Customs and Global Trade

If your business is involved in customs and trade, let us help you take advantage of the opportunities, and manage the risks, associated with the changing global trade environment.

The Australian customs and trade landscape has experienced considerable change with the introduction of new and significant free trade agreements (FTAs), the continued development of the Australian Trusted Trader Programme and an anti-dumping regime that is becoming increasingly complex and difficult for traders.

All of these changes are occurring at a time when global trade environment is becoming harder to navigate.

Our team can help guide your business through this changing market. We provide specialist advice on the complex domestic and international legal issues facing importers, exporters, customs brokers and freight forwarders in the customs and global trade sectors.

Our clients are varied and include some of the world’s largest multi-national companies as well as private businesses and individual customs brokers.  No matter the business size or matter complexity, our clients benefit from our extensive experience in this specialised area.

International trade brings significant opportunities for Australian importers and exporters of goods and services especially with regard to Free Trade Agreements with the United States of America, China, Japan and Korea and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

To take full advantage of the opportunities presented by international trade, you need to manage the risks. In some cases, this means understanding the differences in legal systems.

In other cases, it involves ensuring the relevant contractual arrangements are appropriate for international trade. Depending on the nature of the trade, the issues may involve understanding the impact of free trade agreements, trade remedy regimes or international conventions.

We help with all stages of the international trade cycle. The beginning point for some parties is assessing a particular international trade opportunity. In this context we assist with due diligence reviews of the other party, explaining the application international trade and customs laws (including free trade agreements) and of the international jurisdiction.

Once a party has decided to engage in a particular transaction, we advise on the best model to achieve their desired commercial outcome. This may involve establishing an operation in a foreign country or entering into an agency, distribution or sale agreement. We are then able to implement a particular structure by advising on regulatory requirements and drafting relevant agreements.

We are also able to assist in relation to:

  • Strategic customs and supply chain planning
  • Drafting agreements relating to international trade including supply, distribution and licence agreements
  • Managing disputes between parties in the international supply chain including dispute resolution by mediation, arbitration or litigation.


Our global reach

Hunt & Hunt is a longstanding member of Interlaw, an international association of independent law firms. Through this strategic membership, we have access to commercial legal advisors in more than 70 law firms across 100 cities around the world. This means whatever legal issue arises, we can help.


Customs compliance

Customs compliance is essential for legal, commercial and operational reasons.  A serious compliance issue can shut down an international supply chain.

The Australian Border Force is taking a more sophisticated approach to customs compliance issues, relying less on random audits and more on trade intelligence and industry focussed campaigns.

The compliance risks for importers and exporters include:

  • Incorrect classification or valuation of goods
  • Incorrect utilisation of free trade agreements or other tariff concessions
  • The underpayment or avoidance of dumping duties
  • The import or export of controlled goods without a permit
  • Including false information in import declarations (such as nominating the incorrect supplier) and
  • Moving goods prior to receiving customs approval.

Hunt & Hunt can assist with:

  • Managing disputes with the Australian Border Force
  • Drafting and assisting with the implementation of compliance policies
  • Undertaking audits of past entities
  • Informing you of key customs risks
  • Where non-compliance is identified, making voluntary disclosure to the Australian Border Force
  • Seeking binding rulings on issues in dispute
  • Implementing procedures to reduce the likelihood of future non-compliance
  • Drafting submission in respect of penalties, and in support of internal review of decisions that have been made and
  • Appealing decisions to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Federal Court, where necessary.

Free trade agreements

The rules regarding the use of Free Trade Agreements are complex and the associated legal documents are often hundreds of pages long.  We can help traders to overcome the challenging aspects of FTAs with advice including:

  • Modelling the benefits of FTAs
  • Explaining rules of origin and documentation requirements under each FTA
  • Origin advice - obtaining rulings as to whether goods qualify for preferential treatment under an FTA
  • Adopting strategies to increase FTA compliance and utilisation, such as origin policies for local manufacturers and reviewing the claiming of preference on past imports
  • Drafting declarations of origin
  • Amending international supply or purchase contracts to incorporate terms required for your protection when utilising a FTA and
  • Educational training to clients on FTAs.

Our team is well positioned to provide you with the most up-to-date information on Australia's trade policy, through our strategic alliance with representative groups such as the Freight & Trade Alliance, as well as participation in the Law Counsel's Customs and International Trade Committee.


Customs and transfer pricing

Customs is often overlooked when considering transfer pricing issues.  Doing so can result in lost refund opportunities and compliance risk for your business.

Our Customs and Global Trade lawyers have experience working with transfer pricing teams within large accounting practices. This means we are  well positioned to help importers manage the customs impacts of a transfer pricing adjustment. We can assist you with:

  • Obtaining transfer pricing valuation rulings
  • Advising on what adjustments will have a customs impact
  • Developing strategies to divorce transfer pricing from customs valuation
  • Making voluntary disclosure of past adjustment
  • Applying for customs duty refunds
  • Drafting procedures and providing training to enable clients to manage the impact of future adjustments internally.

Export trade compliance

Australian exporters face a variety of complex compliance issues. We can help manage these in a way that maintains the confidence of the regulator and minimises the impact on trade.

Trade liberalisation is bringing increasing opportunities for Australian exporters.  However, free trade does not equal risk-free trade. A high level of trade compliance is necessary to take advantage of the many opportunities on offer. We can assist exporters with compliance areas such as:

  • Controlled and prohibited goods –identifying and managing non-compliance, obtaining export approval and drafting internal procedures to reduce the likelihood of non-compliance.
  • Export concessions –assistance with use of the Tradex concession and duty drawback to avoid instances of non-compliance.  We have dealt with relevant authorities to manage penalty free outcomes for identified non-compliance.
  • Free trade agreements (FTAs) – FTAs do not apply automatically or to all goods.  Which manufactured goods exported from Australia qualify as being of Australian origin can be difficult to determine and will differ under each FTA.  We assist with reviewing origin claims, seeking rulings from Customs authorities and drafting internal origin policies.
  • Disputes with foreign customs authorities – It is not uncommon for foreign customs authorities to take a strict approach on imports to protect domestic industries.  We can assist with foreign customs audits, valuation rulings and disputes in a variety of countries.
  • Anti-bribery and corruption –  We can provide client training on these issues and draft procedures for companies to enforce.  We'll also ensure that international supply contracts contain provisions to limit the potential liability of the Australian supplier for any corrupt practices of their customers.

Anti-dumping and counterveiling duty investigations

Dumping is said to occur when an exporter sells goods to Australia at a price that is less than the price at which the goods are sold in the exporter's domestic market. While dumping is not illegal, local manufacturers can seek the imposition of very high dumping duties.

Countervailing duties are imposed to address subsidisation by foreign government.

Following a number of legislative changes, Australia's anti-dumping and countervailing laws are tougher than ever for traders and are being rigorously enforced.

Our Customs and Global Trade team has extensive experience in anti-dumping matters, acting for exporters, importers and Australian manufacturers.  We have also handled cases concerning a range of products including complex industrial equipment, paper, vegetables, metal structures and base metals.  We have expertise in all steps of the anti-dumping investigation process including:

  • Assisting with the completion of exporter questionnaires. For an exporter this is probably the most crucial aspect of anti-dumping investigations
  • Providing submissions on behalf of exporters, importers and local manufacturers
  • Resisting categorisation of exporters as "non-cooperative"
  • Responding to statements of essential facts
  • Reviewing the calculation of dumping margins
  • Handling Anti-Dumping Review Panel and Federal Court Appeals
  • Advising whether goods are covered by existing measures
  • Advising on anti-circumvention inquiries
  • Drafting supply contracts to protect importers against the future application of dumping duties.

If imposed, compliance with dumping duties is critical.  Under payment or avoidance of dumping duties is a key focus area of the Australian Border Force. We can assist with disputes regarding whether goods are subject to dumping duties.


Australian Trusted Trader Programme

Under the Australian Trusted Trader Programme, participants receive trade facilitation benefits in exchange for demonstrating a high level of trade compliance and supply chain security.

This is a crucial benefit for traders in times of increasing levels of trade protection.

Key benefits include:

  • Waiver of Certificate of Origin requirements under certain Free Trade Agreements
  • The ability to defer payment of customs duty
  • Streamlined reporting of the entry of goods
  • Recognition as a trusted trader under the equivalent programs operating in other countries
  • A differentiated compliance approach by the Australian Border Force

We can help assess whether the Australian Trusted Trader Programme is right for your business and, if so, help your business to become accredited.