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International Trade, Shipping, and Customs Regulations

All About Trademarks from Gregory H. Guillot

International Trade


United Nations

United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL)

World Customs Organization

America - USA

Trade Compliance Center

US Customs Service

US Customs Foreign Locations

United States Department of Commerce
International Trade

United States International Trade Commission

United States Census Bureau - Foreign Trade Statistics

International Trade Administration

Office of Trade and Economic Analysis - ITA



Australia and the United Nations

Australian Customs Service

Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Business Information Centre

Building Business in Western Australia

Commerce and Trade - Government of Western Australia

Ministry of Fair Trading

Small Business Development Corporation


Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Consulat Général de France (In English and French)

Minist`ere de l`Econome,des Finances et de l`Industrie

(French, English, German and Spanish languages are represented within this site, but only the front pages are displayed in the designated language, I have tested the translator and it WILL translate many of the subsequent pages into the respective languages; each must be entered individually by their URL.  To do this successfully, you must back out of the BableFish translator and return to the menu of the front page selecting the new link and then copying the URL to that page before re-entering into the translator.  A longer process, but definitely more accommodating than hiring a multilingual interpreter to conduct business transactions.)


Italian Trade Commission  (Translate from Italian)

ICE - Promoting Italy (In English and Italian)

High Technology Center


Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry

Fair Trade Commission of Japan (FTCJ)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Japan Patent Office


Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Republic of China

The Asia-Pacific Media Center

United Kingdom

UK Department for International Development

International Shipping Rates

United States Postal Service (USPS)

Secteur Postal

World Class - cargo

International Customs and Mailing Requirements

International Mail Manual - IMM  (USPS)

Be sure to check mark IMM selections prior to entering the search.  Basic suggestions for keywords to search for are as follows:

customs declaration forms usage, customs, restrictions,
mailable matter, packaging

(these will get you started on the right track, but feel free to
enter as many as you like of your own)

A message from the author:

When conducting business with foreign territories, it is necessary for one to understand and conform to international trade and customs regulations; failing to do so can result in delayed or banned delivery of letters and/or shipments. While shipping time-sensitive materials to prospective international representatives; neglecting to observe packaging regulations, current shipping rates and the proper use of customs forms can be devastating in the attempts to build strong relationships between foreign establishments.   When expectations in delivery are not met, it invites a question of reliability.  Proper packaging also helps to ensure that the shipment will be less likely to receive damage while in transit.

Unlike domestic correspondence that does not deter from state to state, international shipping regulations vary drastically from one country to the next.  Items that seem to be average every day substances, which are accepted throughout one country, may be strictly prohibited in other foreign countries.  Rules that apply to one country often differ from the next; in some foreign countries it is prohibited to accept a package containing a bar of hand soap.  It is necessary to consult international directories or logistics experts supplying up-to-date information regarding shipping customs and international trade licenses; otherwise you may find yourself out the expenses of non-refundable shipping fees and the return of an undeliverable package.  Needless to mention, the person awaiting the correspondence will be left empty handed and your contact will have to be reaffirmed or replaced.  

As international regulations are subject to change without notice, one must stay current with export/import requirements to compete in the areas of quality service and the delivery of product.  International shipping customs and rate changes do not necessarily coincide with domestic changes so it is wise check for revisions, with each mailing, to reduce the chances of interrupted delivery due to the lack of significant information or required fees.  Always use the proper customs forms and ample transporting fees to ascertain promptness in delivery.  If you are uncertain which forms apply to the type of service that best suites your mailing need, consult with international logistics experts provided by the transportation service company of your choice.  

In regard to the most economic means of transporting goods, it is wise to educate yourself on the different transportation services available. One company may offer several different services ranging vastly in price, yet depending on the need of the customer, the lowest priced method of shipment may be as adequate as some of the higher priced services.  Not always does one need to use the most expensive service to guarantee satisfactory delivery.  Material for the blind, volume shipments of sheet music, non-profit and religious institutions, catalogues, books and other items may qualify for mailing services that receive special classifications and reduced rates. It is good to review all of the options before selecting services.  Most items qualify for surface and air transportation, but consideration to the importance of time delivery should be taken when shopping for the best shipping rates.  

If time permits, surface transportation of cargo shipped by boat rather than by air can drastically reduce the shipping charges.  If time is of essence and/or delivery of the product is in need of guarantees then one should consider express, registered, insured, and other mailing services randomly ranging in price.  There are high-end, low-end, and many intermediate services that generally meet the needs of most customers; it pays to shop the market for the most economical service provided that meets the need.  Many customers may be overpaying shipping costs because they are unaware of the variety of services available.  Inquire with your shipping company as to what different types of services they have available and as to which would be the most appropriate for your type of business transactions.    

Caution should be used, both internationally and domestically, when mailing such things as media storage disc and tape products because these items are subject to damage in many different ways.  Exposure to heat can warp or distort the physical product itself rendering it useless in component player systems.  Exposure to magnets can erase critical data stored on media storage discs/tapes or cause severe damage to blank media products.  Induction of these products into automated systems that are equipped with hard turn-styles, mechanical devices that will not allow rigid items to move about freely, can destroy the discs/tapes and damage the automated equipment.  

When supplying customer applied address information on singular items mailed in volume, to receive presort discounted mailing rates, keep this in mind; not only does the exterior address information need to comply with mailing standards, the content inside must be acceptable as well.  Do not invite the haphazard or destruction of property by attempting to save costs while neglecting to secure the final delivery of your product.  Not all mailing preparation firms comply with mailing standards so inquire with you shipping company as to references and recommendations.  

Equipment and Component manufacturers should be aware of shock and impact damages that can occur to delicate instruments while in transit.  These types of products should be packaged accordingly to their sensitivity to impact.  Simply marking a package "FRAGILE" does not provide protection against damages.  Special handling services and other insurance coverages are offered, at additional costs, by most shipping companies.  These upgrades in service must be identified as to which service is being applied and properly endorsed on all packages requesting the additional protection.  There must be evidence that the additional fees have been paid to receive the services, and when utilizing these special services, be sure to keep all receipts until you are certain the shipment has been received by the other party in good condition.  

When handling hundreds and thousands of packages each day, shipping companies may not always provide the special placement of each individual package.  When purchasing coverage plans provided by your shipping company for the replacement costs of damaged items, you secure the recovery expense of the product.  This may not recover the frustration involved in making amends with an anxiously disappointed, and sometimes irrate customer on the other end; but as a general rule, when packages have special endorsements blatently displayed, the employees handling the packages are made aware of the liabilities placed upon their agency and they tend to be more cautious in the handling and placement of each item.

Product packaging can, and should, be as important as the process that goes into the creation of the product.  Whether shipping in bulk quantities or singular items, awareness of proper packaging and mailing requirements is essential for the most effective and timely delivery.  Quality products received without delay or damage are one of the key factors in maintaining solid customer relationships; both domestically and internationally.

Above, you will find links accessing information on International Customs and Mailing Requirements, as provided by the United States Postal Service; and also International Trade Regulations, as provided by the United States Department of Commerce.  The links provide information on international trade license requirements, mailing requirements, international customs, the selection of services, forms and etc.  These resources will be expanded to include foreign post offices, trade commissions and other shipping organizations, as I find the time to conduct more extensive research.

Personal Disclaimer:

The information provided above is a personal opinion based upon sixteen years of experience working in a shipping facility that has concentrated on the expedient and quality delivery of customer products to domestic and international locations.  Also, prior to the experience listed above, an additional seven years was spent assisting in the coordination of shipping and receiving for a major domestic manufacturing firm.  The information provided is not intended to replace the legal advice of an attorney or to serve as a structured platform to follow when making logistic decisions; it is merely a suggestion of things to be aware of when dealing with domestic and international shipments.  

Copyright 2001

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