Conference Emphasizes Trade Issues

GRAND RAPIDS — The Van Andel Global Trade Center is reaching out to help businesses keep updated on international trade compliance at its Trade Compliance Program, June 16-17.

The program includes sessions on export administration regulations, understanding export control classification numbers, red flags and general prohibitions, export screening, licensing, informed compliance and importer self-assessment and focused assessment audits. The event will take place at the Hagerty Center, 715 E. Front St. in Traverse City. It is open to all who are interested in import and export regulations.

Van Andel Global Trade Center Associate Director Sonja Johnson, who will be presenting at the event, said the program will most help those who are filling out the paperwork and documentation for importing and exporting.

“It’s for the people that are doing the hands-on, day-to-day operations with export trade,” she said.

Van Andel Global Trade Center Executive Director Jeff Meyer said companies need to remember that the United States is in an advanced stage of security.

“Products coming in and out of this country — everything is being watched and should be,” he said. “There are more rules, regulations and standards being set up to administer the flow of goods.”

Because of these changes and regulations, Meyer said companies may have difficulty being in compliance.

“Our companies have a responsibility to maintain a certain level of compliance for security purposes as for their own efficiency,” he said.

In a small or medium-sized company it is hard to have an expert in every international area, Meyer said, so compliance may fall by the wayside unless companies are able to use technology and processes to be compliant in less time.

With a high probability for change in import and export regulations, it is hard for businesses to keep up to date on all the issues. The event will help companies prepare for what they need to look for and what tools are available to them.

“It keeps moving; it’s like a moving target,” Johnson said. “Depending on how much business they’re doing in any given area, it may change.”

The Trade Compliance Program will help companies find more information about how to be efficiently compliant.

Johnson said it is especially important because companies are being more carefully audited considering the current international climate.

“The regulations have gotten much more extreme since 9/11. It’s just kind of to bring awareness to the community,” she said.

Though there are no statistics on how many more audits have taken place, Johnson said the Bureau of Industry and Security, which enforces the export administration’s regulations, has been a more visible presence.

“With the added personnel, they’re out there in the field a lot more than they have been in the past,” she said.

Johnson said more people are impacted by import and export regulations than they realize, especially with rising international Internet sales.

“There are just a lot of things out there affecting business and we just wanted to bring up the awareness of changes,” she said.

Johnson said she thinks people are trying to be compliant, but they may not be aware of all the regulations.

“It’s just one slice of the big pile of work on their desk,” she said. “There are certain things they can do to make sure they’re aware of what’s going on.”

While the program cannot go into detail on all requirements, Johnson said the event will cover a variety of businesses and help the businesses determine if they need to take a closer look at the regulations.

“We’re just going to cover the basic requirements for most commodities,” she said. “We’re hoping that it will make their jobs easier.”

For more information or to register for the event, call 331-6811 or visit The cost is $350 for members, $500 for nonmembers. Hotel rooms have been booked for the event at Bayshore Resort, (800) 634-4000 under Grand Valley State University.    

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