A new start for 2021?

cranes loading MSC and Maersk containers on ship

Regulatory changes and the impact of increased global trade have brought many new and recurring challenges to exporters and importers for years. 2020 was not a different year in this regard, however, they were heightened in our communications and day to day work efforts. 

BDP recently conducted some live polling during our annual regulatory event at the end of February; the results provided by attendees gave some interesting insights into the current work efforts of many global companies as well some insight for 2021.   

Meeting customers’ demands, or the customer service aspects of international trade, were not one of the participants’ major concerns.

This was a surprise, as many new challenges arose in 2020.  

The poll results indicated the major concerns were: capacity restraints at 21%, tariffs at 20%, and then production/suppliers’ issues came in close at 19%. It was no surprise that tariffs were a high concern as the tariffs add significant dollars to the cost of goods. (Attendees were permitted to choose more than one issue.) 

Please allow me to elaborate on one important issue that impacts US importers: Forced Labor. Forced Labor is receiving increased attention at many of the senior levels of major manufacturers. The poll asked if companies have experienced a level of concern and the results told us that 52% have had limited interruptions and 20% had moderate and 20% were unsure at this time. These results are interesting to understand, since Customs and Border Protection has been increasing their focus on this issue with inspections and detentions. Forced labor has risen to the top of the mountain and global manufacturers need to make sure that they establish the right ownership of this issue inside of their company so that clear policies are enacted.

Cargo Inspection customs

All of the issues identified in the poll are somewhat related as companies have made a strong effort to provide established and compliant manufacturing processes for their products, and labor has become a core issue that global companies are managing these days. We can see that companies in 2021 are now seeking the opportunity to maximize their opportunities around the world with a focus on source points and free trade agreements. With companies managing these concerns much work then falls back into the world of regulatory staffing, education and the import channel of communication. The attendees were asked a series of questions regarding their ability to staff, as well as keep up with all of the regulatory rules and regulations that were published in 2020 and already in 2021.  

We did see some interesting results that were consistent for importers as well as exporters.  

One of those issues consistent to importers and exporters was the new WFH “Work From Home” policies that were implemented last March.

The push of new regulations did not stop yet the workforce was pushed to a new and different environment which then places stress on how to educate and stay current. The results indicate that most staffing was held firm with no change 60%, while 50% of the attendees stated that they do not see an increase in staffing for the year 2021.

38% of attendees stated that they do not know this impact for the year and 13% have already increased support in place. As new regulatory changes are introduced this may impact current companies’ policies that have been set as well as the communication of these changes, the results presented tells that companies did not change nor need to change many of the current policies and most companies felt very confident that their communication channels at their companies have kept their staff well informed.

In 2021, uncertainties will continue. Companies can do very little to move the regulatory needle other than to comply with the regulations that are in front of them. Companies need to focus on trade facilitation and ensure that they know their customers, suppliers, and all of the parties that are involved in the new supply chains.

There is a good acronym that has been used for many years in the industry: KYC (Know Your Customers!), I would like to recommend that we update to a new updated one that meets today’s new world: KYCS (Know your Customers and Suppliers).

Moving forward and adhering to our new world, our new workplace, and our new supply chains is the best advice that we all can work on.