How to effectively manage Free Trade Programs and their audits

The United States has 14 different active FTA programs that involve 20 different countries. Some of the programs have been active for many years while several have recently been updated. Managing these programs has some level of difficulty associated with them; you must know what goods qualify, obtain the data in a timely manner and collect the right documentation from the exporter. If you are able to meet the above requirements then your ability to have a successful procurement has been achieved.

Melissa Pinheiro speaking at Houston 2019

In a recent BDP compliance seminar in Houston, a live poll was conducted with the audience, which represented many different companies from various industries about the management of their FTA programs. Some interesting results were captured and I would like to share the following details with you: Approximately 60% of the companies are presently managing multiple FTAs within their company that range from 3-10 different countries being involved. The experience level of the people that work on the FTA program was also an important item and we found that a majority of the audience had 4 plus years of working knowledge. This result is a very enlightening one, knowing the companies have designated this role as a very important function that requires specific expertise to manage all of the programs.

Currently, the United States is working and negotiating with several different countries to develop new FTA programs. The poll results came back with another interesting result, in that India was identified as a major country that would be the greatest value back to their company. The audience also informed us that the United States needs to be more aggressive in the world market by establishing several new FTAs for US firms.

The results tell us all some interesting details on how companies today in the US manage the upfront process associated with the FTA. US importers have many challenges when it comes to FTA programs: collecting data and documents up front is an important component, however auditing your FTA programs after the goods have arrived to ensure the accuracy of the details provided is also a crucial step. CBP will audit the import process to ensure the accuracy of the claims, the lack of reasonable care to substantiate the claims for eligibility could result in penalties and loss of profitability. 

Each FTA program is different so keeping your company up to date is an important task, creating the infrastructure can be a big help in the collection and retention of the documents involved with the programs.

FTAs are not an easy task  - they can become time-consuming in dealing with multiple internal departments as well as the most important one: your customer.

Should you have any questions related to FTAs for your business, please reach out to me directly with any inquiries.