Free Trade Agreement Compliance Strategies: A Must Read for UK Businesses

International trade is governed by various rules, regulations, and trade agreements, and compliance with these requirements is crucial for businesses engaged in global trade. 


Free trade agreements (FTAs) are no exception, and understanding their impact on trade compliance is essential for UK businesses that want to take advantage of these agreements’ benefits.


FTAs are designed to facilitate trade between countries by eliminating or reducing tariffs, quotas, and other trade barriers.


They create preferential treatment for goods and services traded between FTA partner countries, providing opportunities for UK businesses to expand their market access and increase their competitiveness. 


However, FTAs also come with specific compliance requirements that businesses must adhere to realise the benefits fully.

UK FTAs in force as at April 2023

UK FTAs under negotiation as at April 2023

Let’s take a closer look at how FTAs impact trade compliance for UK businesses.

Rules of Origin

One of the key compliance requirements of FTAs is the rules of origin. Rules of origin determine the eligibility of goods for preferential treatment under an FTA.


To qualify for reduced or zero tariffs under an FTA, goods must meet the origin criteria specified in the agreement, which may involve meeting specific product requirements, using materials sourced from FTA partner countries, or satisfying other criteria such as value-added or regional content requirements.


Complying with rules of origin can be complex and challenging for UK businesses.


It requires a thorough understanding of each FTA’s specific rules and documentation requirements, as well as careful tracking and verification of the origin of goods throughout the supply chain.


Non-compliance with rules of origin can result in the loss of preferential treatment, the imposition of higher tariffs, and penalties, which can have significant financial and operational implications for businesses.


Record-Keeping and Documentation


Record-keeping and documentation are yet another crucial aspect of trade compliance that FTAs affect. 


FTAs typically require businesses to maintain accurate and complete records of all transactions related to the covered goods or services, including purchase orders, invoices, shipping documents, and other relevant documentation.


Complying with record-keeping and documentation requirements is critical for UK businesses to demonstrate compliance with the rules of origin and other FTA requirements. 


It involves maintaining comprehensive and organized records, ensuring that they are readily accessible for audit or verification purposes, and retaining them for the specified period as required by each FTA. 


Failure to comply with record-keeping and documentation requirements can result in penalties, fines, or the loss of preferential treatment, adversely affecting a business’s trade compliance and reputation.


Audits and verifications


FTAs may also require businesses to undergo audits or verifications to ensure compliance with the rules of origin and other FTA requirements. 


Customs authorities or other designated agencies of FTA partner countries may carry out audits or verifications, including on-site inspections, sample testing, and other verification procedures.


Audits and verifications can be time-consuming, resource-intensive, and complex, requiring businesses to provide detailed information, documentation, and evidence to substantiate their claims of origin.


UK businesses must be prepared for audits or verifications, maintain accurate records, and have robust internal controls to ensure compliance with FTA requirements.


Penalties and Remedies


Non-compliance with FTA requirements can result in penalties, fines, or the loss of preferential treatment, which can have significant financial and operational implications for UK businesses. 


Penalties for non-compliance can vary depending on the severity of the violation, and they can include monetary fines, suspension or revocation of preferential treatment, and other sanctions.


It is important for UK businesses to understand the penalties and remedies associated with non-compliance and take proactive measures to ensure compliance with FTA requirements. 


This may involve investing in robust compliance programs, conducting regular internal audits, and seeking professional advice to mitigate risks and ensure compliance.

How iCustoms is supporting the UK FTA compliance, a leading trade compliance technology provider, offers innovative solutions that can support UK businesses in complying with free trade agreements (FTAs).


Here are some of the ways can assist UK businesses in trade compliance under FTAs:

  1. Automated rules of origin management: iCustoms’ advanced algorithms and machine learning rules engine automate the complex process of managing rules of origin. The platform can accurately collect, verify, and manage the necessary data to determine the eligibility of products for preferential treatment under FTAs, ensuring compliance with rules of origin requirements.
  2. Customs management: iCustoms customs management software can streamline customs processes, automating data entry, generating accurate customs documentation, and performing real-time checks to ensure compliance with customs laws and regulations. The platform also offers features such as duty optimisation, tariff classification, and valuation management to ensure compliance with FTA requirements.
  3. Data analytics: Its Business intelligence reporting enables businesses to analyse trade data, identifying patterns and trends.. The platform uses AI and machine learning to provide actionable insights, helping businesses proactively manage risks and ensure compliance with FTA requirements.
  4. Digital documentation:’s digital document management capabilities streamline the creation, management, and sharing of trade-related documentation. The platform offers features such as electronic document creation, digital signatures, and document tracking, reducing the risk of errors and delays in documentation and ensuring compliance with FTA requirements.

In summary, iCustoms offers a comprehensive suite of trade compliance solutions that can support UK businesses in complying with FTAs. By leveraging advanced technologies such as AI, data analytics, and digital documentation, iCustoms enables businesses to streamline their trade processes, enhance visibility and control over their supply chains, and ensure compliance with the complex requirements of FTAs, reducing the risk of non-compliance penalties and maximizing the benefits and opportunities offered by such agreements.

So get your journey started and book a demo.


And your questions are welcomed at

About iCustoms

iCustoms is an all-in-one solution helping businesses automate customs processes more efficiently. With AI-powered and machine-learning capabilities, iCustoms is designed to streamline your all customs procedures in a few minutes, cut additional costs and save time.


🏆 Best Customs Software Systems - Shortlisted by International Chamber of Commerce Awards

Best Customs Software Systems
Finalist - International Chamber of Commerce Awards