Understanding your international compliance requirements

Our guidance here is simple. If you are not compliant with the regulations of the country you are entering, your venture may fail. It is that fundamental. Trading rules and regulations vary from country to country. If you are not prepared to do a thorough investigation but prefer to wing it, you are putting your business at unnecessary and potentially huge risk.

Take legal advice and local guidance in the market you are entering, and in the long-run, you will avoid unnecessary costs, product hold-ups and save yourself money.

Let’s face facts here, we know are repeating ourselves. We cannot over-emphasise how important it is to obtain independent legal and local advice for all markets you enter - this is truly a pre-requisite to your success.

International compliance requirements

This Export Essentials guide takes you through the key areas of compliance that you will need to meet to trade successfully in markets offshore. You’ll find information and guidance on:

  • What your obligations are
  • Building compliance and tariff costs into your selling price
  • A reminder to check your product liabilities for each market you go to
  • Some ground rules on what information your packaging and labelling needs to contain
  • Compliance and online sales

Download our free guide on this page introducing you to some of the most common areas of export product regulations you'll need to meet as you enter new international markets.

Watch this three-minute video of Mike Devonshire NZTE Beachhead Advisor shares his top tips, while James McLeod from Made4Baby advises you to patiently work through compliance requirement requests to access sizeable market opportunities such as those he targeted in India.

If you would like to learn more about developing the right approach to exporting for your business, register now for the next Export Essentials workshop. We’ll give you practical tools and techniques to take your business global.

Mike Devonshire: Compliance is a regulatory hurdle that every exporter faces. It generally has a financial or economic text from the enforcing country. It also has sometimes a biosecurity element as well. 

James McLeod: So, some markets do require compliance. Now, the certificates that are issued to you by The Cosmetics New Zealand Association are a starting point, and there’s often additional information required around your ingredients and other sort of [Unintelligible 0:00:53.4] things around product-testing is required so you have to provide samples for testing as well.

Mike Devonshire: Why is it important to consider compliance? Well, it’s a fundamental component of the export offering, so if we don’t understand our compliance obligations we most probably will fail.

James McLeod: So, the extra costs that are involved with compliance largely come about through testing in country or even registering your product. At made4baby what we try to do is we try to get the distributor to wear those costs given that they are the ones who are going to hopefully take this product in advance.

Mike Devonshire: Well, there’s hidden costs both within New Zealand and obviously in the destination markets. Some of them are getting the correct certifications here in New Zealand before you get going and then there may be a series of tariffs or barriers that are set up in the destination market which do take considerable resources.

James McLeod: So, have we been caught out by compliance issues? Look, India’s probably the best example. Your documentation, be prepared to change it a number of times as they request more information. Just be patient; it does take time. However, the size of those market opportunities will be worth going through those compliance regulations.

Mike Devonshire: So, the top three tips with respect to compliance for new exporters. The first one is get in touch with someone who understands that market. The second thing is to get in touch with someone who understands that market. And the third one is to get in touch with someone who understands that market.

James McLeod: So, the advice I’d give to any potential exporter on compliance. Look, access your association, your industry association to find out whether you do have to comply to certain regulations for that country. The other thing that we have done is actually sourced an in-country lawyer who is proficient in our industry and can advise us on compliance issues.

Exporter guide

Prepare for the compliance logistics of your target market with this checklist
  • How do I clear my products for export?
    New Zealand Customs has detailed information about export clearance requirements on its website.
  • I want to find out about packaging and labelling for export
    Packaging and labelling requirements can be very different from country to country, so get as much information as you can before making the decision to export. 

    Depending on where your products will be sold, you might need to use different materials or labels, and include different types of information. In some countries, you might have to translate all your packaging or labels into the local language – in others, applying a sticker with a few key details will do the job. 

    Make sure that you check out all of the requirements for packaging and labelling before tackling a new market, including anything that’s needed during transport or distribution. 

    You’ll find more details on the kind of things you need to think about in our guide to understanding international compliance requirements.

    We suggest that you work with a customs broker or freight forwarder, or get advice from a lawyer in-market, to understand all the requirements for your product and the place where it’s headed. The Customs Broker and Freight Forwarder Federation (CBAFF) has a list of customs brokers and freight forwarders within New Zealand.
  • I want to find out about regulations and tariffs for export
    Regulations and tariffs should be one of the first things you find out before exporting. They often determine whether a market will be easy or hard for you to export to, or whether you should try to do business there at all.

    Understanding regulations in your export destination is a must-do. For an introduction to what you need to think about, see our guide on understanding international compliance requirements. This includes tips on how to research regulations, as well as insights on local regulations, standards, health and safety, and dealing with local bureaucracy.

    It’s a good idea to take a look at the rest of the international compliance process while you’re doing your work on regulations – see more information in our guide to understanding international compliance requirements.

    If you’re planning to export food or food-related products, you should also check out the food exporting page on the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) website. MPI maintains a list of Overseas Market Access Requirements (OMARs) for New Zealand food products in different export markets – search and identify OMARs for your product online

    Tariffs can make your products more expensive and less attractive to overseas buyers, so you need to know the charges your products will attract before you commit to a new market.

    You can get a big head start in finding tariff information by using the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) tariff finder or the World Trade Organisation’s tariff download facility. You can search the databases by product name, but they work best when you know the approximate Harmonised System (HS) code for your product. HS codes are used by customs authorities around the world to identify products and apply tariffs. The longer the code is, the more precisely it describes your product. The first six digits of an HS code are usually the same worldwide – after that, there can be up to eight further digits, which often vary from country to country.

    New Zealand Customs can help you to find out the first six digits of your HS codes – email VOC@customs.govt.nz.

    To get a longer and more precise HS code for a particular market, look up and contact the local customs authority online, or talk to a customs broker or freight forwarder who has done business in that market.

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