A Year Later… 5 Ways to Get Back to Normal in Trade Compliance

Posted by Michael Bellezza
Blog originally posted on 29/03/2021 10:38 AM


My sense of time has been a little off lately, and I don’t think I’m the only one. In some moments, it seems that I have been confined to my little New England house outside of Boston for an eternity, reliving Groundhog Day over and over.

At other times, it feels as though I just had a conversation with a colleague in the office the last week, forgetting that it has been a year now. There have been a variety of little positive moments in this interlude from the office, like getting to know my mailman, walking my dog at lunch, and forgetting how to drive, however, I’m itching to get back to my office.

Yet, at the risk of jinxing us all, I think we are making progress towards getting back to normal. As we get closer to this “new normal,” we have to remember that Customs agencies around the world will also be getting back to some semblance of their former routines, and it’s an excellent time to get ahead of that!

Here are 5 thoughts to get you moving again:

  • Have a strategy: As the saying goes, “a goal without a plan is a wish.” Customs officials are going to get back to assessing and auditing companies again. From experience, we know what they are going to look at; HS Classification, valuation, anti-dumping and countervailing duty, special trade programs, duty mitigation schemes, etc. Shockingly, international trade did not get less complicated in the last year, but if you have a strategy to get your compliance program back up to speed, execution becomes much easier.
  • Conduct a self-assessment: Do a Risk Assessment to determine the strength of your processes, procedures, and internal controls. Over the last year, the frequency of certain important tasks (like me getting a haircut) has possibly lapsed, like customs auditing. You know who you are. We know what Customs agencies will look at in a customs audit, so it’s helpful to take a look first. If you need help, find a professional.
  • Set up your chessboard: Yes, even I watched Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, but it’s an analogy I use often with my team. What staff or outside resources are you going to need, and make sure those resources are on the same page and ready to go. In some industries like retail, aerospace, or even cruise, volumes could pick up suddenly. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed.
  • Start fresh: Disclose what you have to disclose now before things get crazy. And by disclose, I mean to Customs, not to your spouse that you’ve picked up a crazy and expensive new hobby that you have been hiding in the garage. They don’t need to know that. Of course, before you can come clean, you need to do your assessment.
  • Rebuild your relationships: I certainly know things about people that I didn’t know last year. I know everyone who has a dog that barks and I know the dog’s name. I know who likes video calls and who prefers “anonymity,” and I know who forgets they are always on mute. We certainly learned some things we probably wish we could forget, however, we also lost a lot of the personal relationships we spent so much time building and tending over our careers. Make sure to take the time to “pick up the phone” if such things still exist or Zoom. Touch base, and build back those relationships. Maybe grab a coffee… Just get a haircut first.

If you find yourself second guessing your compliance program or have questions, don't hesitate to reach out to us. We are here to support. 

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Topics: Duty Drawback, HS Classification

Blog originally posted on 29/03/2021 10:38 AM

Michael Bellezza

Written by Michael Bellezza

Before joining Tradewin in 2010 as Principal of the US Consulting Practice, Michael had worked for Expeditors for 8 years in a wide variety of management positions including Customs Brokerage Operations, Import & Export Compliance, Freight Forwarding, and Supply Chain Analytics. Michael is responsible for all aspects of Tradewin's global consulting practices in North America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific. He has a talent for bringing common sense solutions to complex regulatory scenarios. He specializes in building compliance programs, providing educational seminars and workshops, advising risk mitigation, and implementing duty reduction programs. Michael is a U.S. Licensed Customs Broker. He is IATA/FIATA certified and is a member of the International Compliance Professionals Association. He is a graduate of Boston College with a degree in Economics.