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What Small and Medium Enterprises in France did not know about customs

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Venturing into uncharted export markets can be a journey into the unknown for many Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). That is what relatively few actually dare to make that bold step. Customs regulations can at first seem a little daunting.

However, we are seeing a growing number of SMEs in the aeronautical, high tech and luxury industries, in particular, that are interested in exporting in order to capitalize on growth markets.

As I come into daily contact with SMEs in my job I have noticed that they ask recurring questions such as: “what documents do I need to I provide,” or “how much do I have to pay in customs duties and taxes” and “can I ship a certain product to a certain country?”.

Sometimes I get very unusual questions. For example, one day, a customer asked me how to determine the value of a kilo of dust and if there were special procedures for shipping this exceptional product to the other side of the globe.

The questions I get are actually as diverse as the companies themselves. Some of my answers may sound surprising. For example,  did you know that the simple omission of one character in a currency abbreviation (EU as opposed to EUR) is likely to flag a customs declaration for further scrutiny and delay the delivery of a box? Or, did you know that for customs purposes, even cosmetic product samples which are not intended for sale also have a value that must be specified on the invoice? Some companies  are not aware of that.

My role is to provide sales support concerning customs regulations and to find customs clearance solutions for our customers. So, I meet with existing or potential new FedEx customers frequently. On January 21st, we invited 14 SMEs and members of the “Roissy Entreprises” Association to visit our European hub at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Our objective was to give them an opportunity to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes in international express transport and to demystify some of the customs terminology.

During their visit, I explained a number of basic concepts underlying customs terminology, the value and origin of goods. They listened intently as I gave them an overview of   I then gave them some useful hints and tricks to help them remember important information that always must be included on an invoice so that they could prevent their packages from being held up in customs halfway around the world. Some of my anecdotes and examples were quite amusing for our 14 SME guests. In the end, it was a memorable evening for all of us. I am sure that at least a handful of my pieces of advice will stick in their minds when but I’m they prepare shipping documents.

After nearly 20 years of service at FedEx, I still feel that I am in a privileged position. I enjoy meeting with companies and it is really rewarding to be able to help support them in their efforts to grow their businesses to the international level. Taking time out to have chats with them is very helpful for me. After all, SMEs play a significant part in the success of our global economy. Only if we listen to them carefully, meet them as equal partners can we give them the solutions they need to grow.


Comment (1) 

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Thank you for sharing your story about what you do at FedEx! I'm impressed with the small and medium businesses and what success is happening. This has inspired me in a way I never knew would.

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Other Posts by Gilles Schikowski