The main documents in foreign trade

The diversity of practices, legislation and markets involved in international sales mean that the documents required are not only different, but sometimes the same document can vary substantially depending on the country of destination.
Generally speaking, the most common documents are:

Used to describe and itemise the merchandise delivered: the price, weight and measurement or any other feature deemed necessary to document the transaction. In many cases the invoice is the only document that proves the existence of a contract, which makes it even more important.

Evidences the existence of a contract of carriage and its features: shipper, consignee, origin, destination, receipt details, freight, etc. The document varies depending on the means of transport used.

The bill of lading is the key document in sea transport. Unlike other transport documents, it is a title document that confers rights of ownership over the merchandise.

Other common documents are the air waybill for air transport and the CMR consignment note for road transport.

Proof of freight insurance to cover risk of loss or damage to the goods during transport. The document states, among others, the risks covered and the insured value.

There are two basic documents: the insurance policy, which is the insurance contract itself, and the insurance certificate, which is issued by the insurance company to prove the existence of a blanket policy.

A document issued to accredit the origin of the goods; it may be required for determining the customs duties. Generally, they are issued by authorised bodies, such as chambers of commerce or government agencies. Form A is a specific certificate of origin for countries eligible under the Generalised System of Preferences. Other documents used in foreign trade are the packing list, weight list, certificate of inspection, health certificate or customs invoice.