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Step-by-Step Guide to Exporting – Appendices

Table of contents

Appendix A: Your exporting checklist

Here's a checklist you can use to track the general progress of your exporting venture, or simply to get an overview of the entire process.

1. Planning and preparing

Whether you export goods or services, many of the following preparatory steps will be similar:

  • Research the market using techniques and resources described in this guide.
  • Did you take the Export quiz? If you answered 11-15 questions with “A” or “Yes”, you are likely well prepared to request service from the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS). Speak with a trade commissioner right here in Canada for information on trade opportunities and market intelligence from around the world.
  • Ask the TCS in your target market for help in assessing your market prospects and to provide you with a list of qualified contacts.
  • Visit cities in the region and talk to potential buyers and intermediaries.
  • Request a face-to-face briefing from an officer of the TCS in the region to discuss the latest developments in your target market.
  • Develop a network of contacts and potential partners.
  • Find out who are your competitors and potential allies, and who are the key importers, distributors and agents for your product or service.
  • Develop a profile of the ideal agents and distributors; then, make a short list of the ones whose skills and experience best complement your export objectives.
  • If exporting a service, consider the possibility of finding a local partner to represent your interests.
  • Put together a promotional package describing your company and its products or services.
  • Attend a regional trade fair to continue your market research, do preliminary promotion and establish contacts with potential buyers and associates.
  • Make arrangements with key export service providers such as freight forwarders, trading houses and customs brokers.

2. Making the deal

The following summarizes the way you arrange a deal and ship goods to your buyers. If you're a service exporter, you won't have to deal with documentation, freight forwarding, shipping or customs clearance.

Check references of prospective customers

Whether you're dealing with end users, retailers or intermediaries, check their references. Use your network of Canadian exporters, commercial banks, people in the industry or your Canadian trade commissioner to do the following:

  • Verify the prospect's credit rating.
  • Contact other exporters who have had dealings with the prospect.
  • Ask the TCS in your target market to provide you with information on the prospect.
  • Verify the prospect's business profile.

Visit prospects

Visits to important prospects in your market(s) are strongly recommended because they let you gather insight into each prospect’s needs. Before leaving Canada, ask the TCS in the market you're visiting to provide you with advice on timing and organizing your trip.

Finalize the sale

Finalization normally begins when your sales department receives a purchase order from the buyer. You should respond with an acknowledgment of the order or a sales confirmation. Be sure to confirm the following details:

  • quantity
  • payment terms
  • shipping/trade terms
  • transportation method
  • price

Prepare a letter of credit

The process for a letter of credit (L/C) is:

  • The buyer issues an instruction to his or her own bank.
  • The buyer's bank sends the L/C to your bank.
  • Your bank sends the L/C to you.

Review the L/C carefully with your freight forwarder, banker and legal counsel. It must be consistent with your sales agreement, and you must comply with all of its provisions. Remember that an L/C pays upon receipt of correct documents, not upon successful completion of the transaction. If a name or address is misspelled, if the shipping date is wrong or if all charges are not included, you may be unable to collect.

Prepare other documentation

Your shipment must be accompanied by all relevant documentation, including:

  • commercial invoice
  • packing slip
  • shipping instructions
  • certificate of origin
  • standards documentation (if necessary)
  • health/sanitary certificate (if necessary)

Freight forwarder involvement

Your freight forwarder prepares the following documents and delivers copies to you, your buyer and your commercial bank:

  • customs invoice
  • consular invoices (if required)
  • special packing or marking list
  • insurance and certificate of insurance
  • bill of lading


The shipment process works like this:

  • Your freight forwarder sends the goods to the carrier.
  • Your customer receives all relevant documentation, allowing the shipment to clear customs.
  • The goods clear customs at the destination entry point.


After the shipment has been sent:

  • The freight forwarder presents your bank with the L/C and all accompanying documentation.
  • You present your bank with a sight draft (demand for payment).
  • Your bank passes the documentation to the buyer's bank with a demand for payment.
  • The buyer's bank accepts the documentation and lets you know when the funds will be transferred.
  • Your bank transfers funds to your account.

Appendix B: Resources for exporters

Global Affairs Canada provides information related to foreign affairs, international trade and development.

The TCS provides services to Canadian businesses that have researched and selected their target market(s) abroad. These services can help a company prepare for the international market, assess market potential, identify qualified contacts and solve problems. With more than 160 offices in Canada and abroad, the TCS provides a full range of international business development services to Canadian SMEs active or interested in exporting.

MY TCS is an online platform offered by the TCS that provides you with access to market information and insight on business opportunities that match your specific business interests. Opt-in to receive email notifications about new export publications, upcoming trade events, webinars, videos and podcasts, as well as editorial content from the TCS flagship magazine, CanadExport.

CanExport provides financial support for a wide range of export marketing activities that increase the competitiveness of Canadian companies. CanExport will provide up to $50 million over five years in direct financial support to Canadian SMEs seeking to develop new export opportunities, particularly in high-growth priority markets and sectors.

Global Opportunities for Associations (GOA) provides contribution funding to support national associations undertaking new or expanded international business development activities, in strategic markets and sectors, for the benefit of an entire industry (both member and non-member firms). 

The Canadian Business Women in International Trade (BWIT) Program provides targeted products and services to help women entrepreneurs expand their global footprint. Visit the TCS website to learn about BWIT's trade missions, sign up to receive news for women entrepreneurs, join BWIT's LinkedIn group and sign up to be part of the women-owned searchable directory that is part of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's Canadian Company Capabilities database.

Canadian Technology Accelerators (CTAs) provide Canadian high-growth, market-ready companies support to access global markets and entrepreneurship services within the information and communication technologies, life sciences and clean technologies sectors. The CTA initiative is managed and led by the TCS, with support and contributions from stakeholders in Canada as well as partners from in-market business accelerators, provincial governments, international venture capital firms and industry experts.

Using Export Controls Online, exporters are able to submit applications for export permits and certificates, as well as request amendments. Whether you are looking to import goods to Canada or to export to another country, Export and Import Controls provides up-to-date information on controlled products and how to obtain the necessary permits and certificates.

Learn more

In need of financial assistance to travel to target markets, attend a trade fair or conference, or conduct market research? Listen to this podcast to learn about a new funding program designed to kickstart your international expansion.

Listen to the podcast

TCS Regional Business Network in Canada

The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service’s Regional Business Network provides on-the-ground client service across Canada. In order to be more accessible to Canadian clients, Trade commissioners are located in five regional office hubs and are co-located with partners in every province. Before you go to market, trade commissioners can best support your international business goals with export advice, guidance and the right connections to the TCS global network.

To find a trade commissioner near you in Canada, search by location and business sector through Find a Trade Commissioner or Contact a regional office.

Other government organizations

Export Development Canada (EDC) is Canada’s trade finance agency, providing financing and insurance solutions locally and around the world to help Canadian companies of any size respond to international business opportunities.

The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) can help you meet your working capital needs through long-term financing and flexible repayment options. BDC can provide you with expert guidance and support to help you seize opportunities to expand and export to the U.S. and other international markets.

The Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC) provides international contracting services to Canadian exporters selling to foreign governments, as well as special market access to those targeting U.S. government procurement markets.

The National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) provides innovation and funding services customized to your specific needs, helping you accelerate the growth of your business through innovation and technology.

The Agri-Food Trade Service (ATS) of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada provides a full range of market access, market development and investment services to Canadian agri-food companies.

The Canada Business Network is a government information service for businesses and start-up entrepreneurs in Canada. It's intended to simplify access to various levels of government.

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada provides general and specific information of use to exporters, including market reports and the Trade Data Online research tool.

Statistics Canada is Canada's central statistical agency. It produces statistics and statistical reports on Canada's population, resources, economy, society and culture.

The U.S. Commercial Service has a range of useful research tools, including market reports and commercial guides related to world markets.

Appendix C: Glossary of international trade terms

Exporting is more complex than selling in a domestic market. It is important to understand key trade expressions, techniques and requirements, such as:

  • the laws, regulations and practices governing your product or service in your target market
  • export documentation, including invoices, bills of lading, certificates of origin and health and safety certificates
  • tariffs, customs duties and processing fees, as well as taxes payable on your shipment
  • export-related services offered by brokers, trading houses, agents, freight forwarders and insurance companies
  • how to label, pack, transport and store your products
  • payment options such as letters of credit, bills of exchange and open account transactions

General terms

International trade carries its own particular terminology. The following are general trade expressions that new exporters will encounter in published sources and trade discussions.

Anti-dumping duty
A special duty imposed to offset the price effect of dumping that has been determined to be materially harmful to domestic producers. (See also, Dumping)
A general expression meaning the sale or barter of goods on a reciprocal basis. There may also be multilateral transactions involved.
Countervailing duties
Additional duties imposed by an importing country to offset government subsidies in an exporting country, when the subsidized imports cause material injury to domestic industry in the importing country.
The sale of an imported commodity at a price lower than that at which it is sold within the exporting country. Dumping is considered an actionable trade practice when it disrupts markets and injures producers of competitive products in the importing country. Article VI of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade permits the imposition of special anti-dumping duties against dumped goods equal to the difference between their export price and their normal value.
Export quotas
Specific restrictions or ceilings imposed by an exporting country on the value or volume of certain exports designed, for example, to protect domestic producers and consumers from temporary shortages of the goods affected or to bolster their prices in world markets.
Export subsidies
Government payments or other financially quantifiable benefits provided to domestic producers or exporters contingent on the export of their goods and services.
GDP/GNP (gross domestic/national product)
The total of goods and services produced by a country.
An economic benefit granted by a government to producers of goods, often to strengthen their competitive position. The subsidy may be direct (e.g. cash grant) or indirect (e.g. low-interest export credits guaranteed by a government agency).
Surcharge or surtax
A tariff or tax on imports in addition to the existing tariff, often used as a safeguard measure.
A duty (or tax) levied on goods transported from one customs area to another. Tariffs raise the prices of imported goods, making them less competitive within the market of the importing country. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement, most tariffs on Canadian goods and services to the United States and Mexico have been eliminated.

International commerce terms (Incoterms)

To provide a common terminology for international shipping, the following Incoterms have been developed under the auspices of the International Chamber of Commerce.

Cost and freight (C&F)
The exporter pays the costs and freight necessary to get the goods to the named destination. The risk of loss or damage is assumed by the buyer once the goods are loaded at the port of embarkation.
Cost and freight (C&F)
The exporter pays the costs and freight necessary to get the goods to the named destination. The risk of loss or damage is assumed by the buyer once the goods are loaded at the port of embarkation.
Cost, insurance and freight (CIF)
The exporter pays the cost of goods, cargo and insurance plus all transportation charges to the named port of destination.
Delivered at frontier
The exporter/seller's obligations are met when the goods arrive at the frontier, but before they reach the "customs border" of the importing country named in the sales contract. The expression is commonly used when goods are carried by road or rail.
Delivered duty paid
This expression puts maximum responsibility on the seller/exporter in terms of delivering the goods, assuming the risk of damage/loss and paying duty. It is at the other extreme from delivered ex works (see below), under which the seller assumes the least responsibility.
Delivered ex quay
The exporter/seller makes the goods available to the buyer on the quay or wharf at the destination named in the sales contract. There are two types of ex quaycontracts in use: ex quay duty paid, whereby the seller incurs the liability to clear the goods for import, and ex quay duties on buyer's account, whereby the buyer assumes the responsibility.
Delivered ex ship
The exporter/seller must make the goods available to the buyer on board the ship at the location stipulated in the contract. All responsibility/cost for bringing the goods up to this point falls on the seller.
Delivered ex works
This minimal obligation requires the seller only to make the goods available to the buyer at the seller's premises or factory. The seller is not responsible for loading the goods on the vehicle provided by the buyer, unless otherwise agreed. The buyer bears all responsibility for transporting the goods from the seller's place of business to their destination.
Ex works (EXW)
The price quoted applies only at the point of origin and the seller agrees to place the goods at the disposal of the buyer at the specified place on the date or within the period fixed. All other charges are for the account of the buyer.
Free alongside ship (FAS)
The seller quotes a price for the goods that includes charges for delivery of the goods alongside a vessel at the port. The seller handles the cost of unloading and wharfage; loading, ocean transportation, and insurance are left to the buyer.
Free carrier (FCA)
Recognizing the requirements of modern transport, including multi-modal transport, this principle is similar to free on board (see below), except that the exporter's obligations are met when the goods are delivered into the custody of the carrier at the named port. The risk of loss/damage is transferred to the buyer at this time, not at the ship's rail. The carrier can be any person contracted to transport the goods by road, sea, air, rail or a combination thereof.
Free of particular average (FPA)
This type of transportation insurance provides the narrowest type of coverage: total losses, and partial losses at sea if the vessel sinks, burns or is stranded, are covered.
Free on board (FOB)
The goods are placed on board the vessel by the seller at the port of shipment specified in the sales contract. The risk of loss or damage is transferred to the buyer when the goods pass the ship's rail.
Free on board airport (FOB airport)
Based on the same principles as the ordinary FOB expression, the seller's obligation is fulfilled by delivering the goods to the air carrier at the specified airport of departure, at which point the risk of loss or damage is transferred to the buyer.
Free on rail (FOR) and free on truck (FOT)
Again, the same principles apply as in the case of ordinary FOB, except that the goods are transported by rail or road.
With average (WA)
This type of transportation insurance provides protection from partial losses at sea.

Transportation and delivery terms

The following are common terms used in packing, labelling, transporting and delivering goods to international markets. They are in addition to the above Incoterms.

Area control list
A list of countries to which any export (except humanitarian items) requires an export permit.
Bill of lading (ocean or airway)
A contract prepared by the carrier or the freight forwarder with the owner of the goods. The foreign buyer needs this document to take possession of the goods.
Certificate of origin
A document that certifies the country where the product was made (i.e. its origin). A common export document, a certificate of origin is needed when exporting to many foreign markets. It must be used for Canadian-made goods to qualify for preferential tariff treatment under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Commercial invoice
A document prepared by the exporter or freight forwarder, and required by the foreign buyer, to prove ownership and arrange for payment to the exporter. It should provide basic information about the transaction, including description of goods, address of shipper and seller as well as delivery and payment terms. In some cases, the commercial invoice is used to assess customs duties.
Consular invoice
A statement issued by a foreign consul in the exporting nation describing the goods purchased. Some foreign governments require Canadian exporters to first obtain consular invoices from their consulate in Canada. A fee is usually charged.
Customs declaration
A document that traditionally accompanies exported goods bearing such information as the nature of the goods, their value, the consignee and their ultimate destination. Required for statistical purposes, it accompanies all controlled goods being exported under the appropriate permit.
Customs invoice
A document used to clear goods through customs in the importing country by providing documentary evidence of the value of goods. In some cases, the commercial invoice may be used for this purpose.
Dock receipt
A receipt issued by an ocean carrier to acknowledge receipt of a shipment at the carrier's dock or warehouse facilities. (See also, Warehouse receipt)
Ex factory
Used in price quotations, an expression referring to the price of goods at the exporter's loading dock.
Export control list
A list of goods and technologies that require export permits to be exported from Canada, pursuant to the Export and Import Permits Act.
Export permit
A legal document that is necessary for the export of goods controlled by the Government of Canada, specifically goods included on the Export Control List (see above) or goods destined for countries on the Area Control List).
Freight forwarder
A service company that handles all aspects of export shipping for a fee.
Insurance certificate
A document prepared by the exporter or freight forwarder to provide evidence that insurance against loss or damage has been obtained for the goods.
Landed cost
The cost of the exported product at the port or point of entry into the foreign market, but before the addition of foreign tariffs, taxes, local packaging/assembly costs and local distributors' margins. Product modifications made prior to shipment are included in the landed cost.
Packing list
A document prepared by the exporter showing the quantity and type of merchandise being shipped to the foreign customer.
Pro forma invoice
An invoice prepared by the exporter prior to shipping the goods, informing the buyer of the goods to be sent, their value and other key specifications.
An offer by the exporter to sell the goods at a stated price and under certain conditions.
Warehouse receipt
A receipt identifying the commodities deposited in a recognized warehouse. A non-negotiable warehouse receipt specifies to whom the deposited goods will be delivered or released. A negotiable receipt states that the commodities will be released to the bearer of the receipt.

Financial and insurance terms

The following are the most commonly used terms in international trade financing.

All risk
This is the most comprehensive type of transportation insurance, providing protection against all physical loss or damage from external causes.
Bid bond
When an exporter is bidding on a foreign contract, a bid bond guarantees that the exporter will take the contract if the bid succeeds. An exporter who refuses the contract must pay a penalty equal to the amount of the bond.
Cash in advance (advance payment)
A foreign customer pays a Canadian exporter prior to actually receiving the exporter's product(s). This form of payment carries the least risk from the exporter's perspective.
Confirming house
A company, based in a foreign country, that acts as a foreign buyer's agent and places confirmed orders with Canadian exporters. A confirming house guarantees payment to the exporters.
Delivery of merchandise to the buyer or distributor, whereby the latter agrees to sell it and only then pay the Canadian exporter. The seller retains ownership of the goods until they are sold, but also carries all of the financial burden and risk.
Document of title
A document that provides evidence of entitlement to ownership of goods, e.g. carrier's bill of lading.
Documentary collection
The exporter ships the goods to the foreign buyer without a confirmed letter of credit or any other form of payment guarantee.
Documentary credit (sight and term)
A documentary credit calling for a sight draft means the exporter is entitled to receive payment on sight, i.e. upon presenting the draft to the bank. A term documentary credit may allow for payments to be made over a term of 30, 60 or 90 days, or at some other specified future date.
Draft (bill of exchange)
A written, unconditional order for payment from one party (the drawer) to another (the drawee). It directs the drawee to pay an indicated amount to the drawer. A sight draft calls for immediate payment. A term draft requires payment over a specified period.
Export financing house
A company that purchases a Canadian exporter's foreign receivables on a non-recourse basis upon presentation of proper documentation. It then organizes export arrangements and provides front-end financing to the foreign buyer.
Factoring house
A company that buys export receivables at a discount.
Letter of credit (L/C)
An instrument issued by a bank on behalf of an importer that guarantees payment to the exporter for goods or services, provided the terms of the credit are met.
Letter of credit (confirmed)
A Canadian bank confirms the validity of a letter of credit issued by a foreign bank on behalf of the foreign importer, guaranteeing payment to the Canadian exporter provided that all terms in the document have been met. An unconfirmed letter of credit does not guarantee payment so, if the foreign bank defaults, the Canadian exporter will not be paid. Canadian exporters should accept only confirmed letters of credit as a form of payment.
Letter of credit (Irrevocable)
A financial institution agrees to pay an exporter once all terms and conditions of the transaction are met. No terms or conditions can be modified without consent of all parties.
Open account
An arrangement in which goods are shipped to the foreign buyer before the Canadian exporter receives payment.

Partnership, alliance and market-entry terms

The following expressions define the various types of partnership or alliance arrangements as well as methods of market entry common in international trade.

A foreign representative who tries to sell your product in the target market. The agent does not take possession of—and assumes no responsibility for—the goods. Agents are paid on a commission basis.
Carried out on the basis of a fee or percentage of sales, co-marketing is an effective way to take advantage of existing distribution networks and a partner's knowledge of local markets.
This arrangement involves the joint production of goods, enabling firms to optimize their own skills and resources as well as take advantage of economies of scale.
In this form of partnership, each firm licenses products or services to the other. It is a relatively straightforward way for companies to share products or expertise.
This is a form of cross-licensing in which companies agree to manufacture each other's products. It can also be combined with co-marketing or co-promotion agreements.
Distributor (importer)
A foreign company that agrees to purchase a Canadian exporter's product(s) and then takes responsibility for storing, marketing and selling them.
This is a more specific form of licensing. The franchise is given the right to use a set of manufacturing or service delivery processes, along with established business systems or trademarks and to control their use by contractual agreement.
Joint venture
An independent business formed cooperatively by two or more parent firms. This type of partnership is often used to avoid restrictions on foreign ownership and for longer-term arrangements that require joint product development, manufacturing and marketing.
Although not usually considered to be a form of partnership, licensing can lead to partnerships. In licensing arrangements, a firm sells the rights to use its products or services but retains some control.
Trading house
A company specializing in the exporting and importing of goods produced or provided by other companies.

The following are some of the more common legal terms encountered in international transactions.

The process of resolving a dispute or a grievance outside of the court system by presenting it to an impartial third party or panel for a decision that may or may not be binding.
A written or oral agreement that the law will enforce.
Protection granted to the authors and creators of literary, artistic, dramatic and musical works and sound recordings.
Intellectual property (IP)
A collective term used to refer to new ideas, inventions, designs, writings, films and so on, protected by copyright, patents and/or trademarks.
A right that entitles the patent holder, within the country that granted or recognizes the patent, to prevent all others from using, making or selling the subject matter of the patent for a set period of time.
A word, logo, shape or design, or type of lettering that reflects the goodwill or customer recognition of a particular company’s product.
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