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Global Supply Chain Profiles: Who’s Who in International Trade

By Tony Azzara

Imports and exports traverse a complex international trade system in which any shipment could “touch” a dozen or more organizations along a serpentine path from seller to buyer. For small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) wishing to grow through international trade, understanding who’s who at all those links in the global supply chain can be critical.

Our 10-part series on who’s who in international trade explains the roles of key organizations that provide services to import-export businesses at many important stages through which goods must pass on their way to cross-border customers. From trade finance providers to customs agents and brokers, to cargo carriers, port operators and warehouses, we profile the types of businesses that SMEs may need to help them conduct international trade.


In many cases, we also explore how digitization and e-commerce are causing those businesses to change—including increasing the overlap among participants in the already complicated dance of global trade.


Part 1: Finding the Trade Finance or Supply Chain Finance You Need


Buyers and sellers in international trade often need financing options to help them meet commitments and reduce risks. SMEs expanding their international presence face challenges from large commercial banks that have deemphasized trade finance. Fortunately, alternatives exist, ranging from smaller regional banks, non-bank lenders, and government-funded agencies to supply chain finance specialists. Learn more about how to find the trade finance or supply chain finance you may need.


Part 2: SMEs Can Lean on Customs Brokers’ Expertise


U.S. businesses looking to import goods from abroad turn to customs brokers, an individual or firm licensed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), to assist importers and exporters in meeting U.S. government requirements. The customs broker is a global supply chain intermediary between the business and the customs department and requires expertise in numerous international trade areas. Especially for SMEs, customs brokers’ expertise can be a valuable assist. Today, customs brokers are changing and adapting to the age of digital transformation, with the creation of digital broker networks, among other things. See some of the ways SMEs engaged in international trade can lean on customs brokers’ expertise.


Part 3: SMEs Eye International Freight Forwarders, Emerging Tech


SMEs often lack the infrastructure and distribution assets to facilitate global shipments, even if they are able to successfully secure international trade. But freight forwarders allow companies to take advantage of national and international markets without having to establish an expensive shipping and warehousing infrastructure. Freight forwarders can also help manage customs requirements. Freight forwarders are changing though, adopting new technologies to better serve customers. Learn more about international freight forwarders and how emerging technology is changing them.


Part 4: Customs Agents’ Crucial Role in International Trade


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and its customs agents, enforce U.S. and international trade laws prior to merchandise arriving at U.S. ports of entry, once merchandise arrives in port, and after it is released into the U.S. market. Whether dealing with them directly or through a broker or freight forwarder, understanding the role customs agents play in the global supply chain can save businesses time and money. Gain insight into the crucial role of customs agents in international trade.


Part 5: The Port Operator’s Vital Role in International Trade


Port operators play an integral role in ensuring global supply chain efficiency, especially as customer expectations rise. Port operators get shipments through customs, store merchandise, and manage the necessary port-operation equipment. Each port’s unique combination of operations, geography, and governance challenge port operators. Unpredictable factors that complicate international trade such as hazardous weather, and geopolitical challenges, explain why port operators must prepare up to six months in advance to ensure consumers can click on two-day shipping with confidence. Learn more about the vital link port operators provide to international trade.


Part 6: What is Warehouse Operations Management?


Warehouse operators help companies satisfy customer demands and ensure an efficient, cost-effective global supply chain—and are challenged by the rise of e-commerce. New technological advances and warehouse management techniques promise to increase warehouse management efficiency. See how warehouse operators fit into international trade.


Part 7: What the Future May Hold for International Agents & Distributors


International agents and distributors can help companies create or maintain international presence by taking on the regulatory, financial, and logistical complexity of conducting business in a variety of jurisdictions across vast geographies. Find out what the future may hold for international agents and distributors.


Part 8: Logistics Management’s Role in International Trade


Logistics management companies plan, control, and implement procedures to store and transport goods and track products from their points of origin to their final destinations. But supply chain industry consolidation and evolution is making it more challenging for companies to differentiate logistics management companies from others involved in the global behemoth of international trade. Read more about the part logistics management plays in international trade.


Part 9: Cargo Insurance: Protecting Against Losses When You Ship Internationally


Even though the global supply chain continues to get more and more reliable, the fact is that sometimes goods still get destroyed, damaged, lost, or stolen. Cargo insurance helps mitigates the risk of loss that comes with shipping internationally. But cargo insurance carriers are subject to a complex series of domestic and international trade laws, regulations, and treaties. Learn more about protecting against losses in international trade by having the right cargo insurance.


Part 10: Using Trade Credit Insurance to Manage Export Risks and Promote Growth


For many companies, foreign markets continue to offer important opportunities for growth—but that growth opportunity comes with greater risk, too. As global economic and geopolitical uncertainty rises, trade credit insurance may help U.S. businesses capture benefits of international trade while mitigating at least some of the risks. See how trade credit insurance can help companies manage import-export risk and promote growth.

Tony Azzara - The Author

The Author

Tony Azzara

Tony Azzara is a business technology writer and researcher based in Queens, NY, whose work focuses primarily on financial services technology.

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