International Trade

Globalization has made international trade more essential than ever to the health of our economy. If your small business is interested in exporting or importing products or services, learn about the laws, agencies and trade organizations that can help lead to successful ventures in international commerce.

The Department of Commerce provides comprehensive information on licensing requirements for participating in international trade. They have an online application process, SNAP (Simplified Network Applications Process), which allows registered users to submit export and reexport license applications, and request commodity classifications, and agricultural license exception notices through a single and secure Web site.

Shipping Documents

  • Commercial Invoice
    This document is required for exporting and includes all the terms of sale. The commercial invoice must conform exactly to letters of credit, including misspellings and foreign languages. Product descriptions, prices, weights and other information must follow requirements specified by the target country.

  • Bill of Lading
    Shipping companies or freight forwarders usually provide a bill of lading.

  • Insurance Certificates
    Exporters need these certificates if the terms of sale include cost, insurance and freight(CIF).

  • Certificates of Origin
    These are official documents that many Arab and Latin American countries require. Consulates generally sell the forms, which are then filled out in the language stipulated. For an additional fee, the consul stamps them to make them legal documents.

  • Certificates of Origin
    Although these usually appear on the invoice, many countries require a separate certificate of origin.

  • Certificates of inspection
    These consist of either an affidavit or a certificate from an official government agency or independent inspection company.

  • Dock Receipts
    These are necessary when the exporter is not directly responsible for transporting goods to a foreign destination or otherwise needs to prove that the goods have been delivered to a port for further disposition by the importer.

  • Shipper's Export Declaration (SED)
    Exporters may be required to file a SED when taking commercial goods out of the United States.

Exporters are prohibited from doing business with customers who are located in an embargoed country, on the list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN), on the Table of Denial Orders (TDO), or are involved with the production of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. For current information, visit the International Trade Administration Web site.

Useful Resources

EU Business
Information about Europe and business opportunities there. is the portal to all export-related assistance and market information offered by the federal government. Whether you're looking for trade leads, free export counseling, or help with the export process, is your first step in growing your international sales.

Export Legal Assistance Network (ELAN)
ELAN is a program under which lawyers from the Federal Bar Association and other interested professional associations volunteer to provide initial legal consultations free of charge to companies making their first entry into the export market. Contact an SBA international trade officer or the ELAN coordinator for your region to arrange a meeting.

International Trade Administration (ITA)
The ITA site enables Web users to find trade partners, view trade statistics and access other information.

Created by the International Trade Center with the Universities of Montreal and Nancy, this database offers 30,000 pages of basic legal documents (treaties, model contracts and arbitration rules)related to international trade.

Trade and Investment Reports
Global marketing research information from Industry Canada. Site may be viewed in English or French.

Here are a collection of links to local and regional government sites worldwide with useful information for businesses.

Country Specific:

United Kingdom