The Incoterms rules or International Commercial terms are a series of pre-defined commercial terms published by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) widely used in international commercial transactions. A series of three-letter trade terms related to common sales practices, the Incoterms rules are intended primarily to clearly communicate the tasks, costs and risks associated with the transportation and delivery of goods. The Incoterms rules are accepted by governments, legal authorities and practitioners worldwide for the interpretation of most commonly used terms in international trade. They are intended to reduce or remove altogether uncertainties arising from different interpretation of the rules in different countries. First published in 1936, the Incoterms rules have been periodically updated, with the eighth version—Incoterms 2010—having been published on January 1, 2011. “Incoterms” is a registered trademark of the ICC.

INCOTERMS AND THE EXPORTER

International Commercial Terms, known as “Incoterms”, are internationally accepted terms defining the responsibilities of exporters and importers in the arrangement of shipments and the transfer of liability involved at various stages of the transaction. Incoterms do not cover ownership or the transfer of title of goods. It is crucial to agree on an Incoterm at the start of a negotiation/ quotation of a sale, as it will affect the costs and responsibilities involved in shipping, insurance and tariffs. The new Incoterms 2010 rules were revised by the International Chamber of Commerce and will become effective January 1, 2011. Four terms were eliminated (DAF, DEQ, DES, DDU) and two were added: Delivered at Place (DAP) and Delivered at Terminal (DAT). The modifications affect obligations, risk transfer, and cost sharing for the seller and buyer, resulting in better clarification and application of the eleven (11) Incoterms, and consistent with the way global trade is actually conducted since the last update in 2000. In any sales transaction, it is important for the seller and buyer to agree on the terms of sale and know precisely what is included in the sale price. Exporters should choose the Incoterm that works best for their company, but also be prepared to quote on other terms. Inexperienced exporters may want to use the Incoterm “Ex Works” (EXW), because this term carries the least burden for them. Under EXW, an exporter’s responsibility ends at their facility’s loading dock, which includes making the goods available for pick up and providing any product information needed for filing the Electronic Export Information (EEI). The importer’s agent (i.e. their designated U.S. freight forwarder) will arrange and pay for the pre-carriage, shipping, insurance and any additional costs from the exporter’s door. A sale based on the Incoterms “CIF”, on the other hand, requires the exporter to arrange and pay for the pre-carriage, shipping, and insurance to a named port. In this case, the sale price (invoice) includes not only the (C)ost of goods, but also (I)nssurance and (F)reight costs that the importing buyer pays the exporting seller.

INCOTERMS® 2010 Quick Reference Chart

When designating the Incoterms on a commercial invoice or a quotation to the buyer, the term should be followed by the city or port of load/discharge, such as “EXW Factory, Richmond, VA” or “CIF Rotterdam”. Using the actual address is better to avoid any confusion or misinterpretation. Communication throughout the entire process is crucial. For example, under Ex Works, the shipper should notify the importer when the goods are ready and after they have been picked up by the importer’s selected carrier. The exporter’s freight forwarder often provides the vessel and sail date, or air cargo service used, and any ocean bill of lading or airway bill number to keep the parties informed of the arrangements and status of the shipment (even though technically under Ex Works the exporter’s responsibility ends at their loading dock). The most burdensome Incoterms for the exporter is Delivered Duty Paid (DDP), because all arrangements and costs are borne by the exporter, usually with the assistance of agents (freight forwarders and customs house brokers). With DDP, the exporter bears all risks and costs of transportation, including duties and tariffs, until the goods are received by the importer, usually at the importer’s factory or warehouse. Since DDP represents the maximum obligation to the seller, it is not recommended for companies that are new-to-export.

INCOTERMS® IS A REGISTERED TRADEMARK OF THE INTERNATIONAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE. THIS DOCUMENT IS NOT INTENDED AS LEGAL ADVICE BUT IS BEING PROVIDED FOR REFERENCE PURPOSES ONLY. USERS SHOULD SEEK SPECIFIC GUIDANCE FROM INCOTERMS® 2010 AVAILABLE THROUGH THE INTERNATIONAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AT WWW.ICCBOOKS.COM