Certifications for Trade Compliance professionals

Many Global Trade Compliance professionals complain that there are insufficient certifications and courses available that are relevant to the industry. Specifically, no widely recognized International Trade Compliance Certification exists. Private suppliers have sprung up with offerings to fill this gap but none have been able to attain global recognition comparable to certifications like the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Professional certification. ISO standards relating to import and export compliance activities are non-existent. Very few academic institutions provide clear pathways to a career in trade compliance.

Import Export compliance certification is also difficult to create a global standard for, as any such qualification will not be able to take into account the Customs procedures of all countries in the world. As proof of competency in such areas, individuals would very much rather rely on local Customs broker examinations instead.

A handful of certifications that individuals in this field may be interested in are:

Ideally, any certification program will also include a training program that leads to the qualifying examination. However, many training programs do exist that do not culminate in a compliance certification. In many cases, these can also prove very useful in advancing the individual’s career in the field.

One common drawback in the trade compliance industry is that while concepts can be universal, the focus can vary greatly from industry to industry. This can sometimes make it difficult for an individual doing compliance in the oil and gas sector to make a switch to doing compliance in a company dealing with electronic parts.

A unifying standard and certification will go a long way towards reducing barriers that prevent compliance professionals from switching between industries.

Training for Trade Compliance professionals

Training courses for individuals interested in international trade compliance are widely available. However, these are usually module-based instead of being a complete end-to-end program. Nonetheless, several would offer an examination at the end of the course as a show of proof that some level of competency was attained. One drawback common to almost all courses is that they dwell heavily on theoretical aspects of topics. For example, a course on HS classification will cover the approach to classifying composite products, but it will not prepare the individual to deal with a situation where Customs authorities refuse to treat a multi-functional product as a composite product in the first place.

Several options are available to receive training in the following areas of compliance competence:

  1. HS Classification training
  2. Incoterms
  3. Customs procedures
  4. Free Trade Agreements and Countries of Origin
  5. Customs valuation
  6. Transfer Pricing
  7. Export controls
  8. Transport vendor management

The list above is hardly exhaustive. 

While many options exist, a good place to start would be the World Customs Organization’s Academy.

In addition to training courses, there are also many resources freely available online that individuals can use to proactively improve their mastery in trade compliance topics.

Although these compliance concepts can apply in general theory to most countries, it must be noted that some training courses are specific only to some countries.

Future of Trade Compliance certification

The global trade compliance industry has longed desires for unifying standards and protocols, i.e, something like the CFA qualification in the finance industry or the Six Sigma qualification in manufacturing. However, with Customs procedures and laws varying widely across countries, it would be a daunting task for any organization to establish a set of standards to define excellence in the field.

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