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International Trade Intermediaries: A Comprehensive Guide for Selecting the Right Business Service

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

International Trade Intermediaries, Intermediary Trade Consultants, and Customs Intermediaries play distinct yet sometimes overlapping roles in international trade. Depending on their depth of involvement, they can act as either direct or indirect representatives. Yet, if they take ownership of goods or act as importers/exporters, they must function independently. Clear guidelines, such as those set by the HMRC in the UK, are vital for these intermediaries to prevent confusion and legal issues. When operating in foreign territories, it's essential to refer to the respective country's regulatory framework. Notably, companies offering Intermediary Trade Services as principal and those acting as Customs Intermediaries should remain separate to maintain clarity and legal compliance.

International Trade Intermediaries

These are entities or individuals that assist businesses in entering or expanding their operations in foreign markets. They bridge the gap between producers in one country and consumers in another. Examples include export intermediaries, trading companies, and export management companies (EMCs). Their responsibilities range from marketing a product overseas to handling logistics, documentation, and sometimes even sales for the producer.

Customs Intermediaries

These are professionals or entities that guide businesses through the customs clearance process. They ensure that goods adhere to all necessary regulations and are properly documented for import or export. Custom brokers and clearing agents are primary examples. Their specialty lies in deciphering intricate customs procedures, tariffs, and regulations, facilitating the seamless movement of goods across borders by ensuring customs duties are settled and the requisite paperwork is accurate.

Intermediary Trade Consultancy

These consultants or firms offer businesses advice on various aspects of international trade. Rather than engaging directly in the trade process, they provide guidance, market intelligence, and strategic recommendations. Their offerings encompass market entry strategy, potential market or partner identification, regulatory compliance advice, and risk assessments in overseas markets. Their insights into navigating international markets prove invaluable for businesses eager to expand abroad.

In summary, while International Trade Intermediaries actively participate in moving and selling goods internationally, Customs Intermediaries prioritise the procedural and regulatory aspects of such transitions. In contrast, Intermediary Trade Consultancies furnish expert advice on international trade nuances without directly participating in the transaction process.

For companies importing goods into the United Kingdom, their liabilities extend beyond tax and duty payments. By introducing goods to the market, these companies also assume responsibility for the safety and security of imported items and their potential impact. This particularly applies when a business imports goods in its own right and claims ownership. The legal declaration of ownership determines the purchasing party's liability. Reputable firms offering services in these areas might market themselves as International Trade Consultants, Intermediary Trade Consultants, or Trade Compliance Consultants.

Adherence to customs law and tax obligations is just the tip of the iceberg. There are additional rules covering product liability, safety, security, marketing, and more. Companies like Tevolution Ltd can pinpoint any standards the importing country imposes on the goods in terms of quality, health and safety, environment, and other criteria.

There are specific regulatory requisites surrounding labelling, testing, and registration. Some products even necessitate licensing and quotas. Many nations mandate certification for certain goods, and this must be accomplished before shipping. The following is a non-exhaustive list of countries and their required certifications:

United Kingdom

The UKCA (UK Conformity Assessed) marking is a new UK product marking that is used for goods being placed on the market in Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales). It covers most goods that previously required the CE marking.

It's important to note that the CE marking is still recognised in the UK. This does not apply to UK products in the EU reciprocally.

Food and Agricultural Products:

Imports of food and agricultural products often require health certificates and may be subject to checks at border control posts.

The UK has specific standards regarding food hygiene, animal health, and plant health. Certifications must reflect that these standards are met.

Medicines and Pharmaceuticals:

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) oversees the regulations for medicines, medical devices, and blood components for transfusion. Relevant certifications and testing are necessary for these products.


Chemicals imported into the UK must comply with UK REACH regulations (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and restriction of Chemicals). UK REACH is the UK's independent regulatory framework, separate from the EU's REACH system, post-Brexit.

European Union (EU):

The EU has a wide range of certification requirements for different product categories, ensuring they meet the standards and regulations of the Single Market. The CE marking, for example, is a certification mark that indicates conformity with health, safety, and environmental protection standards for products sold within the European Economic Area (EEA).

United States:

The U.S. requires certification for many imported goods, overseen by various agencies. For instance, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has certification requirements for food, drugs, and medical devices. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees imports of meat, poultry, and certain agricultural products.


China's General Administration of Customs and other regulatory bodies oversee import regulations, with certification requirements for many goods, especially food, agricultural products, machinery, and electronic products.


The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and other governmental bodies regulate the import of various goods into India, with certification requirements for many product categories.


The Australian Border Force, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment, and other agencies have specific requirements for various imported goods.


The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and other regulatory bodies manage import regulations, and there are certification requirements for various products, especially food and agricultural items.

Middle East:

United Arab Emirates (UAE):

Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA) regulates various products. The UAE requires a Conformity Assessment for a variety of products, like cosmetics, food, electrical equipment, and more.

The UAE often requires a Halal Certification for food products to ensure they comply with Islamic dietary laws.

Saudi Arabia:

The Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO) oversees import standards. Many products imported into Saudi Arabia need a SASO Conformity Certificate.

Halal Certification is also a requirement for food products.


Products like electronics, toys, and cosmetics often need to adhere to Qatar's standards and may require a conformity certificate.

Halal Certification for food products.


The Public Authority for Industry (PAI) requires a Certificate of Conformity for various products imported into Kuwait.

Halal requirements for food products.


South Africa:

Regulated by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS). Various goods, especially food products, electronics, and machinery, may require certification or testing to ensure they meet local standards.


The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) mandates that certain products have a SON Conformity Assessment Program (SONCAP) certificate for customs clearance.


Managed by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS). A Pre-Export Verification of Conformity (PVoC) certificate is often required for goods to ensure they conform to the country's standards.


The Egyptian Organization for Standardization and Quality (EOS) oversees standards. Many imported goods require a Certificate of Conformity to clear customs.

Egypt has halal requirements for food products in certain contexts.


Import regulations for certain products, especially food and agricultural items, require certifications to ensure they meet local and safety standards.


Overseen by the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA). A number of imported products need to undergo a conformity assessment.

When expanding internationally, adapting information to local needs is paramount, and this is where the expertise of international translators becomes indispensable. It's highly recommended to engage the services of a professional international trade translator to guarantee the precision of your document translations, particularly for manuals and technical content. Peak Translations bridges the gap between the realms of international trade and translation services.

To navigate the intricate regulations of international trade law, consider seeking assistance from Tevolution Ltd. Depending on your specific needs, you can utilise the right service.

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