Glossary of International Trade Terms

Click on the alphabet group
A-C   |  D-F  | G-L  | M-R  | S-Z

- A -

Acceptance of bill of exchange: Recognition of a legal obligation to pay the amount on a term bill of exchange at a specified future date (maturity date).

Ad valorem:  According to value. 

ADB: Asia Development Bank, an international lending institution head quartered in Manila, Philippines.

Advance Against Documents (AAD): A loan made on the security of the actual documents covering a shipment.

Advance payment: Trading method in which the buyer pays for the goods before they are
dispatched. This is used where the buyer is of unknown credit worthiness and is
unable to obtain a letter of credit. This is also used as a matter of convenience for small orders. 

Advising bank: Bank, usually in the seller's country, whose primary function is to
authenticate the letter of credit and advise it to the seller. The advising bank MAY also take on other roles in the transaction.  These include:

  •      confirming the letter of credit (confirming bank) 
  •      accepting  a term bill of exchange (accepting bank) 
  •      paying  the seller upon presentation of documents (paying or negotiating
  •      bank) 
Adviory Capacity:  Used to indicate that a shipper's agent or agent or reprentative is not empowered to make definitive changes or adjustments without approval of the group or individual represented.

Air way bill: Transport document used in air freight. Serves as a receipt for the goods and
evidence of carriage contract.  This is not a document of title and so is not needed by the consignee in order to claim the goods from the carrier. 

All risks insurance: Insurance covering risks set out in the Institute of London Underwriters Cargo Clauses A. Covers fire, theft, loss at sea, damage during loading, transhipment and discharge but NOT strikes, riots, civil commotion or war piracy.

Alongside: The side of a ship.  Goods to be delivered "alongside" are to be placed on the dock or taken next to the ship within reach of the transport ship's tackle so that can be loaded aboard the ship.

Amendment: Variation in the terms or conditions of any document.  In the case of Letters of credit, an amendment to a letter of credit is issued by the Issuing bank under the
direction of the applicant, and is advised to the Advising bank, following the
same route as the original LC.

APEC: Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, an organization of countries in Asia and elsewhere dedicated to increasing international trade.

Applicant: Buyer/importer in a letter of credit transaction, who applies to the Issuing
Bank for a letter of credit in favor of the seller (beneficiary).  Other terms for this are, the accountee or accreditor. 

Arbitage: The process of buying foreign exchange, stocks, bonds, and other commoditiies in one market and immediately selling them in another market at hopefully higher prices.

ASEAN: The Association of South East Asian Nations, a regional organization of Southeast Asian countries. 

Asian Dollars: US funds deposited in banks in Asia and the Pacific Basin.

Assignment:  A transfer of legal rights under an agreement.  In the case of letters of credit, a banking arrangement between the beneficiary of a letter of credit and a
third party - usually the supplier of the goods - who requires an assurance of
payment.  Usually takes the form of a letter or deed of assignment.  The beneficiary of the credit is the assignor; part of the proceeds of the credit  are irrevocably assigned to the assignee. 

Avalisation: Payment undertaking given by a bank in respect of a bill of exchange drawn
on a buyer. A way of giving security to the drawer of a term bill.  The bill is stamped with wording such as 'Pour aval' and signed by a representative of the bank.

- B -

Back-to-back letters of credit: Arrangement used by intermediaries to give payment security to their suppliers.  The beneficiary of one L/C (prime or 'master' letter of credit) offers this as security for the issuance of a further L/C (second or 'slave' letter of credit) in
favour of the supplier of the goods.  The bank issuing the second L/C (usually Advising bank to the prime L/C) is called the second Issuing bank.   This is regarded by many banks as risky - if the prime L/C runs into problems, it will no longer serve as security for the second L/C.

Balance of Trade: The difference between a country's total imports and exports; if exports exceed imports, a favorable balance of trade exists; if not, a trade deficit is said to exist.

Bank guarantee: Undertaking given by a bank on behalf of a customer to pay the guaranteed party a sum of money if the customer cannot or will not pay.  This should not be confused with the payment undertaking given under a letter of credit. 

Banker's draft: A payment instrument used to make international payments.

Bargain Purchase Option: A lease provision allowing the lessee, at its option, to purchase the equipment for a price predetermined at lease inception, that is substantially lower than the expected fair market value at the date the option can be exercised.

Barter:Trade in which merchandise is exchanged directly for other merchandise without the use of money.  Barter is the oldest form of trade and is currently widely in use in trade with countries using currency that is not readily convertible on world exchange markets.

Beneficiary: a party who receives a legal benefit.  In a letter of credit situation, the party to whom payment will be made.  Normally, but not always,  the seller or exporter. 

Big Emerging Markets: A group of fast growing economies identified by the Department of Commerce as having the most potential for US exporters.  They are: The Chinese Economic Area (China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, South Korea, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Poland, Turkey and South Africa.

Big-Ticket: A market segment of leasing, sales, etc for items costing over $2 million.  In leasing, this sector is generally dominated by leveraged leases, represented by lease financing over $2 million.

Bill of exchange: The most commonly-used financial instrument in international trade. 
An unconditional payment demand for a specific sum of money, payable
either at sight or at a specified future date. This is drawn up by the seller and presented to the buyer.  This is sometimes called “the draft.” 

Bill of Lading: Transport document issued by the carrier or a document establishing the terms of a contract between a shipper and a transportation company under which the freight is to be moved between specific points for a specified charge. 

An ocean shipment requires two documents: an Inland Bill of Lading to cover the domestic movement of the cargo, and an Ocean Bill of Lading to cover the international carriage; an Air Way Bill is essentially a through Bill of Lading for an air cargo shipment, domestic and/or international.

Bill of lading - . Serves as: 

  •      a receipt for goods taken in charge 
  •      evidence of the carriage contract 
  •      a document of title - if appropriately drawn up, it can allow bearer to claim the goods. 
Blank endorsement: The method whereby a bill of lading is made into a freely negotiable
document of title.  Any bearer of a blank endorsed bill of lading has title to the goods and may claim them from the carrier.  Insurance documents can also be blank endorsed, so that any party can make a claim if necessary. 

Bonded Warehouse - a warehouse authorized for storage of good on which payment of duty is deferred until the goods are removed from the warehouse.

Broker: A company or person who arranges, for a fee, purchase or sales or transactions between lessees and lessors of an asset.

- C -

Capital Lease: Type of lease classified and accounted for by a lessee as a purchase and by the lessor as a sale or financing, if it meets any one of the following criteria: (a) the lessor transfers ownership to the lessee at the end of the lease term; (b) the lease contains an option to purchase the asset at a bargain price; (c) the lease term is equal to 75 percent or more of the estimated economic life of the property (exceptions for used property leased toward the end of its useful life); or (d) the present value of minimum lease rental payments is equal to 90 percent or more of the fair market value of the leased asset less related investment tax credits retained by the lessor. (Also see finance lease.)

Carnet: A Customs document permitting the holder to carry or send merchandise temporarily into certain foreign countries for display, demonstration, or other purposes without paying import duties or posting bonds.

Carrier: The party responsible for transport of goods (shipping line, airline, road haulage
company etc.) 

Carriage and insurance paid (CIP): Incoterm for all transport modes.

  •  delivers to a named destination 
  • pays costs, insurance & freight 
  • provides transport & insurance documents 
  • pays export duties 
  •   pays costs from named destination. 
Carriage paid to (CPT): Incoterm for all transport modes.


  • delivers to named destination 
  •  pays cost and freight 
  • provides export licence 
  • provides transport document 
  •  pays cost and freight from named destionation 
  • pays insurance 
  • pays import duties 

Case of need: In a collection, party in the buyer's country who is designated by the seller to advise and/or give instructions in the event of problems or disputes. The
collection order will specify whether the case of need is authorised to instruct
the bank.

Cash Against Documents (CAD): Payment for goods in which a commission house or other intermediary transfers title documents to the buyer upon payment in cash.

Cash cover: In a letter of credit transaction, money deposited by the applicant with the
Issuing bank.

Cash in Advance (CIA): Payment for goods in which the price is paid in full before the shipment is made.  This type of payment is usually only made for very small shipments or when goods are made in order.

Certificate of Acceptance: Term used in leasing.  A document whereby the lessee acknowledges that the equipment to be leased has been delivered, is acceptable, and has been manufactured or constructed according to specifications.

Certificate of analysis/certificate of inspection: Documents that may be asked for by the importer and/or the authorities of the importing country, as evidence of quality or conformity to specifications.

Certiciate of manufacture: A statement which is usually notarized in which the producer of goods certifies that the goods have been produced and are now available to the buyer.

Certificate of origin: Documents that may be asked for by the authorities of the importing country, as evidence of the country of manufacture of the goods and hence
qualification for preferential tariffs etc. 

CFR - Cost and Freight : A pricing term that indicates that the cost of the goods and freight charges are included in the quoted price.

Charter party bill of lading: Bill of lading issued by the charterer or hirer of a vessel. Unpopular with banks, because situations can arise when the owner of the vessel has a
claim on the goods.

CIF - Cost, Insurance, freight : a pricing term indicating that the cost of the goods, insurance, and freight are included in the quoted price.

Clean collection: Collection in which only the financial document (bill of exchange) is sent through the banks.

Clean bill of lading: a receipt for goods issued by a carrier that indicates that the goods were received in apparently good order and without damage.

Collecting bank: Bank in the buyer's country that participates in a collection. The collecting bank may or may not also be the presenting bank, who presents documents
to the buyer and claims payment.

Collection: Trading method in which the banking system acts on behalf of the seller,
presenting documents to the buyer and only releasing them upon payment
(or upon acceptance of a term bill).

Collection order: In a collection, the document in which the seller instructs the banks as to how the collection is to be conducted.

Combined transport bill of lading: Transport document, widely used for containerized shipments, covering more than one transport mode - for example, rail and sea. Has the same general characteristics as a marine Bill of Lading. 

Commercial document: General term for documents describing various aspects of a transaction, e.g. commercial invoice, transport document, insurance document, certificate of origin, certificate of inspection etc. 

Commercial invoice: Document drawn up by the seller that gives a summary of the commercial transaction (goods supplied, price, means of shipment and so on).

Commitment fee: This term has several meanings.  It is the fee charged by a forfeiter for reserving funds to a transaction that was forfeited.  It is the fee charged by a negotiating bank for waiving recourse to the beneficiary in the event of non-payment by the Issuing bank. 

Common Carrier - An organization that transports persons or goods for a fee.

Compliant documents:  Documents presented under a letter of credit that comply with all its terms and conditions. The banks are only obliged to pay the beneficiary if
documents are totally compliant.

Confirmed letter of credit: Letter of credit in which a bank (usually) in the seller's country adds its own payment undertaking to that of the Issuing bank. Protects against country
risk and bank risk as well as customer credit risk.

Confirming bank: Bank that adds its payment undertaking to a letter of credit. 
Also see confirmed letter of credit.

Consignee: Party to whom goods are to be delivered. 

Consignment: Delivery of merchandise from an exporter to an agent under agreement that the agent sell the merchandise for the account of the exporter.  The consignor retains title to the goods until the consigneee has sold them.  The consignee sells the goods, collects the commission due and remits the net proceeds to the consignor.

Constructive control: The ability to retain control over goods dispatched to the buyer. Usually maintained through transport documents. Where there is credit risk,
constructive control is important to the seller. Constructive control may also
be important to a bank who has financed a transaction.

Consular invoice: Commercial invoice prepared in the seller's country by the consulate of the buyer's country. Helps the government of the buyer's country control and
regulate imports.

Convertible currency:  A currency that can be bought and sold for other currencies at will.

Copyright: The exclusive right to reproduce, publish and sell printed materials, musical work, and art.

Correspondent bank: Overseas bank with whom a bank account has relationships (nostro-vostro accounts) and arrangements for authentication of communications.

Cost and freight (CFR): Incoterm. Seller pays transport costs to named destination, but not insurance.

Cost, insurance and freight (CIF): Incoterm. Seller pays transport costs and insurance to named destination.

Counter trade: The sale of goods or services that are paid for in whole or part by the transfer of goods or services from a foreign country.

Countervailing Duties:  Duties levied on an imported good that has been unfairly subsidized by a foreign government.  Imposing duties on the good is meant to raise the product's price to a "fair market value". 

Counter credit: Another name for back-to-back letter of credit.

Country risk: Risk that economic or political instability in the buyer's country will interfere with the buyer's ability to pay for goods supplied.

Cover note: Insurance document evidencing that insurance cover for a consignment has been taken out, but not giving full details. 

Credit Risk Insurance: Insurance that covers the risk of nonpayment for delivered goods.

Currency option: Foreign exchange transaction in which a party buys the right (but not the obligation) to buy or sell a given amount of foreign currency at a given exchange rate at either:   a given future date or at any point within a future time period. 

Customs: The government authorities designated to collect duties levied by a country on imports and exports.  The term also applies to the procedures involved in such a collection.

Customhouse Broker: An individual or company licensed by the government to enter and clear good through customs.


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