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Trade Documents

International Proforma Invoice

The International Proforma Invoice is an administrative document which is mostly used as a commercial offer, in other words, as a detailed document about the sale conditions and which contains precise information for the buyer. If the Proforma invoice is signed by both parties, this establishes a commitment and acquires the nature of a sales contract.

Apart from its use as a commercial offer, in international transactions the International Proforma Invoice is also used for: obtaining import licenses, authorizations for payments in currencies, customs procedures prior to operations, receipt of the amounts paid into an account (prepayment), opening documentary credits, and for the sending of commercial samples.

International Commercial Invoice

The International Commercial Invoice is an administrative document which contains all the information about the international sale. The item, quantity, price for the products/services sold, delivery and payment conditions, as well as the taxes and other expenses that might be included in the sale, are detailed in an International Commercial Invoice.

The importer, with the original of the International Commercial Invoice, declares to the tax authority of his country the amount that it must pay, to who it is going to pay and the agreed means of payment. For the exporter, this document means a documentary evidence of the sales that it has made in foreign markets.

In operations with third countries, the International Commercial Invoice is part of the customs declaration, upon which, the taxes and tariff rights applied, must be paid at the moment at which the products enter the country. In operations with EC countries, this document is used as a declaration of the transaction and tax exemption to comply with the basic tax settlement conditions.

Packing List

The Packing List is a more detailed version of the commercial invoice but without price information. It must include, inter alia, the following: invoice number, quantity and description of the goods, weight of the goods, number of packages, and shipping marks and numbers.

A copy of the Packing List is often attached to the shipment itself and another copy is sent directly to the consignee to assist in checking the shipment when received.

Although not required in all transactions, it is required by some countries and some buyers.

Delivery Note

A Delivery Note is a document accompanying the shipment of goods that list de description and quantity of goods delivered. A copy of the Delivery Note, signed by the buyer or consignee is returned to the seller or consignor as a proof of delivery.

Delivery Notes have a dual function for the exporter: justify the removal of the products from its store and proof credit delivery to the importer and therefore it is important that de importer sign the copy provided by the carrier. For the importer, Delivery Notes serve to verify that the goods received match those listed on the purchase order or contract. For the carrier is the document used as a proof of delivery of the goods.

International Purchase Order

Usually, international transactions are based on the buyer´s Purchase Order. Issuance of a international purchase order is normally preceded by an exchange of information between exporter and importer with respect to the price, quality and quantity of products, etc.

When the transaction details have been agreed, the seller may issue an informal price quote or a more detailed proforma invoice. If the buyer accepts the seller´s price and other conditions, the buyer issues a purchase order.

The International Purchase Order may constitute a binding offer or a binding acceptance, depending on the circumstances. Usually in international transactions involving a large commercial buyer, the purchase order is often the main contract form and constitutes the first legally binding offer. In such cases, the seller´s signature of the purchase order will constitute the acceptance of the transaction.

General Conditions of International Sale

General Conditions of International Sale is a document which details the general conditions that a seller (exporter) offers to a buyer (importer) for the supply of goods or provision of services. It is used when a seller makes repeated sales to the same customer or for sales of medium and low amounts in which it is not considered necessary to formalize a contract.

The General Conditions of International Sale deal with terms and conditions such as applicable law, warranties, retention of ownership or return of goods. These conditions are commonly found in the reverse side of the sale document (commercial invoice, international purchase order, etc.) with a reference to them on the front side.

CMR Transport Document

The CMR transport document is an international consignment note used by drivers, operators and forwarders alike that governs the responsibilities and liabilities of the parties to a contract for the carriage of goods by road internationally.

The sender (exporter) can fill in the CMR himself, or can have a freight forwarder or the carrier to do it for him. However, he is responsible for the accuracy of the information and must sign the form when the goods are collected. The consignee (importer) will also sign the form on delivery, which is essential for the carrier to be able to confirm the delivery of the goods and to justify the payment for its services.

The CMR transport document is not a document of title and is therefore non-negotiable.

Bill of Lading BL

A Bill of Lading B/L is a document issued by the agent of a carrier to a shipper, signed by the captain, agent, or owner of a vessel, furnishing written evidence regarding receipt of the goods (cargo), the conditions on which transportation is made (contract of carriage), and the engagement to deliver goods at the prescribed port of destination to the lawful holder of the bill of lading.

A Bill of Lading is, therefore, both a receipt for merchandise and a contract to deliver it as freight. There are a number of different types of bills of lading and a number of regulations that relate to them as a group of documents.

Since this is a negotiable instrument, the Bill of Lading may be endorsed and transferred to a third party while the goods are in transit.

Air Waybill AWB

An Air Waybill AWB is a non-negotiable transport document covering transport of cargo from airport to airport.

The Air Waybill must name a consignee (who can be the buyer), and it should not be required to be issued “to order” and/or “to be endorsed” as it is not a title of property of the merchandise. Since it is not negotiable, and it does not evidence title to the goods, in order to maintain some control of goods not paid for by cash in advance, sellers often consign air shipments to their sales agents, or freight forwarders’ agents in the buyer’s country.

The Air Waybill is not a negotiable document. It indicates only acceptance of goods for carriage.

Multimodal Bill of Lading FBL

A Multimodal Bill of Lading FBL is an international transport documents covering two or more modes of transport, such as shipping by road and by sea.

It is also used as a carriage contract and receipt that the goods have been received.

This document is issued only by authorized forwarders integrated into FIATA (International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations).

When it is issued "to the order", the Multimodal Bill of Lading is title of ownership of the goods and can therefore be negotiated.

As a rule, Multimodal Bills of Lading are not negotiable documents.

ATA Carnet

The ATA Carnet is a document that allows the temporary import export and import of merchandise into more than 80 countries while eliminating duties and value-added taxes (VAT) required in customs at the time of importation. The Initials "ATA" are an acronym of "Admission Temporary Admission".

ATA Carnets cover: commercial samples, professional equipment and goods for presentation or use at trade fairs, shows and exhibitions.

The ATA carnet is made up of several colored sheets of paper including a green cover which serves as the registration of goods, yellow exportation and re-importation counterfoils for use in the Holder’s country, and white importation and re-exportation counterfoils and corresponding vouchers for use in foreign countries.

Goods not re-exported from the foreign country by midnight of the expiry date or the date noted by the foreign customs authority as the “final date for re-exportation” (whichever is earlier) are subject to a claim from foreign customs.

Irrevocable Letter of Credit LC

In an Irrevocable Letter of Credit L/C the importer´s bank agrees to the exporter (called "the beneficiary") that the exporter will get paid if it can prove it has shipped the proper goods by providing the corresponding documents required by the Letter of Credit. Exporters like Letters of Credit because the advance assurance of payment ensures the seller that it will not waste time preparing or shipping an order to a buyer who ultimately refuse to accept or pay for the goods.

An Irrevocable Letter of Credit cannot be amended or cancelled without the consent of all Parties.

The terms "Letters of Credit" and "Documentary Credit" mean the same thing. Exporters, importers and bankers in some parts of the world (USA, Asia) tend to use the term "Letter of Credit" or the abbreviation "L/C", while in other areas (Europe) prefer to use "Documentary Credit" or "D/C".

Cargo Insurance Certificate

The Cargo Insurance Certificate is a document indicating the type and amount of insurance coverage in force on a particular shipment. It includes the name of the insurance company and conditions of coverage.

The original copy of the Cargo Insurance Certificate is required in the filing of a claim. Copies of documents necessary to support an insurance claim include the insurance policy or certificate, bill of lading, invoice, packing list, and a survey report (usually prepared by a claims agent).

Certificate of Origin

The Certificate of Origin certifies the country in which the goods originated or in which the preponderance of manufacturing or value was added. Also constitutes a declaration by the exporter. Virtually every country in the world considers the origin of imported goods when determining what duty will be assessed on the woods. Nevertheless the exporter´s own certification on company letterhead will suffice.

The origin does not refer to the country where the goods were shipped from but to the country where they were made. In the event the products were manufactured in two or more countries, origin is obtained in the country where the last substantial economically justified working or processing is carried out. An often used practice is that if more than 50% of the cost of producing the goods originates from one country, the "national content" is more than 50%, then, that country is acceptable as the country of origin.

In most countries, Chambers of Commerce are the key agent in the delivery of certificates or origin. However, in some countries, this privilege may also be extended to other entities such as ministries or customs authorities.

Certificate of Origin Form A

The Certificate of Origin Form A is a type of Certificate of Origin that allows imports from the countries included in the GSP (General System of Preferences) - developing countries - to qualify for the elimination or reduction of tariffs as this system gives preferential treatment .

This Certificate Of Origin Form A was adopted by the UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) as a common certificate for products manufactured in countries that are included in the GSP.

This Certificate is issued by the Chambers of Commerce, customs, consular or duly authorized entities in the country of origin of the product.

Inspection Certificate

The Inspection Certificate for pre shipment inspection is a document issued by an authority indicating that goods have been inspected (typically according to a set of industry, customer, government, or carrier specifications) prior to shipment and the results of the inspection.

Inspection certificates are generally obtained from neutral testing organizations (e.g., a government entity or independent service company such as SGS o Bureau Veritas). In some cases the Inspection Certificate can come from the manufacturer or shipper, but not from the forwarder or logistics firm.

Analysis Certificate

The Certificate of Analysis is used to verify that the goods exported meet certain parameters, mainly of a physical-chemical nature, such as composition, moisture, acidity, inter alia, which correspond to what was agreed in the terms of sale of the product.

This Certificate can be issued by a certification authority (appointed by the exporter or importer) or at the exporter's own laboratories, when a relationship of trust has already been established between the parties.

These Certificates are mostly used for food products, wines and spirits, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

Phytosanitary Certificate

The purpose of a Phytosanitary Certificate is to avoid spreading pests, insects or parasites in plant products and other related services through foreign trade operations. It is also used by some countries to certify that the wood packaging standard (pallets, euro pallets, boxes) are free of pests.

This official document certifies that the plants or plant products covered by the certificate have been inspected according to appropriate procedures and are considered to be free from quarantines pests and practically free from other injurious pests, and that they are considered to conform with the current phytosanitary regulations of the importing country. The Phytosanitary Certificate facilitates trade but it is not a trade document.

The Phytosanitary Certificate must be issued before the customs clearance for export and/or import. It is granted for a period of sixty days covered the usual deadlines for shipping and international freight.

Kosher Certificate

The Kosher Certificate is a document issued by certification agencies and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, in which a Rabbi certifies that the products referred (usually food) fulfill the biblical precepts of the Jewish religion.

This document in not only required for Israel but also for other countries in which there are Jewish communities calling for kosher products, such as the USA, United Kingdom, France, Russia, Argentina or Mexico.

Kosher Certificates are requested especially for food: meat (slaughter of animals and salting process), fish, milk and eggs, canned and preserved foods. They also include feed additives (preservatives and dyes) and fiber of animal origin.

Products that are kosher certified are often marked with a kosher symbol, or simply the letter K (as the letter M is used to identify Halal products for Muslim population).

There are several institutions and organizations around the world providing Kosher Certification Services.

Halal Certificate

The Halal Certificate is a document that guarantees that the products and services aimed at the Muslim population meet the requirements of Islamic law and therefore are suitable for consumption in both Muslim-majority countries and in Western countries where there significant population group who practice Islam (France, Germany, United Kingdom).

It is mainly applied to meat products and other food products such as milk, preserves and additives.

Products that are halal certified are often marked with a halal symbol, or simply the letter M (as the letter K is used to identify kosher products for Jewish population).

There are several institutions and organizations around the word providing Halal Certification Services.

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