Free Trade Agreement Management Tips (USMCA)

By | 2023-11-08T00:04:34+00:00 December 15th, 2020|U.S. Customs|

Importers have been quite successful at riding the wave of the economy over the last year despite a pandemic, economic shortcomings, and supply chain disruptions. Amid these treacherous times, the hotly anticipated “New NAFTA” or USMCA was put into force in July 2020. 

We have covered a few key considerations in the context of USMCA. To catch up, here are some pieces for recommended reading: 

Benefits and Pitfalls of USMCA: A Closer Look

6 Main Differences Between USMCA and NAFTA

USMCA: New Trade Center For Private Sector Support

USMCA/CUSMA: How Will Importers Be Affected?

Most US parties in the global trade industry have been hard at work developing new frameworks and understandings of the regulations put forth by USMCA. Such is critical to avoiding costly tariffs, delays, seizures, and more due to non-compliance. 

While much of the narrative around preparing for and navigating USMCA is about avoiding non-compliance, there is also a ripe opportunity to leverage these regulations to benefit your business. This is why we’re covering the management of free trade agreements — to provide readers with groundwork and resources to succeed in these times.

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In a KPMG-authored article on the topic in Bloomberg magazine, this unique time in history for importers is stated plainly: 

“Importers are clearly at an inflection point—they can either continue to manage their trade programs as they have for NAFTA, or adopt new tools that will allow them to be creative problem solvers.”

Below, we will discuss the various tips that importers can put into place to start benefiting from USMCA as soon as possible: 

The reality is, what may have worked for importers prior to USMCA may not be effective strategies for them now. It’s natural to experience minor slowdowns in productivity as new regulations are applied for the first time, but one of the main draws about USMCA was the streamlined rules of origin. Even though these rules were simplified, the change in processes still causes admin issues for some businesses.

Even though CBP has stated that there will be a 6-month period of flexibility as trade professionals adjust, there is still a low-level uncertainty about how to efficiently handle this process even after this period. 

For example, unlike as stipulated in NAFTA, USMCA has added some leniency in certain areas. To qualify for USMCA, imports don’t necessarily need to have a country of origin listed as the US, Mexico, or Canada. Which is great for importers — and is definitely similar to other FTAs. 

New procedures will naturally cause some confusion and possible slow-downs in goods movement, but there are opportunities to benefit from USMCA if approached correctly. Working through the issues posed by abiding by new regulations is a process in itself. As KPMG states: 

“Working through these challenges requires time — which may be in short supply in many trade groups.”

In the aforementioned article, KPMG breaks down the adaptation process in 3 clear steps: 

  1. “Develop documented processes tailored to your company that help manage compliance risk and simultaneously enhance duty-savings
  2. Strengthen communication and integration with your trade compliance function through regular updates, identification of continuous improvement areas and process enhancements, and compliance dashboards to monitor progress
  3. Develop a strong data-driven foundation to set-up an efficient and sustainable automation process”



Navigating FTAs can be daunting, but at the end of the day, these agreements are typically enacted to benefit the national economy — in which importing plays a huge part. Working to understand where you can benefit as an importer can be tricky, but it is worth it.

To learn more about using USMCA or any other FTA to your advantage, click here to get in touch with a customs broker.