By Max Elias, Account Executive, Descartes Systems Group

As trade compliance risks and complexities continue to grow, it is ever more vital to stay on top of regulatory focus and enforcement, as well as leverage advancement in compliance technology to enhance due diligence activities.

This was one of the major highlights at the just concluded 2023 ICPA Fall Conference in San Antonio, Texas.

Key Takeaways

  1. The ICPA Fall Conference is a key event for trade compliance, supply chain management, and customs professionals to share and learn the latest regulatory requirements, industry insights, and best practices.
  2. Among the important topics covered in the 3-day ICPA event, the most popular were sessions on forced labor laws and supply chain visibility, competitive advantages of trade compliance and technology, BIS enforcement trends, and securing board level buy-in for compliance programs.
  3. Across a multitude of discussions, the strongest consensus was that the complex and dynamic nature of compliance risks and responsibilities necessitate robust technology solutions with advanced capabilities.
  4. Partnering with industry-leading trade compliance software providers like Descartes, you can easily safeguard your business from potential disruption or demise caused by compliance risks and violations.

A Summary of the 2023 ICPA Fall Conference

The 2023 fall conference of the International Compliance Professional Association (ICPA) which ran between the 10th and 13th of September in San Antonio, Texas, brought together a diverse community of compliance professionals who received invaluable insights from speakers and attendees alike on how to effectively navigate the constant challenges in the world of compliance with robust technology, best practices, and industry trends.

The Descartes Systems Group, which is an ICPA member, was represented by me and fellow trade compliance experts. We participated in the sessions, vendor exhibitions, and shared our key solutions offerings with attendees, demonstrating how our software can help boost compliance, security, and business growth.

Descartes International Trade and Regulatory Compliance Experts at 2023 ICPA Fall Conference

Image 1: Descartes Trade Compliance Solutions Experts – Max Elias, Chris Kahan, Ted Rowe and Tim Dysarz at 2023 ICPA Fall Conference

The conference agenda covered several important topics in import, export, and general compliance categories including:

  • Forced Labor in the U.S. and Canada
  • Trade Compliance as a Competitive Advantage
  • BIS Enforcement Trends and Export Reform
  • Securing a Seat in the Boardroom
  • Ask the Legal Eagles

Key Learnings and Reminders from the 2023 ICPA Fall Conference

The conference kicked off on the 11th of September with a moment of silence to honor all those who lost their lives on 9/11. For me, it was also a strong reminder of the importance of ensuring due diligence, and regulatory compliance especially around national security topics, such as the OFAC 50% rule, International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), Export Administration Regulations (EAR), and supply chain transparency in general.

Leading experts across a variety of industries discussed recent developments in compliance, ethics, and enforcement and shared practical advice and insights based on their experience. Below, I will lay out in more detail the highlights from the ICPA sessions and how organizations can apply the insights shared.

Emphasis on Regulatory Change and Enforcement Actions

Across several key sessions, a strong and clear theme emerged: that most governments around the globe are unified and putting greater importance on trade compliance regulations. Most sanctioning bodies are preparing to release new regulations and have ramped up efforts on enforcement activities.

A look at events in the world of compliance supports this theme, such as the recent agreement among five eyes countries to formalize cooperation on export control enforcement. As well as huge penalties for sanctions violations that have been issued by OFAC, BIS, and other bodies.

What these developments mean for organizations is the need to have effective compliance management processes in place, including comprehensive denied party screening, automated compliance workflows, and enterprise-wide collaboration.

Forced Labor Prevention is a Global Goal

The issue of forced labor in the supply chain has been steadily gaining steam in the last few years. It is no surprise that its discussion during the conference was met with great interest and many attendees recognized the need to bolster their forced labor compliance capabilities.

The speakers highlighted that the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), which was enacted in June 2022, has emphasized that all tiers of an organization’s supply chain must be free from any ties to forced labor. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) since it began enforcement actions last year has doubled on the number of shipments detained and denied entry into the U.S . It was also noted that SEC reporting goes to all shareholders.

Canada’s unprecedented strong stance to fight the forced labor problem through the Fighting Against Forced Labor and Child Labor in Supply Chains Act was another hot topic. The main takeaway being the mandatory requirement for certain entities and government institutions to preemptively submit annual reports to the Minister of Public Safety by May 31st of each year – beginning in 2024, detailing with evidence that the company has effectively mapped its supply chain, identified forced labor risks, and has a remediation plan in place should forced labor be identified. It is important to bear in mind that the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) may build the UFLP into the Partners in Protection (PIP) cooperative.  

Mexico was reported to have started ramping up efforts to eradicate forced labor conditions in its jurisdiction. International teamwork on regulations was a prominent subject, underlining the point that it wasn’t only the U.S. leading the efforts any longer. Other countries around the world were also identified as showing signs of actively joining in the prevention and enforcement activities.

Based on the requirements by UFLPA, CBSA, and various other regulations, it is apparent that global trade data is the essential ingredient to successful forced labor prevention and compliance. Having clearer visibility of the supply chain combined with the right software to trace, track, and screen all parties involved from the point of origin to production and delivery will be impactful. With this perspective in mind, see in more detail how to strengthen supply chain resiliency as well as trace supply chain relationships

Winning Strategies to Get Cooperation at The Board Level

Another recurring theme was the importance of trade compliance professionals successfully navigating their own organizations to get a seat at the table with their senior executives that influence approval processes and affect positive change for trade compliance initiatives within their organizations. Partnering with other departments, and even peers at other organizations was encouraged for positive change, best practice knowledge sharing, and even personal career growth.

As regulations are getting more sophisticated every day, compliance should be seen as an enterprise-wide responsibility, and the solutions in place should reflect this notion. This is to say that preference should be given to trade compliance platforms that can easily integrate into an organization’s business system (e.g. CRM) and deliver due diligence capabilities to day-to-day processes such as customer onboarding and order fulfillment.

Automated Trade Compliance Processes Foster Business Growth

Investing in automated compliance software was consistently described as vital to mitigating sanctions risks, maintaining compliance, and maximizing an organization’s growth opportunities. There was also recurring feedback amongst attendees that as they prepare to tackle increased regulations and enforcement activities, they recognize that compliance technology is central to their efforts.

In synchrony with this key message, I should mention from my experience some of the benefits that organizations realize from the ability of trade compliance software to strengthen competitive advantages and create value across the business. Advanced trade compliance technology support speed of decision-making, helps to quickly identify viable markets, provide higher levels of supply chain transparency, safeguard revenue generation, promote better customer service, and improve the performance of the compliance team.

In Conclusion

The ICPA conference was an impactful experience and demonstrated how to successfully network with compliance professionals from different organizations and diverse industries for best practice knowledge sharing, and strategies to implement and solidify their organizations’ compliance processes – in turn helping them to take proactive stances to join in the international efforts to reform and improve global trade compliance initiatives, and better contribute to ethical and mutually beneficial international trade practices.  

Descartes Provides the Right Tools and Capabilities to Enhance Trade Compliance

Descartes is a provider of an industry-leading suite of denied party screening, 3rd party risk management solutions, as well as trade content for leading business systems, that can be integrated with minimal disruption, sometimes in under an hour.

Descartes Visual Compliance and Descartes MK Denied Party Screening solutions are flexible and modular, allowing organizations to pick the specific and exact functionality and content they need for their particular compliance needs and scale up later as and when necessary. If you would like to discuss your software requirements to boost trade compliance efficiency and productivity, you can book a meeting with me or contact us for a demo.

Find out what our customers are saying about Descartes Denied Party Screening on G2 – an online third-party business software review platform. Additionally, you can read this essential buyer’s guide to denied party screening to help you select a solution that fits your needs.

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