By Anne Van de Heetkamp, Descartes, VP of Product Management (Global Trade Intelligence)
HS Code Classification

It goes without saying that we have to apply the correct Harmonized System (HS) code and tariff treatment to goods based on the country of import prior to shipping. While businesses have always had to operate in a state of flux on many fronts simultaneously, they have to be much more on their toes in this day and age because change is more frequent and more disruptive.  

Nations are constantly tweaking their tariff codes, regulations and policies. That is a given. And there are also the routine but major updates by the World Trade Organization every few years, with the next one coming in 2022. 

A Quickening Pace of Change  

In recent times, though, it has not been easy to keep up with the pace of change. Take Brexit, the HS revamp in Mexico, and flare-up of trade conflicts. As well, COVID-19 has made a distinct impression on the global landscape. It has transformed our lives. In some instances for the better (more of us can work from the comfort of our homes), and in other instances for the worse (we have to socially distance). 

The impact to international trade of this more turbulent ebbing and flowing of sea changes has been the need for businesses to be more agile and resilient in order to remain competitive. COVID-19 caught many businesses off guard, but according to a recent survey, a significant number took quick action to address this crisis, with the knowledge that further disruptions in the near to mid-term future were more likely than not. 

 International Trade Survey Points to Technology 

The poll of importers, shippers, logistics and supply chain operators, and customs brokers around the world found that COVID-19 had a major impact on international trade. More than a third said that they had been forced to source products from different suppliers and locations, because of the supply chain disruptions. A similar number stated that they had come under pressure to find ways to lower duty and tariff costs, mainly by looking for suppliers in different countries. 

The survey also found that these same companies were leaning towards leveraging advanced technology to help them pull through these challenging times. In some circles, it would be natural to come to this conclusion. Imagine everyone scrambling at the same time for finite resources. It would be chaotic. There would be pandemonium. Who would win in such a scenario? The answer: the companies built to be able to react rapidly to crisis. 

The types of technology they were leaning towards included automated processes for Harmonized Schedule reclassification and audit trails, as well as collaborative online HS code research and classification workflows. These are the solutions needed to make companies more resilient to change. 

Benefits of relying on Technologies 

Mass disruptions are unpredictable and can occur at any time. Relying on advanced HS code classification research and management solutions, or other global trade intelligence solutions, is one of the ways to steel a company to the buffeting winds of change. 

In the toughest of times when staffing can be an issue and workload demands increase, these solutions remain dependable–in relation to maintaining efficiency and accuracy and keeping the business moving forward. In those terms, investments in the right technology will give businesses protection against the unknown, and sharpen their competitive edge.