as test reports will be the primary means for verifying the compliance and conformity of goods to the relevant standard for export. Many exporters will already be familiar with the compliance process for exports to locations such as East Africa and Saudi Arabia and such will already have robust internal processes in place to provide quality information and successfully verify the compliance of goods. Smaller companies without the international export experience may find that they have a steep learning curve when complying with new export requirements.

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