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The USA is still a major market for imports and exports

By Gary Whittle, Commercial Manager, Meachers Group. Despite constant media coverage of the growth of imports and exports to and from the Far East, the USA is still Britain's largest single export market, taking £28.5bn of UK goods in 2004. The UK is the sixth largest exporter to the US, after Canada, Mexico, China, Japan and Germany.

Cracking America is a common goal for pop bands and UK companies alike. The sheer size of the country means it should be treated as a series of regional markets with varying characteristics. However apart from a few import quotas and strategic industry-ownership restrictions, British firms doing business in the USA face few barriers.

The US economy is integrated and largely self-contained with every majority industry represented. US manufacturers often source components overseas and UK goods have traditionally enjoyed a good reputation for quality in the USA. The USA presents opportunities for UK companies in all sectors not just for exporting but importing as well.

Dealing with shipping and US Customs can be very complicated and has become even more so since the requirement for increased security measures. To ensure full compliance it is important to consider using a freight forwarding company to manage shipments. One of the advantages is that Freight Forwarders regularly advise exporters on every aspect of shipping, saving them time and money. You can expect your freight forwarder to provide a detailed estimate of anticipated costs like freight costs, port charges, consular fees, costs of special documentation, insurance costs, and their handling fees. Additionally, the freight forwarder will recommend packing methods that are cost effective and ensure your products make it to their destination in one piece.

But a freight forwarder's service doesn't stop when your products leave the dock. They are also a valuable resource for helping exporters navigate inland transportation routes after your products are unloaded at a foreign port. They can organise warehousing, onward transport and even add-on services such as pick and pack.

Given the expertise and value freight forwarders provide, most businesses continue to use their services even after they have become seasoned exporters. It is possible to replicate some of their services in-house, but unless your exporting business grows considerably, doing it yourself will probably not be the most efficient use of your time and resources and staying abreast of the constant changes in legislation is both onerous and time consuming.

Freight forwarders with integrated freight forwarding services, such as Meachers, will have close ties with Customs & Excise to ease goods through customs clearance and ensure a flow of goods by providing import and export documentation, freight management and 4th party logistics.

These services together with a strong bond with customers and an uncompromising commitment to quality and service are prerequisite for a top rate freight forwarding agent. It is also essential that freight forwarders are members of BIFA, have excellent organisational, planning and technical knowledge and a skilled team of qualified staff to ensure that every project is handling meticulously.

Another critical reason for better access to information is security. In the name of security, new government regulations and mandates are now a fact of life. The bills of lading must be accurate; all products must have full security and routing data, and everyone must know where and how the freight is moving. Freight forwarders take over these increasing responsibilities from their customers, ensuring that goods are shipped on time, and not held up by incomplete or inaccurate paperwork.

Managing logistics is critical because the bottom-line competitiveness of imports or exports to or from the US can be determined by shipping costs and efficiency. Therefore, the quality of your freight forwarders and the delivery of the international services they provide can make or break your import or export operation.

Exporters fail every day because they are unable to deliver their products in a timely and reliable manner. A reputation for late delivery is easy to acquire but difficult to correct. Therefore it is very important that an exporter or importer chooses the right freight forwarder.

Freight forwarders vary significantly in the skills, capability, and delivery of services they offer. Some forwarders are specialists on certain trade routes, such as the USA, or have specific knowledge of certain commodities. It is therefore important to consider the following as potential criteria to submit to forwarders in order to obtain proposals that can then be compared:

• US import/export documentation, rating, carrier selection

• Post-selection, packaging, insurance, warehousing, EDI

• Knowledge of your product

• Logistics consulting

• Customs clearance, labelling, hours of operation, rate negotiation

• Export compliance management

• In-house education and training.

UK and USA companies are gaining international experience and are increasingly becoming successful and profitable through import-export trade. Cultural differences play a pivotal role in buying or selling and establishing ongoing relationships. Establishing a solid relationship with your freight forwarder is an essential factor in any company's success. Ends

Meachers Group Holdings Ltd.
Mauretania Road
Southampton SO16 0YS
Tel: 023 80739999
Fax: 023 80 740208

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