Each export shipment involves many documents to satisfy government regulations controlling exporting as well as to meet requirements for international commercial payment transactions. The more frequently required documents are expert declaration, consular invoices or certificates of origin, bills of lading, commercial invoices and insurance certificates. Additional documents such as import licenses, export licenses packing lists, and inspection certificates for agricultural products are often necessary.
The paper work involved in successfully completing a transaction is considered by many to be the greatest of all non tariff trade barriers. There are 125 different documents in regular or special use in more than 1,000 different forms. A single shipment may require over 50 documents and involve as many as 28 different parties and government agencies or require as few as five. Luckily, software is available that takes some of the burden out of this task. In one such program the export information is entered once and the program automatically completes more than two dozen standard export forms which can then be either printed or e-mailed to freight forwarders, customs brokers or customers.
Although documents can be prepared routinely their importance should not be minimized incomplete of improperly prepared documents lead to delays in shipment. For example a Mexican customer official noticed that a certain piece of documentation out of all the paperwork required for a complete trainload of containers lacked a required signature – just one signature. The officer held the train up for almost two days until every container was unloaded and opened to verify that the contents matched the contents listed on the manifest. In some countries penalties fines, o even confiscation of the goods could have resulted form errors its documentation.
Export documents are the result of requirements imposed by the exporting government of requirements set by commercial procedures established in foreign trade, and in some cases of the supporting import documents required by the importing government. See exhibit below for descriptions of the principal export documents.
Principal export Documents
Export documents: Presented at the port of exit, includes the names and addresses of the principals involved the destination of the goods a full description of the goods and their declared value.
Consular Invoice or Certificate of Origin: Some countries consular invoices obtained from the country’s consulate and returned with two to eight copies in the language of the country along with copies of other required documents (e.g. import licenses, commercial invoice and /or bill of lading) before certification is granted. Preparation of the document should be handled with extreme care because fines are levied for nay errors uncovered. In most countries the fine is shared with whoever finds the errors so few go undetected.
Bill of Lading: The bill of lading is the most important document required for establishing legal ownership and facilitating financial transactions, It serves the following purposes 1) as a contract for shipment between the carrier and shipper 2) as a receipt from the carrier for shipment, and 3) as a certificate of ownership or title to the goods.
Commercial Invoice: Every international transaction requires a commercial invoice, that is, a bill or statement for the goods sold. This document often serves several purposes, some countries require a copy for customs clearance and it is one of the financial documents required in international commercial payments.
Insurance policy or certificate: The insurance policy or certificate f insurance is considered a key document in export trade.
Licenses: Export or import licenses are additional documents frequently required in export trade. In those cases where import licenses are required by the country of entry a copy of the license or license number is usually required to obtain consular invoice. Whenever a commodity requires an export license it must be obtained before an export declaration can be properly certified.
Other documents: Sanitary and health inspection certificates attesting to the absence of diseases and pests may be required for certain agricultural products before a country allows goods to enter its borders packing lists with correct weights are also required in some cases.