Posts Tagged ‘importing’


4 Ways to Benefit from Free Trade Agreements

Are you familiar with the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the responsibilities you assume when receiving the benefits of duty free status on imported goods?

With the relative ease in enjoying the benefits of NAFTA, you can also take advantage of free trade on importations from other participating countries.

Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)

Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are agreements made between countries who desire to reduce trade barriers on goods manufactured in their respective countries. Canada has entered into Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with several countries including Colombia, Peru, Panama, and Chile to name a few.

Things to consider when evaluating your costs and responsibilities:

1. Determine if the goods are coming direct from a foreign country

In order to receive the benefits of a FTA, the goods must be manufactured in the respective country, qualify under the rules of origin and be shipped directly from the foreign country to Canada.  In some instances, it is necessary to transfer the goods through a third country.  A transportation scenario like this can still meet the FTA rules, but there are some conditions that must be met.  In this instance, if the importer wishes to claim duty free benefits under a FTA, they will need to have proof that the goods were moved “in bond” through another foreign country and have never entered the commerce of that country.


2. Make sure the exporter has sufficient knowledge to complete FTA documents

It is imperative that your foreign supplier has sufficient knowledge of the Free Trade Agreement.  The person completing and signing the FTA Certificate of Origin is declaring that all statements are true and accurate; in other words, that due process has been observed and the goods listed actually qualify.  While the foreign supplier is responsible to supply the respective FTA Certificate of Origin, the Canadian importer is ultimately responsible for duties, fines and penalties if at a later date and it is discovered that the goods do not qualify.  If you have reservations regarding the validity of the supplier’s claim, you may wish to pay the regular rate of duty.


3. Verify the tariff classification

Our previous blog  ‘4 Reasons for Determining the Correct Harmonized Tariff Classification’ covers the reasons of this important step.  In reference to FTAs, the obvious assumption is that goods imported under free trade should be duty free.  This is incorrect.

Establishing the rate of duty for an imported good depends, in part, on determining the proper H.S Tariff Classification. Tariff classification can be very complex and speaks to the essential character of the article being imported:

  • What article is being imported?
  • What is the article made of?
  • What is the item used for?

It is very important that the H.S. Tariff Classification is correctly assigned to each product, as the H.S. Tariff Classification determines the rate of duty.  If you are unsure regarding the H.S. Tariff Classification, please contact Pacific Customs Brokers for assistance.

To learn more about The Harmonized System Code (HS) Code:

  1. Read another one of our blog articles: How Much Do You Know About H.S. Tariff Codes?
  2. Attend a Harmonized System Tariff & Classification Workshop.


4. Be aware of the rules of origin

Not all FTAs are the same. Trade agreements were endorsed to provide advantages for importers and exporters; you must understand the responsibilities in order to utilize the savings.


Additional Resources:

For more information on the respective Canadian Free Trade Agreements, visit the  Trade Negotiations and Agreements section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada.


Has your business benefited from Free Trade Agreements? Do  you have questions about Free Trade Agreements? We welcome your comments below.


The Importance of a Bill of Lading

What is a Bill of Lading (BOL):

A bill of lading is a legal document between the shipper of particular goods and the carrier detailing the type, quantity, date of direct shipment and destination of the goods being carried. The bill of lading also serves as a receipt of shipment when the goods are delivered to the predetermined destination. This document must accompany the shipped goods, no matter the form of transportation, and must be signed by an authorized representative from the carrier, shipper and receiver. The carrier or the shipper can complete it, but the driver of the transport company is to sign and date it once the goods are on-board.

What does Customs look for on a Bill of Lading?

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) requires to know:

  • the number of pieces
  • total weight and
  • date of direct shipment for each shipment on board

The number of pieces, total weight and date of direct shipment is a requirement for the declaration made by the importer of record/customs broker. It is highly recommended that you provide a copy of the bill of lading to the importer of record/customs broker so that the information can be confirmed against the corresponding invoice(s) being declared. If a bill of lading is not provided to the customs broker, the carrier must still advise by other means, the number of pieces, total weight and date if direct shipment.

A carrier must always make the bill of lading available to a CBSA officer in the event it is requested.


Do you have questions on a Bill of Lading? Please share yours in the comments section below or contact Pacific Customs Brokers.

Bill of Lading: Top 4 Reasons You Need One

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) needs and wants to know exactly what’s on your truck. To help make sure all goods on your truck are accounted for and declared, you must supply a bill of lading or pick up receipt when faxing your Pre-Arrival Review System (PARS) entry to your customs broker.

Why is a Bill of Lading used?

1. The main purpose of the standard straight bill of lading is that it is a contract of carriage.

Other useful purposes include:

2. It may incorporate the full terms of the contract between the consignor and the carrier by reference.
3. It is a receipt signed by the carrier confirming whether goods matching the contract description have been received in good condition.
4. When completed in full, it helps the customs broker match up commercial clearance paperwork to ensure they are able to make a complete declaration for all goods aboard that truck.

The carrier or the shipper can complete it, but the driver of the transport company is to sign and date it once the goods are onboard his/her truck.

Important information on a bill of lading:

For Customs purposes, some of the most important details on the bill of lading are:

  1. Piece count (total skids, boxes, pallets)
  2. Weight (total weight of the goods listed)
  3. Description of goods
  4. Date (the date of pick up/export is used to establish the date for exchange rate)

If there is only one (1) location you have picked up goods from, then only one (1) bill of lading or pick up receipt is required. If you are picking up from multiple locations, then you need to have a bill of lading or pick up receipt for each location you’ve picked up from.

Commercial Documents

When picking up freight from the shipper, they may give commercial documents to you. If they do, please send them to the customs broker with the bill of lading or pick up receipt. It is important that you send the customs broker all documents you have. It helps ensure that all required documents are in place to declare those goods to Customs.

If the shipper does not supply you with commercial documents, please let the customs broker know as soon as you know, so that they can work on getting the documents in order.

Other Documents

Often, a commercial invoice and bill of lading are sufficient for the customs broker and CBSA to process your load. There are many instances where special documentation will be required. Some examples of goods that need additional documents are:

  • CFIA regulated goods (fresh fruits & vegetables, fresh cut flowers)
  • Transport Canada regulated goods (vehicles) – which require another government agency (in addition to CBSA) to review the import

When faxing your PARS to the customs broker (at least five hours in advance), simply affix your barcode label to the bill of lading, making sure you are not covering up any important information. Be sure to clearly indicate which port you’re crossing at and on what date and time. Please also include your phone number so that you can be contacted in the case there are any documentation issues.

Remember to ALWAYS confirm that your load has been set up before you get to the border.

Be accountable for the goods you are transporting and your cross border experience. Providing all the appropriate paperwork and allowing the customs broker time to do their part, will truly ease your journey.


Do you have questions on a Bill of Lading? Share them in our comments section below.



14 Must-Know Tips For Importing

Here are some quick tips to help with a smooth import into Canada:

  1. Get detailed, factual information about the commodity you are importing.
  2. Customs clearance is not instantaneous. A customs broker has to recreate your Canada Customs Invoice(CCI) line by line electronically for the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and other government departments. Once transmitted, the entry has to be reviewed by employees of the above mentioned departments.
  3. Determine if you are importing a regulated commodity.
  4. You should use one customs broker for all modes of transportation and all ports of entry.
  5. Examinations can be performed by any of the departments involved in importation.
  6. Some items are prohibited from entry into Canada — always do research on your commodity before you import.
  7. A shipment can be examined, even if previously accepted by Customs.
  8. Administrative Monetary Penalty System (AMPS) can be issued if any information provided is not in compliance with Customs regulations or found to be untrue.
  9. A customs broker requires certain information such as country of origin, currency and a complete description for every shipment, even in instances of repeat imports.
  10. Duty rates are in place to protect Canadian industry; not to inconvenience you. If a product has an extremely high duty rate, it is most likely for this reason.
  11. There is no such thing as “free”. No charge, free samples and giveaways still require all of the same information for Customs clearance as if they were purchased, including an accurate commercial value. Duties and taxes are still applicable.
  12. Hiring a customs broker enables you to access years of knowledge, experience and expertise in declaring your goods to Customs.
  13. Government forms can be confusing to complete. Save yourself time and read the instruction sheet before filling the form to ensure that it is completed correctly.
  14. Some commodities require additional documentation and certification in order to clear through CBSA and other government departments. Without the required documents, commodities can be refused entry into Canada.


Do you have any pointers that would be helpful for an importer? Share them in our comments section below.

Help! My Shipment is Stuck at the Border

Always OpenMany times, we as customs brokers receive phone calls from importers, shippers, dispatchers and carriers frantically trying to find out why their shipment is “stuck at the border”. Lucky for them, we are ALWAYS Open 24/7, with live reception and no voice mail.

Sometimes it is a very simple answer and other incidence’s are more complex. Below are some of the most common reasons why a shipment may be stuck at the border.

1. Documents make no mention of who the customs broker is to assist with the clearance.  “Customs Clearance- contact Pacific Customs Brokers 888.538.1566”

2. Documents are hard to decipher who the actual Importer of Record is. The Importer of Record (IOR) can be;

  •  The receiver of the goods – usually called “consignee”
  • The shipper (acting as a “Non-Resident Importer” (NRI) and already set up with a Canadian customs broker)
  • A third party having their shipments drop shipped from another location and in most cases will also be acting as a “Non-Resident Importer

3. Neither the shipper or the consignee have not set up anything formally with a Canadian customs broker to effect customs clearance.

4. The driver/freight company picking up freight only has a Bill of Lading and is not given any other documents such as a commercial invoice or Canada Customs invoice.

5. Documents/commercial invoice does not have enough information to be able to prepare the entry for presentation and clearance with Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). Some of the information that can hold this up is:

  • not enough information to  classify the goods (Tariff Classification)
  • total value or individual values are missing
  • country of manufacture is missing
  • total number of pieces is missing
  • weight is missing
  • commercial invoice document only shows product numbers or abbreviated number & item name (no general description of what the goods are). See below for examples.

For example: — 1956842ftp clr scn/cpy/prnt (not an acceptable description)

–   1956842ftp — Scanner/copier/printer unit (an acceptable description)

6. The document is not the correct document to obtain a customs clearance (i.e. purchase order or pick ticket)

7. A few more reasons freight crossing the border is often delayed may be due to the actual commodity being shipped. Perhaps there are other government agencies that are involved in approving the goods for Customs clearance, such as items that are under control of Canadian Food Inspections Agency (CFIA).

They require CFIA approval and some commodities are under quota and require an Import Permit. Perhaps the goods are listed on the Import Control List and require an Import Permit, such as some steel items.    Meat shipments and those requirements are also extensive.

It is always a good idea to check with a customs broker for any special requirements or extra documentation and / or extra steps that may need to be taken to properly clear the goods across the border prior to ordering or shipping.

When in doubt, be sure to contact your customs broker. They’ll properly advise on what you need to do and what they need in order for your shipment (s) to avoid delays and have a seamless Customs clearance process.