Exchange Control Regulations and Import Controls

Today we will look at the significance of exchange control regulations and import controls. These are already in place in a number of countries worldwide, especially developing nations, the impacts however from COVID 19 may result in these becoming more prevalent even in the more economically developed OECD countries.

Exchange control regulations can be defined as controls imposed by governments on the purchase and/or sale of foreign currency. The intention of the controls is to help countries stabilise their economies by putting limits in particular on the outflow of currency out of a country. Too high an outflow of currency could result in the country not having enough money to fund its own essential services such as health, energy and transport.

Import controls can be part of exchange control regulations. Most countries in the world apply ‘standard import controls’ around the import of medicines, products of animal origin, military goods and goods which have a dual use (a military and civilian purpose). This will result in additional import and export procedures in terms of customs entries, trade documentation and pre and post shipment inspection.

Many countries in the world will have exchange control regulations. The exceptions currently are largely the developed nations of the world, what we can refer to as the high-performing OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries) such as in the European Union, Australia, Canada and the United States.

For an exporter who wants to get paid for their exports exchange control regulations and import controls introduce a further element of payment risk. In addition to the risk of the buyer not paying there is additionally the risk of the country not paying, or paying late, as a result of exchange control regulations.

This is also sometimes referred to as country risk or political risk.

Each country can apply their own specific exchange control regulations, for example;

  • All payments leaving a country have to be approved by the Central Bank sometimes with documentary evidence of the trade transaction.
  • Payments over a certain monetary sum have to be approved by the Central Bank
  • All import transactions have to be settled by means of a Documentary Letter of Credit or a Documentary Collection (Cash against Documents)
  • All import transactions have to be pro-approved by the Central Bank or Customs Authorities and a pro-forma invoice issued with a pre-booked transaction code.

In times of political and economic difficulties countries may want to either introduce new exchange control regulations or issue tough new regulations whereby every import transaction has to be approved after shipment of goods into the country and currency is paid out in a specific order. By way of example the payment of currency for medical goods, personal protective equipment and oil and gas takes priority in view of their importance to the national interest.

Most exporters will want to trade and invoice in a tradable currency, in particular US Dollars and possibly Euros and Pound Sterling depending on the country of export.

Exchange control regulations apply throughout many developing countries in the world. An exporter must do all they can to check exchange control and customs regulations in the country of import. The exporter may also need to check that the importer understands the import procedures and where necessary is licensed to import goods into the importing country.

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