Language is one of the most complex and important tools of International Trade. As in any complex and sophisticated business, small changes in wording can have a major impact on all aspects of a business agreement.
Word definitions often differ from industry to industry. This is especially true of global trade.
For business terminology to be effective, phrases must mean the same thing throughout the industry. That is why the International Chamber of Commerce created "INCOTERMS" in 1936. INCOTERMS are designed to create a bridge between different members of the industry by acting as a uniform language they can use.
Each INCOTERM refers to a type of agreement for the purchase and shipping of goods internationally. There are 13 different terms, each of which helps users deal with different situations involving the movement of goods. For example, the term FCA is often used with shipments involving Ro/Ro or container transport; DDU assists with situations found in intermodal or courier service-based shipments.
INCOTERMS also deal with the documentation required for global trade, specifying which parties are responsible for which documents. Determining the paperwork required to move a shipment is an important job, since requirements vary so much between countries. Two items, however, are standard: the commercial invoice and the packing list.
INCOTERMS are most frequently listed by category. Terms beginning with F refer to shipments where the primary cost of shipping is not paid for by the seller. Terms beginning with C deal with shipments where the seller pays for shipping. E-terms occur when a seller's responsibilities are fulfilled when goods are ready to depart from their facilities. D terms cover shipments where the shipper/seller's responsibility ends when the goods arrive at some specific point. Because shipments are moving into a country, D terms usually involve the services of a customs broker and a freight forwarder. In addition, D terms also deal with the pier or docking charges found at virtually all ports and determining who is responsible for each charge.
Here is one of the Incoterm:
One of the simplest and most basic shipment arrangements places the minimum responsibility on the seller with greater responsibility on the buyer. In an EX-Works transaction, goods are basically made available for pickup at the shipper/seller's factory or warehouse and "delivery" is accomplished when the merchandise is released to the consignee's freight forwarder. The buyer is responsible for making arrangements with their forwarder for insurance, export clearance and handling all other paperwork.
Incoterms make international trade easier and help traders in different countries to understand one another.