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Cross-Border Shipping to Canada: Simplifying Customs and Regulations for Businesses

Published on
May 1, 2024
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Norwood Nikolaus

It seems odd that in 2023, the United States exported $57.73 billion worth of vehicles to Canada, and Canada exported $56.35 billion worth of vehicles to the United States. But putting this trade nugget into perspective, you get the idea that there’s a whole lot of goods, with and without wheels, crossing the U.S.-Canada border every day. And with that, of course, comes a whole lot of customs rules and government regulations for cross-border shipping to Canada.

Shippers need a trusted partner, like VCPB Transportation, to help them navigate cross-border regulations to maximize efficiency and profitability.

Understanding the Customs and Regulatory Landscape of Cross-Border Shipping to Canada

Cross-border trade requires a thorough understanding of customs regulations, including tariff classification and valuation and the determination of duty rates. (This isn’t exactly sexy stuff, and shippers should seriously consider outsourcing most of these tasks to their transportation partners.)

The major regulatory bodies that impact U.S.-Canada trade include the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Both are guided by the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

There’s also the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE), which CBP says is “the system through which the trade community reports imports and exports and the government determines admissibility. CBP applies expertise, technology, and automation to create streamlined and efficient processes to facilitate the global exchange of safe and legitimate goods.”

Still, other certifications for cross-border freight are the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) in the U.S. and Partners in Protection (PIP) in Canada.

Free and Secure Trade (FAST) is a clearance program for shipments entering the U.S. from Canada and Mexico and transported by carriers that have completed background checks and meet certain eligibility requirements. CBP points out that FAST participation “requires that every link in the supply chain, from manufacturer to carrier to driver to importer,” is C-TPAT certified.

Key Challenges in Cross-Border Shipping to Canada

As with the alphabet soup of certifications, there are challenges specifically associated with cross-border freight, whether it’s going north or moving south. These include:

  • Documentation and compliance. The issues include the extensive documentation required for customs clearance. But the documentation process begins long before a shipment reaches the border. Lack of documentation prevents a transportation provider from getting preclearance, which takes place before the freight is even loaded.
  • Delays and bottlenecks. Paperwork errors, inspection requirements, and traffic congestion all cause problems at the U.S.-Canada borders. Delays happen so frequently that CBP posts wait times at all Canadian border ports of entry.
  • Tariff and trade disputes. Recent disputes include a complaint lodged by U.S. dairy farmers about the way the Canadian government allocated its tariff-free dairy import permits and Canada’s challenge of the U.S. decision to maintain softwood lumber duties.
  • Labor disruptions. Work stoppages in transportation-related industries in either country disrupt the cross-border movement of freight. Examples include an International Longshore & Warehouse Union Canada strike last year and a walkout by 3,200 CN rail workers in 2019.

Technological Innovations Facilitating International Trade

Technological innovations, including advanced logistics software, real-time tracking systems, and automated customs platforms, have helped overcome traditional barriers to cross-border shipping to Canada.

Technology has revolutionized international trade by enabling seamless cross-border transactions, enhancing supply chain management, and improving trade facilitation,” the International Trade Council (ITC) said. “E-commerce platforms, digital payment systems, blockchain technology, data analytics, and trade facilitation platforms have transformed the global trade landscape.”

The ITC noted that trade facilitation platforms “enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and minimize trade barriers by digitizing and automating processes. They enable faster clearance at customs, reduce paperwork errors, and improve overall trade facilitation.”

Best Practices for Navigating Customs Efficiently

To efficiently move goods to and from Canada, shippers can build internal compliance departments, keep abreast of regulatory changes, train staff on proper cross-border trade procedures, and conduct regular audits.

Or they can partner with an experienced logistics provider skilled in navigating complex regulatory landscapes.

Trust VCPB for Cross-Border Shipping to Canada

Nearly $2.6 billion in goods and services crossed the U.S.-Canada border every day in 2022, according to Inbound Logistics. At VCPB Transportation, our expert team is well-versed in all aspects of the complicated cross-border shipping process and can ensure your valuable goods are delivered where they need to be when they need to be there.  

We offer specialized services for the most difficult shipments, including produce. We ensure your produce arrives in excellent condition every time. We utilize the latest temperature-control technology and provide real-time tracking. Our produce shipping experts also are available 24/7/365.

Whether you’re importing, exporting, or shipping from state to state, we have you covered. Whether you’re shipping intermodal or over the road or need drayage management or transloading, we nail it every time.

Start shipping with VCPB Transportation.

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