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Ecommerce Expert Explains How to Develop an International Supply Chain

international supply chain

Ecommerce Expert Explains How to Develop an International Supply Chain

When selling products, you may need to import them from other countries and have them delivered to a warehouse or home. There are different ways to do this whether by air, train, or by sea. During this process, there are fees and regulations you should be aware of.  I will be explaining how to develop an international supply chain with three key elements: the type of shipping, selecting and booking your freight, and post-delivery supply chain.

Types of Shipping

There are several well-known types of shipping, such as Free Carrier, Free Alongside Ship, Cost and Freight, Cost/Insurance and Freight, Cost Paid To, Carrier and Insurance Paid To, and Delivery at Place, among others. In my experience, I have found three types that are used more than the others: Ex Work, Free on Board, and Delivery Duty Paid.

Ex Work means your goods are at the manufacture’s warehouse and you are responsible for shipping the product to your destination. In this case, you will have to pay for customs, customs bonds, taxes, and any charges that may come up during the process.

Free on Board (FOB) is when your product will be delivered to the port or ship. What does this mean? The manufacturer will get your product on the boat, but you will be in charge of getting it off the ship, through customs, and delivered to you. What I do not like about this type of shipping is that when the manufacturer drops the product off, it is unsupervised, and my insurance does not kick in until the next step. There is an uninsured moment, so I recommend avoiding FOB shipments.

Delivery Duty Paid (DDP) is one I deal with all the time and I also call it Door to Door. The goods are shipped to you and delivered to your warehouse or your house location. Whoever you negotiate with will pay all deliberate duties, and it is a good way to avoid unseen costs.

These three terms are extremely important when negotiating with manufacturers. I usually quote Ex Work or DDP, because, throughout the entire process, there is someone in charge of the shipment.

Select Freight

A freight forwarder is a person or company that deals with the shipment of goods from the manufacturer to a customer, market, or point of distribution. You have traditional ones, like DHL and FedEx, which more commonly do air shipping. DHL is usually the most expensive option, but the fastest large provider and can take two to ten days to deliver. FedEx can take up to two weeks, depending on the shipping type.

You can tell your freight forwarder where to pick up your product and where to deliver them to. The forwarder will handle the rest. They help you in handling customs, bonds, and taxes. There are plenty of companies that do this and can help you with all forms of transportation. I use freight marketplaces, which work like Expedia, giving you options and quotes from several freight forwarding companies. I regularly use Freightos and have had a good experience. Pro-tip: make sure to insure the full shipment, and don’t fudge your invoices.

Domestic Supply Chain

Once you have chosen your type of shipping and selected a freight forwarder, you need to find a place to store and ship your goods. What you will select depends on your business model. Some common solutions are Amazon FBA, delivering it to your warehouse, or use a third-party logistics or fulfillment center (3PL).

The ideal supply chain would be choosing Ex Work, using a freight forwarder, and ensuring shipment the entire way. You will have to pay for the cost of freight, taxes, and tariffs. The quickest route would be shipping to California, and from there, to your 3PL or warehouse. You can put everything in one location and distribute to the rest of the country.

Mastering these three key elements will guarantee the successful shipment of your goods and the success of your commerce. Having a good partner or a 3PL will add value to your business. It is important you do your research before you start importing products.

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Scott Bartnick is a strong professional leader with a degree in industrial and systems engineering, specializing in public relations. Bartnick is a serial entrepreneur, published author, and successful business owner. He has extensive and diverse experience with eCommerce consulting, operational excellence, public relations, sales, and marketing. You can reach Scott at The Five Day Startup.

Global Trade Magazine Opens Nominations for 8th Annual “Americas 50 Leading 3PLs”

Global Trade Magazine has officially kicked-off its 8th annual “America’s Top 50 Leading 3PLs” nominations. This year’s selected nominees will showcase the most competitive movers and shakers transforming domestic and international logistics, exceeding client expectations while maintaining an exemplary company profile with competitive solutions.

Following last year’s focus on “needs-based” and “high demand” categories, the 2020 feature will spotlight specialty industries including E-commerce/Omni-Channel, Temperature-Controlled, Hazmat, Distribution, Freight Forwarding, and much more.

“It’s a measure of the quickly growing/changing/evolving global marketplace that arguably the most critical industry serving it, Third Party Logistic Providers (3PLs), continues to grow, change and evolve at a dizzying pace,” explained former senior editor Steve Lowery.

Global Trade Magazine will determine the final 50 nominations based on industry reputation, outstanding operational excellence, game-changing initiatives, disruptive technology solutions, and unmatched levels of innovation. This list showcases leading companies while providing a comprehensive list for businesses seeking new partnership opportunities.

“It’s easy to say that one must move faster, deliver services quicker, be more innovative and have organizational agility to flex with the world, but it takes something quite different to lead the cultural transformation that is required to make these goals a reality,” said Rich Bolte, CEO of BDP.

“Leadership will have to change as well. Leaders will be measured by their ability to innovate and create potential disruptions. The old paradigm of measuring only performance and execution has changed.”

To see a complete list of recipients, please visit globaltrademag.com to view the current issue.

Nominations are currently open and will be accepted through August 15 at 5 p.m. CST.

CLICK HERE TO NOMINATE YOUR 3PL

foreign

The Proposed Expansion of Mandatory Foreign Investment Filings During the Pandemic

In the midst of the pandemic, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) has proposed several revisions to its regulations (“Regulations”) that change when short-form filings (called “declarations”) are required with respect to covered foreign investments of U.S. businesses which work with critical technology [2]. What is most significant for foreign investors is that the proposed rules expand the mandatory declaration and required CFIUS review to include critical technology transactions that range well beyond the 27 industries originally designated by CFIUS – to cover all sectors of the economy [3].

The raison d’etre for this proposed CFIUS rule change is not entirely clear. While the modification largely reads as being technical in nature, CFIUS does, however, observe that other, unspecified “national security considerations” are involved. Thus, a reasonable inference from current circumstances is that CFIUS seeks the ability during the Covid-19 crisis to review acquisitions by China in a broader range of business sectors in order to assess in advance the national security risk, if any, in situations where financially struggling U.S. firms with innovative dual-use technology might be more willing than before to consider such investments as a lifeline.

Interested parties in the business community should note public comments are due by June 22, 2020.

The Proposed Expansion of Mandatory Filings for Critical Technology Transactions

By way of background, under the existing Regulations, a mandatory declaration is required for transactions involving certain U.S. businesses that: 1) produce, design, test, manufacture, fabricate, or develop one or more “critical technologies”; and 2) use the critical technology in specified ways in one or more of 27 specified industries. Significantly, under the revisions, CFIUS eliminated the second prong of the requirement – i.e., the nexus to 27 industries, and refocused the requirement instead on companies that have critical technology that would require certain export licenses or other authorizations to export, re-export, transfer (in-country) or retransfer the critical technology to certain transaction parties and foreign persons in the ownership chain.

CFIUS indicates that the new focus of the mandatory filing requirement on export control requirements for critical technologies “leverages the national security foundations of the established export control regimes, which require licensing or authorization in certain cases based on an analysis of the particular item and end-user, and the particular foreign country for export, re-export transfer (in-country) or retransfer.” 85 Fed. Reg. 30894.

While that is true enough, in fact, the existing standard already is based on the export control standards. The term “critical technology” was and still is, defined as technologies that are subject to export controls (i.e., articles or services on the U.S. Munitions List, items on the Commerce Department’s Control List, and other specialized lists)[4]. Now, in addition to being subject to export controls (e.g., on one of the enumerated lists of controlled items), the technology must specifically be subject to a licensing requirement.

In effect, CFIUS has doubled down on export controls as the criteria for mandatory filing – the item must be on a controlled list and a license must be required for the particular foreign acquirer that is a party to the transaction.

The Significance of the Proposed Change in Mandatory Filing Requirement

Is this licensing requirement a meaningful distinction for foreign investors? While many of the items on these export control lists do require licenses or other authorizations for export, this is not necessarily the case for the export of all items to all countries for all uses. On some lists (e.g., the Munitions Lists), every article and service requires a license for export to all locations. On others (notably the Commerce List, the main list of “dual-use” technologies), items controlled are only licensable for certain countries and certain purposes to certain end-users, as designated on the list.

Overall, however, the universe of items on controlled lists versus those on the lists where licenses are required probably aren’t all that different – i.e., the range of mandatory filings is not very meaningfully limited by this change. Notably, for certain near-peer competitor countries like China and Russia, the distinction is particularly limited. Indeed, for these countries, many items on the Commerce List will require licenses in any event. Moreover, since China is under a U.S. arms embargo in place for many years, any export of an article or service on the Munitions List would certainly require a license (which would not be granted).

In any event, even if the new nexus to export license requirements narrows somewhat the class of critical technology transactions subject to mandatory declarations, this change is undoubtedly more than offset by the elimination of the required nexus to the 27 specified industries. Under the proposal, foreign acquisition of any U.S. business – regardless of what industry it works in – would require a mandatory declaration where the business utilizes critical technology provided that certain export licenses or other authorizations would be required to export such items to the foreign acquiring party.

On balance, this change is significant. It broadens the scope of the mandatory filing requirement to a wide variety of acquisitions involving critical technology applications from medical devices to commercial vehicles to a wide range of high tech sectors. Foreign investors thus would need to be considerably more diligent in considering the CFIUS risk with respect to structuring a broader range of these acquisitions.

Why the Expansion of the Mandatory Filing Requirement?

Why the expansion of mandatory declarations and does it relate to the pandemic?  CFIUS offers only vague explanations – noting its further consideration of public comments made in prior rulemakings, the Committee’s additional experience assessing mandatory declarations, and “other,” unnamed, national security considerations” [5].

One very possible set of such “national security considerations” is to afford CFIUS the ability to investigate a considerably broader range of transactions involving China where any critical technology requiring a license is involved. Since many dual-use items on the Commerce Control List and everything on the Munitions List do require licenses for China, the expansion of jurisdiction would be significant – as it applies without regard to the industry where the critical technology is used.

The logic of this expanded approach would be that, under Chinese laws and policies on civil-military fusion, any Chinese company, regardless of industry, could be required to divert the critical technology it is acquiring to the state sector for military use. Thus, it arguably makes sense for CFIUS to seek to examine these technology deals across the board.

This action also would be consistent with a range of other recent Administration actions during the Covid-19 crisis – from restrictions on participation in the U.S. bulk-power infrastructure to additional export control restrictions on Huawei – all of which appear to be focused on limiting U.S. high tech engagement with China.

Why now? The pandemic has raised the specter of foreign firms from potential adversaries buying sensitive assets at steep discounts. Numerous European governments are very focused on protecting sensitive assets against distress buying.  In this context, recent comments by Ms. Ellen Lord, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, suggest concern that during the pandemic smaller U.S. companies that support the aerospace and defense sector could experience “significant financial fragility” and therefore be more vulnerable to acquisition by potential adversaries [6]. She also noted the prospect of “nefarious” acquisitions involving the use of shell companies during the pandemic and indicated a desire for CFIUS to have more authority to address these situations. Thus, it just may be that the proposed revision to the Regulations is an effort to address this felt DoD need.

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A partner in Eversheds-Sutherland, a global law firm, Mr. Bialos [1] previously served as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Industrial Affairs and co-chairs the firm’s Aerospace and Defense practice.

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References

[1] A partner in Eversheds-Sutherland, a global law firm, Mr. Bialos previously served as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Industrial Affairs and co-chairs the firm’s Aerospace and Defense practice.

[2] 85 Fed. Reg. 30893 (setting forth amendments to 31 C.F.R. §800). The mandatory filing requirements were established pursuant to the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018 (“FIRRMA”).  The proposed amendments also make clarifying changes with respect to mandatory declarations in transactions involving foreign States. Specifically,  section 800.244 of the Regulations (see 85 Fed. Reg 30898) would, among other things, change the definition of “substantial interest” with respect to transactions where a general partner, managing member or the equivalent is involved, to clarify that the foreign state’s interest is only relevant it applies only where a general partner, managing member, or equivalent “primarily directs, controls or coordinates the activities” of the entity that is the acquiring party.  In effect, this change narrows to a limited extent the range of transactions with foreign government involvement where a mandatory declaration is required.

[3] CFIUS accomplishes this expansion through a series of technical amendments to the Regulations: Section 800.254 (defining U.S. “regulatory authorization” to refer to the types of export licenses that require mandatory declarations); section 800.256 (introducing the concept of “voting interest” to include foreign persons in the ownership chain that would need to be analyzed from an export control standpoint to determine if a license would be required to transfer the technology in question to that party); and 800.401 (which re-scopes the mandatory declaration requirement for critical technology transactions).  See 85 C.F.R. 30895-8.

[4] 31 c.f.r. § 800.215.

[5] 85 Fed. Reg. 3894.

[6] See Transcript, Press Briefing of Ellen Lord, Undersecretary of Defense (A&S) Ellen Lord on COVID-19 Response Efforts (April 30, 2020).   Available at: https://www.defense.gov/Newsroom/Transcripts/Transcript/Article/2172171/undersecretary-of-defense-as-ellen-lord-holds-a-press-briefing-on-covid-19-resp/

reshoring

CAN WE MEASURE WHETHER “RESHORING” IS REAL?

Ribbon Cuttings and Political Ads

Announcements about plant openings and closings make good political fodder. Politicians from both parties are guilty of extracting trends from single events, leaving context behind: “Jobs are coming home!” “Traitorous companies are leaving the United States!”

A popular claim over the years is that Washington policies have succeeded in either shaming or incentivizing American companies to bring manufacturing “back” to the United States, even if manufacturing overseas had been additive to domestic production. How can we know whether such “re-shoring” is actually occurring, and to what degree?

A Reshoring Index

Kearney recently released the seventh edition of their annual Reshoring Index, which attempts to do just that. The U.S. Reshoring Index tracks total manufactured goods imports from 14 traditional offshoring partner countries including China, Taiwan, Malaysia, India, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Cambodia, as a percentage of U.S. domestic gross output of manufactured goods.

After rising almost steadily over the last decade, imports from those 14 countries contracted 7.2 percent in 2019 while U.S. manufacturing output remained steady. The decline is due almost entirely to fewer imported goods from China in reaction to the U.S.-China trade war, which also suppressed U.S. manufacturing exports. Notwithstanding the shock of the trade war, China’s share of the U.S. import market declined for the sixth year in a row.

According to Kearney, the U.S. market imported 12.1 cents worth of offshore production from these Asia-based “low cost countries” (LCCs) for every $1 of domestic manufacturing gross output, down from 13.1 cents in 2018. On the basis of the index, the United States experienced a net reshoring in 2019, as producers chose to source more goods domestically.

imports from LCCs

Diversification Away from China

The Kearney report also began tracking the so-called “rebalancing” of American company-centered supply chains to understand whether U.S. manufacturing imports are diverting from China toward other Asian LCCs. Overall, the LCCs exported $31 billion more in manufactured goods to the United States in 2019 than in 2018, with Vietnam garnering almost half of the shifting imports. Troublingly, a portion of U.S. imports from Vietnam represent China-origin goods diverted through Vietnam to dodge U.S. tariffs.

Nearshoring: Buying More from Mexico

Not only are imports shifting away from China toward the rest of Asia, Kearney finds another trend: increased sourcing of goods from Mexico, characterized as “nearshoring”. Mexico has some advantages over LCCs in Asia and a longer relationship with many U.S. manufacturers through NAFTA.

Over the last seven years that Kearney calculated its near-to-far trade ratio, there were approximately 37 cents worth of manufacturing imports from Mexico for every dollar of U.S. manufacturing imports from Asia LCCs. Last year, however, that ratio increased to 42 cents as U.S. imports of manufactured goods from Mexico shot up 11 percent between 2017 and 2018 and another 4 percent in 2019 as tariffs on goods from China escalated.

Asia LCCs v Mexico

But Not Necessarily for Economic Reasons

As economist Caroline Freund explains, reshoring does not necessarily reduce risk: “A better strategy to reduce the risk of potential supply-chain disruption would be for firms to reduce dependence on any individual supplier.” While it’s not clear the reduction in sourcing from China will benefit domestic suppliers, it does seem apparent that what’s motivating the shift in imports is diversification away from China.

As Freund says, firms will reshore if it is more profitable and less risky to move production close to the market. They will also reshore if compelled to do so through trade and other national policies such as “Buy America” requirements. The big question is whether supply chains restructured on that basis will make economic sense.

We’ll be watching the Kearney Reshoring Index to understand whether continued tension in the U.S.-China trade relationship and post-pandemic policies keep moving the reshoring needle.

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Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fifteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.
supply chain employee

Supply Chain Employee Engagement – 5 Benefits for your Business

Whether you operate out of a small warehouse or work as an international shipping company, employee engagement can be pivotal for your business’ ongoing success. According to Inbound Logistics, 85% of employees have reported that they feel disengaged from their jobs around the globe. However, those that feel engaged have reported 41% lower absenteeism, 24% less turnover and 70% fewer safety accidents on the job.

In terms of employee management, Forbes published a report which stated that 89% of HR leaders agree that ongoing employee feedback and engagement is crucial. Likewise, 89% of workers whose companies engage its employees are likely to recommend them as good workplaces to their friends and associates.

These numbers showcase that supply chain employee engagement factors into your business’ performance far more than it might seem at first glance. The way you treat your employees will have ripple effects on your overall output, brand reputation, and the subsequent bottom line as a direct result. Let’s take a closer look at why supply chain employee management matters so much, as well as the practical benefits of implementing it going forward.

Why Supply Chain Employee Engagement Matters

Let’s look at why supply chain employee engagement is pivotal before we move on to the benefits of active communication with your employees. Supply chain management is an industry with a flat vertical curve when it comes to warehouse and storage management employees. The HR structure typically isn’t built with vertical advancement and career development in mind (apart from mandatory hard skill development).

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t pay closer attention to your employees, their feedback, opinions, suggestions and personal goals. Tyler Jonas, Head of HR at Top Essay Writing spoke recently: “All employees have equal rights for engagement. You don’t have to offer elaborate rewards, position advancements or paycheck bumps to make your employees happy. Sometimes all it takes is to open a line of communication and discuss what can be done to make the work environment more enjoyable for everyone.”

Some of the common complaints and bottlenecks which hinder supply chain employees’ performance include:

-Lack of hands-on leadership and coordination from managerial staff

-High focus on supply chain ROI instead of employee wellbeing

-Poor health coverage and off days management

-Undefined employee advancement systems

Benefits of Supply Chain Employee Engagement

Let’s assume that you’ve rooted out the above-mentioned bottlenecks in your company’s supply chain management – what happens next? As you can see, the complaints most employees have in terms of engagement are not irrational – they are simply absent from the supply chain management pipeline. If you decide to pursue to correct these shortcomings, you will effectively gain a plethora of benefits in regards to your employees, including the following:

1. More Efficient Coworker Communication

Supply chain employees who are satisfied with their work methodology and engagement are far more likely to cooperate and coordinate efficiently among themselves. This will come as a natural outcome of better communication with the upper management and their efforts to make the work environment more appealing.

Aim to emancipate your employees to cooperate autonomously. Let them know that you value their opinions, experience and expertise – delegate certain decisions to their discretion to facilitate coworker communication. Once that happens, your employees will feel free to communicate their thoughts and concerns for the benefit of your company as a whole.

2. Higher Employee Retention

A major point of concern for the supply chain management sector lies in employee retention and how to entice people to renew their contracts regularly. As we’ve mentioned previously, employees who don’t feel valued or engaged by the company will likely seek greener pastures. This will leave you with a roster of employees who are there simply because they have no other option at the moment.

Such a scenario can quickly lead to a toxic work environment which will reflect poorly on your overall quality of service and brand reputation. You can avoid both points by investing time and resources into establishing a communication channel with your employees proactively rather than reactively. Don’t wait for things to go bad in your supply chain management department before opening a dialogue – increase your retention rates early on.

3. Better Productivity & Morale

Coworkers who are satisfied with the way they are being treated by the upper management will subsequently perform better in their daily work routines. This same rule applies to supply chain management as well as other industries which naturally involve a more hands-off approach from the management.

Regardless, engaging your staff frequently and communicating about what works and doesn’t in the company will help gain a lot of points in your favor. This will inevitably raise the morale and energy in your staff, leading to further improvements in productivity and their sense of belonging in the company.

4. Lowered Margin for Errors

Shipping errors and supply chain mistakes, in general, are something you want to mitigate as much as possible in your company. While mistakes are bound to happen even in the best-maintained companies, their frequency will speak volumes of how you treat your employees. Dissatisfied employees who lack any faith in their managerial staff are likely to make accidental mistakes simply because they lack the morale to do otherwise.

These mistakes can cost your company tremendously in terms of reputation, resources, time and B2B partners if they persist. However, by introducing a communication channel with your supply chain employees early on, you will effectively lower the margin for error significantly. Employees will pay far closer attention to their work and do their utmost to avoid mistakes simply because their managerial staff cares about them more.

5. Healthy Coworker Competition

Lastly, a major benefit of engaging your supply chain employees goes back to their internal communication. More specifically, employees who are simply happy with their work environment are likely to develop internal camaraderie and healthy competition among coworkers.

This will raise your staff’s morale significantly and ensure that people are more satisfied with their place in your company due to consistent vertical communication. Remember that while your B2B networking may be efficient, ground-level operations still depend on the efficacy and dedication of your supply chain employees. Facilitating a healthy coworker competition and emancipating your staff through it will bring about a plethora of improvements in your supply chain pipeline.

Parts of a Whole (Conclusion)

A company consists of numerous departments which all rely on one another to make the company viable on the market. As such, paying closer attention to your employees in supply chain management will allow the company to thrive internally. Besides the obvious increase in productivity, this will also improve your reputation on the market and make your company more attractive to future employees. Meet your staff halfway and establish a meaningful dialogue – you will undoubtedly be pleasantly surprised with the results.

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Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin was gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors. Now she works as a freelance writer at ClassyEssay, Studyker and Subjecto. Kristin runs her own FlyWriting blog.

small businesses

U.S. Metros With the Most Small Businesses Per Capita

Small businesses across the United States face dire circumstances following the COVID-19 outbreak. While each individual small business might seem inconsequential to the broader economy, in aggregate, these firms are critical to the country’s financial well-being.

According to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, small businesses with fewer than 50 employees makeup approximately 95 percent of American business establishments and employ 40 percent of private sector workers. These 7.4 million small businesses (or 2.27 per 100 residents) also account for roughly a third of total private sector payroll.

Unfortunately, research shows that small businesses and their workers are particularly vulnerable during recessions and other periods of economic hardship. A recent survey conducted by the New York Fed found that even prior to the pandemic, 64 percent of small businesses faced financial challenges in the preceding 12 months. The same survey reported that a two-month loss of revenue would cause 86 percent of firms to take a serious financial action, such as using the owner’s personal savings, taking out a loan, or cutting staff salaries.

Moreover, small businesses in some industries have a larger economic impact than others. Among small businesses with fewer than 50 employees, those in accommodation, food services, and retail trade—coincidentally, the sectors hit hardest by COVID-19—employ the most workers. These industries, combined, account for more than 16 million employees and $362 billion in annual payroll.

Like the businesses themselves, small business employees are also more financially vulnerable than their large-firm counterparts. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that fewer small business employees have access to retirement benefits, healthcare benefits, paid sick leave, life insurance, or disability insurance. Troublingly, only half of employees in small businesses have health insurance through their company and only two-thirds have paid sick leave.

While small businesses are a critical component of the national economy, some parts of the country depend more on small businesses than others. To find the metropolitan areas with the most small businesses, researchers at Construction Coverage, a review website for workers’ compensation insurance and construction software, analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The researchers ranked each location according to the number of small businesses per 100 residents. Researchers also included statistics on the total number of small businesses, the number of retail, accommodation, and food service businesses, and the share of workers who are self-employed. For the analysis, small businesses were defined as those employing fewer than 50 workers.

To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, locations were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size: large metros (1,000,000 residents or more), midsize metros (350,000-999,999 residents), and small metros (less than 350,000 residents).

Here are the large metropolitan areas with the most small businesses per capita:

For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Construction Coverage’s website: https://constructioncoverage.com/research/cities-with-the-most-small-businesses

global trade

Global Trade Talk: Reconfiguring US-China Supply Chains for a Post-Coronavirus World

Global Trade Talk is part of an ongoing series highlighting international business, trade, investment, and site location issues and opportunities. This article focuses on the conversation between Jack Perkowski, JFP Holdings Ltd., and Keith Rabin, KWR International, Inc.

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Hello Jack, how are you? It has been a long time since we last talked. Before we begin, can you tell us about your background and current activities?

After graduating from Harvard Business School, I went to work on Wall Street, joining Paine Webber, where I served for 20 years and ended up running the Investment Banking Department. I then decided to do something different for a second career and became interested in Asia. That led to a trip to Hong Kong in 1990 and my moving there in late 1991. I quickly decided within Asia, China was the key driver, and in 1992 made my first trip to the Mainland.

At that time, China’s auto market was small and fragmented. They were manufacturing about 500 thousand vehicles a year, but it was clear the country wanted to develop a large auto industry. However, foreign companies were slow to enter because volumes were too small, so to encourage investment, the government allowed foreigners to have majority ownership in automotive components companies. That is now allowed in most industries in China, but at the time, auto components were the only industry where this was permitted.

I decided to do a roll-up buying majority ownership in a dozen leading auto component companies; putting them under one umbrella; introducing new management and quality systems. To test whether this could work, I visited 100 factories in 40 cities, and concluded it was a viable strategy. I then went back to Wall Street and raised $150 million over the Christmas holidays in 1993 to fund the company. In February 1994, I founded ASIMCO Technologies, an automotive components company focused on China’s emerging auto market. A year later, we raised another $150 million. Over several years, we invested $300 million, which is a lot of money even today. In 1995, though, it was a very large sum.

ASIMCO evolved into a company with 12,000 employees, 17 factories and about a billion dollars in sales. In 2009, ASIMCO was sold to Bain Capital, and I started JFP Holdings, which helps foreign companies to determine whether there is a market in China for their product, service or technology. We also help Chinese companies to expand in overseas markets. We are very hands-on, undertaking research, and then helping our clients to effectively develop and implement their strategies and ongoing business operations.

Almost ten years ago we published an interview with you titled “Profiting from China’s Domestic Economy” concerning China’s rise over several decades to become the world’s second-largest economy. Can you talk about China’s emergence and the role it now plays in the world economy?

China’s growth has been very rapid and it became the world’s second-largest economy about the time we spoke in 2010. Its GDP was about $1.3 trillion in 2001 when it joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) – and over the past 20 years, it has grown by more than tenfold to about $14 trillion. In contrast, the US remains the world’s largest economy, at about $22 trillion.

Japan, which had been in second place, is now third, at about $5 trillion – so there is quite a drop from second to third place. Therefore, if you are a company looking for growth, China is very important. It is hard to see how in coming decades a company can maintain or build a global leadership position if it does not have a meaningful presence there. This is reflected in the Fortune 500 list, which now has as many Chinese firms included as from the US.

Per capita income in China has also risen to around $10 thousand a year. That, however, is a bit misleading, because it is an average. It includes an emerging middle and upper class of more than 500 million people, which is about 1.5 times the entire population of the US. These people largely live in major cities and are rapidly increasing their consumption. McKinsey, for example, estimated [1] last year that China delivered more than half of global growth in luxury spending between 2012 and 2018 and is expected to deliver 65% of additional spending into 2025.

This is important. US companies and policymakers need to think of China – not only in terms of manufacturing and sourcing – but also as an important driver of global growth. Therefore, while we need to address the dangers of being over-reliant on China in our supply chain, we also must remain aware of China’s growing global market share, so we can benefit and participate in a fair, constructive and competitive manner.

It is true that China’s economy is increasingly driven by consumer demand. It has also become an important source of R&D and innovation – trends that have risen dramatically since we last talked. Can you talk about this phenomenon, where China stands, and what it means to the US and companies and investors?

Unlike many who located factories in China as a way to reduce the costs of US production, I did not set up ASIMCO as an export company. Our emphasis was on becoming an important part of the local auto market. At the same time, we worked with foreign companies such as Bosch, Caterpillar, and others that sourced components in China, but viewed that as an extra revenue source and a way to ensure our factories could produce to international standards. Lowering labor costs was certainly a factor, but not the central element of our strategy, as I knew costs would rise as China developed. Toyota, for example, is a company that takes a similar view and doesn’t really embrace cost alone as a strategy. It has always wanted its suppliers to make components locally where possible so they can be close to where they are being used. That has been our approach as well.

Bottom line – to benefit from growth in China you need to be there. That is the only way to truly understand and participate. When we began, potential Chinese customers told us they would not take us seriously unless we had a factory there. That is important. The Chinese understand networks and supporting firms follow production. This leads to investment, infrastructure, and development of auxiliary industries and innovation within the supply chain. Academic institutions also respond and take steps to train engineers and others with the critical skills needed. This leads to advanced research and an ability to apply technologies and launch success stories. These make investors comfortable and provide additional benefits – which have value not only in China – but in other markets around the world.

With respect to innovation, few Americans realize how rapidly China is developing in areas including digital technologies, consumer payments, e-commerce, and services. In some areas, it is becoming more advanced than the US and we can learn from them. It is important to keep this in perspective and to balance the need to address trade issues and strengthen and safeguard our supply chain with the need to remain present and involved in this increasingly important market. This is the way we can sustain and advance growth and our global competitiveness.

At the same time, there is a legitimate concern in the US about Chinese technology. I spoke to a group of tech executives and investors in Jackson Hole last year. All they wanted to talk about was China’s development of 5G. While there are security implications if Chinese 5G equipment is installed in the US, you can’t blame China for taking steps to move up the value chain. The US also needs to upgrade our capacity and competitiveness – and our ability to develop the products, services, and supply chains that are needed moving forward.

China’s growth has heightened its political ambitions and in recent years we have seen growing tension in the South China Sea, the pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative, control over rare earth metals, rising tariffs and trade disputes, blockage of Huawei and a generally more competitive posture than in the past. This has strained bilateral relations with the US and led to anxiety in Asia and other countries. What does this portend for China and US-China relations moving forward? Considering these developments and backlash over China with coronavirus what changes are we likely to see from China in respect to its trade and bilateral relations with other nations and multilateral institutions?

China joined the WTO in 2001 and there has since been a sharp uptick in every economic measure. Its economy has grown about ten times and the country has clearly benefitted from globalization. Meanwhile, the US and the rest of the world looked the other way as many Chinese policies and business practices during this period have been in violation of international trade practices. We have been like two ships passing in the night. No one, regardless of who was in the White House, wanted to address contentious trade, IPR, technology transfer, and other key issues.

Every year there was a state dinner or two and leaders of each country would shake hands, but important issues were never discussed in a direct, constructive way. President Trump has done this for the first time and the dynamics have changed. Up until the coronavirus, however, most of the world considered the Trade War as “Trump’s Trade War,” but the virus has caused trillions of dollars of damages throughout the world, and now many more countries will be concerned about China’s behavior. This will place more pressure on both Chinese companies and the government – and the country will have to adjust. At the same time, China’s leadership is going back to its more authoritarian roots, and no one likes that —least of all the Chinese people.

While many of China’s relationships with other countries are likely to be more confrontational going forward, I remain optimistic. At the beginning of the year, a phase one US-China trade agreement was signed. When it came out, many said the US did not get what it needed, and others said it was like the “unequal” treaties China entered with western powers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. I knew it could not be both and read through it.

Everyone has focused on the provision that says China will buy significant merchandise from the United States over the next two years, but the agreement also deals with IPR, currency manipulation, and other key issues. Most importantly, it includes an arbitration mechanism that provides for quarterly meetings between the US Trade Representative and China’s Deputy Prime Minister where issues of non-compliance are discussed and resolved. To me, this seems like a better approach than trying to take Chinese companies to court.

The real question is will the phase one deal be implemented? In my view, the economic devastation that has resulted from the coronavirus ensures that it will. The US and the Trump Administration want the purchases to go through and China wants tariffs to be lifted. So both sides are under pressure to comply. In a curious way, while our countries are at odds at the governmental level – there are real incentives to work through these important issues – which many in China also would like to see resolved. As a result, I believe the virus will help to build consensus and facilitate the implementation of the January 15th agreement.

The COVID-19 coronavirus is having a dramatic effect on global health as well as the global economy and China. What is the current situation in China? How has the virus affected its economy, and can we trust the data that is emerging? What lessons can we draw from the Chinese experience and what changes might result in respect to US-China and global economic relations and trade moving forward?

I don’t know the exact number of cases and deaths in China, and you can certainly fault their transparency and failure to alert the rest of the world. But, once China recognized the seriousness of the virus, the government imposed draconian measures within its borders that could not be applied here. For example, in the US you cannot rope off and restrict millions of people or undertake the kind of contact tracing and restrictions seen in China.

In this way, China was able to arrest the spread of the virus but nonetheless took a big hit in the first quarter. The second quarter will also not be great. China is, however, implementing stimulus measures – not the roads, bridges, and the infrastructure spending we saw after the 2008 financial crisis – but measures to increase the development of 5G and other technologies that were outlined as key industries in the country’s “Made in China 2025” plan.

As a result, China is likely to have a strong second half. The IMF predicts 1.3% annual growth in 2020. This is certainly down from the double-digit growth enjoyed over recent decades, but it is still positive. The bottom line is, while China is still practicing social distancing, imposing precautions, and incurring hardships, the country is largely back to work. We know that because we deal with businesses and factories all over China, including Hubei province where the virus originated. From what we see, the factories are close to full production. China was the first to take the hit, and it is now the first to recover. Beginning in the third quarter, we think growth will pick up and China is likely to see a V-shaped recovery.

For decades the US embraced China’s rise, and production moved there so companies could reduce costs, raise profitability, and access a new, large emerging market. That began to change with growing concerns over jobs, income inequality, and supply chain security. This sentiment accelerated as President Trump began to impose tariffs and even more now with the coronavirus. The result is more serious talk about bringing jobs and production back to the US. Is this possible and what would it mean for US companies, policymakers, and our economy?

It is definitely possible. A lot of production in the US moved to China in recent decades and the pendulum went way too far in that direction. Many jobs were lost; there was social dislocation, and the security of supply chains for a number of key products has been endangered. At the same time, while the US still possesses research and development advantages, foreign-based supply chains, industrial infrastructure, technical expertise, and networks place us at a disadvantage when it comes to implementation and development.

Much of the offshoring was motivated by the search for lower labor costs – but I think tax and regulatory issues in the US also played a role. So, while we need to address environmental concerns and keep to high standards, we must make the country more attractive if we are to bring companies back. This is particularly true in industries where there needs to be a US presence. That is something that has become even more apparent as trade and political disputes further aggravate this imbalance, and now with the coronavirus, logistics and transportation disruptions have caused inventories to run low.

We are also seeing and helping clients and companies to shift production out of China to Southeast Asia and other emerging markets. This is being done to optimize and diversify supply chains, maintain cost competitiveness, minimize tariff exposure, and to allow access to these growing markets. This is true not only for the US but also for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, European, and other firms. What considerations should companies consider as they reconfigure supply chains and their approach to international markets?

Every company needs to use this time to reexamine its supply chains to determine where they are vulnerable. If they don’t do that – they are simply not doing their job. Governments need to do that as well. If you don’t want the pharmaceutical and other critical industries and materials dependent on China or other nations, it is not enough to criticize foreign practices. You also have to provide real alternatives and incentives to bring production back here. This is true both from an inventory as well as an investor and national security standpoint.

Industries will not, however, come back to where they were in the 1970s and 1980s. The world has changed and we are now far more integrated than we were in the past, both in terms of supply and demand. While the need to address this issue has been clear for some time, US-China trade tensions and the coronavirus have accentuated the need to readjust. Until recently, companies were content to leave production in China as investments and this capacity was already in place – even though many factories were set up at an earlier time when labor costs in China were lower and conditions less developed.  Now, however, as it has become clear how dependent we are on foreign supply, there is more incentive to reevaluate. In many cases, customers, stakeholders, and investors will demand it.

Some of that production will come back to the US, but where cost remains a key determinant, much of it will go to other countries, such as those in Southeast Asia. A concern I have, however, is these countries are so much smaller than China there is a limit to how much production can be shifted there. There is also less opportunity to sell into the local market. Depending on the industry and location, infrastructure and services may also be lacking.

For example, in China, about 25 million vehicles are now manufactured annually, and there has been substantial investment into forging, casting, and other needed functions. These are expensive operations that are hard to replicate. At the same time, Southeast Asia is relatively close, and we are seeing interest from both foreign and Chinese companies to move at least part of their operations there. Because they offer an opportunity to diversify, countries like Vietnam are benefitting from the shift. Other Southeast Asian countries also provide benefits and need to be examined.

A major obstacle in moving jobs and production back to the US is the need to rebuild and upgrade infrastructure as well as our educational, immigration, and healthcare systems to provide the skills and environment needed to allow the transformation that must unfold. What steps need be taken by the US, state, and local governments if we are to rebuild our manufacturing capacity and to both repatriate production that moved offshore and new trade and investment back to the US?

We definitely have the ability to compete. We need to rebuild parts of our economy, but the cost and scope of a large national infrastructure program will be huge and complex, as is education, immigration, and healthcare reform. I believe, however, these goals will be achieved over time.

We also possess many advantages. For example, we are now an energy exporter and able to supply ourselves at low relative costs. Our universities and capital markets also provide strength.  The largest obstacle I see is the need to reduce regulation and institute favorable tax policies.  Addressing the devastating impact of the coronavirus on small businesses, which employ the vast majority of our population, is also now a major, if not our most important, priority. We need to get these people back to work ASAP.

Over the years, we have worked for many economic development agencies as well as private developers to facilitate their efforts to attract trade, investment, and business activity within a range of sectors. Drawing from your experience, what advice can you give to US companies and economic development agencies seeking to attract foreign trade and investment and business partners to enhance their businesses, local economies, and international competitiveness.

There are certain things economic development agencies can do tax-wise to provide incentives and create a welcoming business environment. At the same time, it is especially important to clearly and effectively position themselves to demonstrate competitive advantage and why their cities or states are attractive destinations, while also demonstrating their support for companies who relocate there.

When you travel around China, as we did when we arrived, local authorities roll out the red carpet. They make you feel wanted and have an interest in supporting your development. In contrast, I recently accompanied a Chinese manufacturer to a US Midwestern State as they contemplated setting up a facility there. One of their requests was to meet with local officials. The company we were working with was at first unsure who to meet with but eventually set up a meeting.

The officials were very nice, but it was clear this was unusual and they were not accustomed to meeting foreign companies. They were unsure of what they could contribute and did not seem to understand why they were there. In China, local governments are much more determined and willing to play an active role in wooing investment. In a sense, they try to be partners with businesses that base within their jurisdictions. That seems almost a foreign concept here.

As a result, US companies and economic development agencies should be more active and aggressive – to reduce barriers, provide incentives, and demonstrate an interest in attracting businesses that want to base in their city or state. They also need to demonstrate clear reasons as to the benefits of the location – so decisions are based more on value than on cost alone.

Thank you Jack for your time and attention. Look forward to following up soon.

_______________________________________________________________________

Keith Rabin serves as President at KWR International, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in international market entry, site location and trade, business, investment and economic development; as well as research and public relations/ public affairs services for a wide range of corporate and government clients.

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risk management

Strategic Risk Management Means Preparing for the Worst but Hoping for the Best

Trading globally comes with risks. You’re operating in a foreign market with different rules, regulations and business practices, not to mention the lack of geographic proximity makes it difficult to keep tabs on your trading partner and ensure the relationship is strong and payments will be made promptly. That said, those risks can be minimized with a smart risk management strategy that tips the risk/reward balance in your company’s favor.

A smart risk management strategy begins with a solid foundation in research that takes a macro look at the market and a micro look at your trading partner and their sector. For the former, the World Bank’s ease of doing business index can provide valuable information on business regulations in nearly 200 economies. Trade credit insurers can also help you keep tabs on specific markets and sectors.

To better understand your trading partner, start by researching the cultural elements of doing business in that market. Making a mistake can negatively affect or even end your relationship with your trading partner. Ask colleagues about any business culture etiquette you should be aware of, and review your notes before making the initial introduction. Getting this part correct will help you forge a strong relationship moving forward.

Next, take your time before signing any contracts. It may be tempting to quickly jump into a new opportunity, but if you rush through the documentation process, neglect to have a lawyer review the terms of your agreement or fail to validate your trading partner’s sound financial standing, you could end up with major headaches in the future.

Once you have an agreement in place, figure out how to maintain a close relationship with your trading partner. You don’t want to find out too late that your trading partner is in distress – you want to be aware of the first signs of trouble so you can take steps to protect yourself against late payment or nonpayment. Some of the classic signs of a company headed for insolvency include sudden late payments, pushing back for discounts or a drop-off in communication.

If your customer is overseas, don’t assume email and phone calls will be enough. A local presence is advised, as this is the only real way to understand the subtle shifts occurring in the local market and with your trading partner. How you establish the local presence will depend on the size of your opportunity. Large business deals may require establishing a foreign office, while appointing a local agent or having an employee visit frequently may suffice for smaller opportunities.

Finally, have contingency plans in place to cover any and all likely scenarios, including disruptions to trade via major events (such as the coronavirus shutting down production facilities in China or the trade wars suddenly making input materials more expensive) or delinquent customers. For the former scenario, you’ll want to understand how political or economic developments will impact your costs and know how you’ll pivot, if needed.

For delinquent customers, your first step should be establishing the facts and uncovering what’s actually going on. If the customer proves slippery and evasive, consider engaging a third-party expert to mediate. Review your contract terms to make a list of options available to you – can you recover your goods? Or is it time to start the legal collection process?

Strategic risk management is really about preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. A thorough understanding of the market, the sector and your trading partners, paired with detailed plans for how to react to any likely scenarios will minimize the risks to your business and help you feel confident conquering new markets.

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Gordon Cessford is the president and regional director of North America for Atradius Trade Credit Insurance, Inc.

supply management

Six Steps to Writing a Reliable Supply Management Plan

Whether you operate in the eCommerce industry, shipping, or physical retail with your own warehousing, a supply management plan is a must. Procuring goods and raw materials for further refinement, production, and overall monetization in an organized manner is a necessity of modern global industries.

According to Jigsaw Business Group, over one-third of businesses don’t have a clear image of how their suppliers and supply management is performing. Additionally, 37 percent of firms perform no practices for supply risk management, with only 8 percent performing above-average in these conditions. This showcases a larger issue in the supply management department of many large international businesses that rely on stable procurement without proper precautions and planning.

In worst cases, it can lead to loss of reputation, important clientele, and subsequent bankruptcy as a result of ad hoc management. To avoid that, outlining and implementing a supply management plan of your own is more than welcome going further into 2020. With that, let’s take a look at the specific benefits of having such a reliable plan in place, as well as the steps to get there.

The Advantages of a Supply Management Plan

Let’s briefly discuss the purpose of supply management before we dive into writing a plan centered on its implementation. As the name might suggest, supply management revolves around active tracking, procurement, and management of raw materials, production supplies, or items for handling and shipping. A standardized supply management plan is a welcome addition to any B2B-reliant business as it will effectively streamline your processes of ordering items from suppliers.

While rudimentary requests and correspondence can be achieved with writing tools such as WoWGrade and Evernote, creating a template for easy supply procurement is advised. Having such a document in place and available to your sales and supply departments can lead to highly beneficial outcomes for your business, including:

-Faster, more efficient cooperation with constant supply partners

-Minimized margin for supply procurement errors or mismanagement

-Increased production efficiency, turnaround time and bottom-line ROI

Writing the Supply Management Plan

1. Internal Company Survey

To achieve the most out of your supply management plan writing initiative, you should audit your current supply pipeline carefully. Assess the status of your supply routine, paperwork, existing communication channels, and QA processes before writing a plan outline for future use.

It’s important to take a good look at how things function in your company at the moment to identify bottlenecks and improvement opportunities early on. Additionally, forming a supply management plan task force can also prove useful since it will give several employees a clear goal in writing the document.

2. Assemble your Writing Stack

Writing a supply management plan is not unlike writing any other form of business document. Meaning, it should be done in a planned manner to avoid mistakes, related to both grammar and legalities. To ensure just that, several cloud-based writing platforms are available for your convenience:

Grammarly – platform dedicated to spell-checking, proofreading and error-free writing

Trust My Paper – outsourcing platform with numerous professional editors available for writing assistance

Hemingway – tool designed with readability and sentence construction in mind, useful for supply documents

Grab My Essay – platform which houses numerous editing, rewriting and on-demand writing services

Thesaurus – a vocabulary tool useful for industry-specific terminology required for supply procurement

Studicus – in addition to procurement documents, various types of correspondence can be outsourced here

3. Supply Management Plan Overview

The easiest way to get ahead on your supply management plan writing is to start with the outline and move things forward from there. An outline represents a set of subheadings and categories that will be filled with important procurement information once the order is about to be made.

Given its nature, some of the elements it should contain include storage information, transportation details, special order requirements, personnel information, etc. Use editing and formatting tools such as Supreme Dissertations and Readable to create legible documents for your B2B procurement and correspondence. Make a clear plan of which items are primary to your business to give the supplier enough information on how to proceed with your order.

4. Supply Requirements & Timelines

Once your outline is in place, it’s important to include fields for numeric data in your supply management plan. Information on the number of your orders, types of materials you’ve requested, as well as the optimal delivery timeline field, is essential in the document. These details can be outlined via writing platforms such as Best Essay Education or even Google Docs depending on the complexity of your typical procurements.

In practice, the supply requirements and timeline fields will be the first items your suppliers and B2B partners will scan through to ensure their availability. To further improve the document’s legibility, you can include easy-to-spot contact information in regards to your sales department. This will allow for a faster approval process and further streamline your supply management in light of newly-outlined standardization documents.

5. Detail the QA Standards

Lastly, risk management is a pivotal factor in the supply chain management, one which can make or break your pipeline’s efficacy going forward. The supply management plan you outline and ship to B2B partners must require detailed information on the QA standards of your company.

Shipping items such as hazardous materials, medical equipment, chemical compounds, and other dangerous elements will naturally require careful handling, shipping, and storage of said goods. Be upfront with your suppliers in regard to QA standards. This is especially welcome if you order materials from abroad – your shipments and B2B relations will be that much more stable as a result.

Supply Management Plan Implementation

While supply management trends continue to spiral toward digitalization, written procurement documents are still vital for effective B2B communication and shipping of essential goods. Create an outline that reflects both your service portfolio and internal work ethics using the above-discussed steps as guidelines.

Don’t be afraid to revise and reformat your own supply management plan as much as necessary before settling for a standardized template for company-wide use. Once you get a handle on your procurement writing pipeline, supply chain management of your warehousing and shipping requests will become that much simpler.

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Kristin Savage nourishes, sparks and empowers using the magic of a word. Along with pursuing her degree in Creative Writing, Kristin was gaining experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in marketing strategy for publishers and authors. Now she had found herself as a freelance writer. Kristin runs her own FlyWriting blog.

online

PREVENTING TRADE IN ONLINE FAKES

Online Buyer Beware

U.S. consumers spent over $600 billion dollars with U.S. merchants online in 2019. For consumers, online shopping is enticing for its convenience. With credit card in hand, shoppers can easily compare prices, make a purchase, and have the products shipped directly to their homes. The ability to sell online has transformed the ways in which manufacturers, shippers and retailers conduct business.

The evolution from brick and mortar to online stores has also made it more convenient for illegitimate businesses and criminals to pass off counterfeit products, which has attracted the attention of the U.S. government. Since November 2019, a flurry of government activity has focused on protecting consumers in the e-commerce environment.

Trade in fake goods 3.3 percent of world trade

Political Hue and Cry

The Senate Finance Committee examined online counterfeit goods last November when it issued a bipartisan report highlighting two key fact findings: U.S. businesses have difficulties preventing the sale of counterfeit goods online, and e-commerce platforms have no affirmative obligation to police counterfeit goods listings or to proactively remove suspected counterfeit items.

In January, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a report titled Combating Trafficking in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods, in which DHS found that e-commerce has contributed to a shift in the sale of counterfeit goods in the United States. As consumers increasingly purchase goods online, counterfeiters are increasingly producing a wider variety of goods that may be sold on websites alongside authentic products. The report adds that American consumers shopping on e-commerce platforms and online third-party marketplaces now face a significant risk of purchasing counterfeit or pirated goods.

A week after the release of the DHS report, the White House issued an Executive Order “Ensuring Safe and Lawful E-Commerce for U.S. Consumers, Businesses, Government Supply Chains, and Intellectual Property Rights Holders”. The Order implicates express carriers and the international postal system as contributing to the problem of imports of contraband and counterfeit goods.

American brands 24 percent of fake products seized

House Bill 6058, the SHOP SAFE Act of 2020, was introduced in early March in the House of Representatives. The bill proposes to impose contributory trademark infringement liability on e-commerce platforms unless they take steps specified in the legislation. The legislation received immediate support from several prominent industry associations.

The American Apparel & Footwear Association’s CEO stated that “more needs to be done to prevent counterfeit products from unknowingly entering the homes of American families.” In support of the bill, the CEO of the Personal Care Products Council stated that “counterfeit personal care products damage businesses, disregard regulatory protection and more importantly threaten consumers’ health and safety,” adding the Council encourages “Congress to establish a system that makes online marketplaces and others responsible for ensuring that products on their platforms comply with U.S. laws and regulations”.

Two days later, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) stated that the convenience of e-commerce “has come at a devastating price: a proliferation of dangerous counterfeit goods that endanger consumers and property, and an army of counterfeit merchants from overseas that undermine American small businesses with unscrupulous tactics.”

Counterfeit medicines

Hiding on Plain Sites

In general, the owners of intellectual property (copyrights, trademarks, patents) have had a lot to say about the online platforms and marketplaces that host e-commerce. As summarized in the Senate Finance Committee’s report, e-commerce platforms place the burden of policing and enforcing intellectual property (IP) on the IP owners, suggesting they do not have a duty to police counterfeit listings or proactively remove suspected counterfeit goods from platforms.

The proposed SHOP SAFE Act of 2020 would place a greater burden on platforms. By taking steps outlined in the legislation, platforms would be able to avoid liability for IP violations.

During the week the SHOP SAFE Act was introduced and a hearing held to address the issue of e-commerce threats to consumers and the economy, a technology company, PreClear, announced it is using “technology that pushes out the border and prevents infringing goods and potentially harmful goods from being exported to the U.S.” PreClear’s founder is quoted as saying that the technology is in use 24/7 and rejects thousands of non-compliant items daily.

There is no doubt that the sheer volume of infringing and other non-compliant merchandise available to consumers on the internet begs for a solution. The question is whether protection and enforcement begin after the items are in the stream of commerce in the United States or before the items ship to the United States. One of the missing variables in the trade policy equation remains how to prevent infringing items from leaving the country of origin in the first instance.

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Tim Trainer was an attorney-advisor at the U.S. Customs Service and U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. He is a past president of the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition. Tim is now the principal at Global Intellectual Property Strategy Center, P.C., and Galaxy Systems, Inc.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.