Playing by the Rules: Compliance in International Trade - Export Development Canada (EDC)
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Playing by the Rules: Compliance in International Trade

In international trade, “compliance” refers to how well a company observes the laws and regulations that govern its international business operations. Many of these rules are established by national governments to manage their countries’ trade with other nations (such as setting rates of duty), while others are created to fulfill the requirements of international trade agreements (such as opening up a local market to a trading partner).

If you’re an exporter or importer, you need a clear understanding of the rules that govern international trade in your sector. This is important for avoiding risk, since failing to comply with these trade rules, even accidentally, can lead to serious consequences. Depending on the transgression, you can be subject to fines, audits, seizures, inspections, investigations, loss of market access and even imprisonment.

This online guide will help you assess your company’s risk of non-compliance in several key areas. Because the rules of international trade are so complex, however, it can only provide a general overview of what is involved in complying with them. To estimate your risk of non-compliance accurately, or to obtain a full understanding of the agreement and rules affecting your business, you should always consult legal, tax, accounting and customs professionals.

Agreements and Rules

Trade rules, as distinct from agreements, have a narrower scope and, for the most part, affect importers and exporters at the regulatory level. Learn more.

Processes and Procedures

International trade demands that importers and exporters be familiar with a large range of processes and procedures. All of them involve complying with many rules, regulations, laws and standards, from reporting exports to the transportation of dangerous good. Learn more.


This section provides a general overview of the tax issues you’ll face as either an importer or exporter and information about how to ensure that you comply with Canadian and foreign tax laws. Learn more.

Special Issues

Certain aspects of international trade have characteristics that put them into special categories of compliance. For example, food and agriculture products are an especially sensitive area. The basic standards are defined by the WTO but each country also has its own regulations. The following section examines some of the most important issues for these special issues. Learn more.


International Trade Training

EDC and FITT have teamed up to provide the skills you need to succeed in your international business career.

Learn more