Global Trade and Customs


Miller Thomson’s Global Trade and Customs Group offers a full range of global trade, customs and import tax services. Members of the group have a range of strengths and experiences ranging from leading legal counsel to consulting experts. We have the experience, skills and perspective required to provide high quality, practical and innovative solutions. We also have the bench strength necessary to assume conduct of significant, time-sensitive and complex customs appeals and trade remedies matters.

We serve domestic, non-resident and global businesses (especially US-based multinationals importing into Canada). We have represented importers and exporters in most Canadian industry sectors including: aerospace, aluminum and steel, automotive, agriculture / agri-food, apparel, banking and financial, communications, defence production, direct sales, e-commerce, fisheries, forestry, manufacturing, oil and gas, technology, third party logistics, transportation, and mining. We have also assisted trade-related service providers, including accounting firms, carriers (in all modes of transportation), certifiers, couriers, distributors, freight-forwarders, insurers, shippers, steamship lines, suppliers, and third party logistics providers. We serve non-resident importers to evaluate and implement the use of 3PL distribution centers to take advantage of de minimis thresholds, and use 3PL distribution centers to minimize the value for duty to be declared to customs authorities.

In this era of rapid change in global trade and customs, support from the right group can make all the difference. Managers of global businesses today must cope with factors such as increased tariffs, new free trade agreements and changing supply chains in an effort to minimize risk and maximize opportunities.  In dealing with the issues, we have come to understand typical global trade business strategies, business trends and best practices.

We put our knowledge of global trade businesses (such as accounting systems, customs controls and procurement processes), as well as our knowledge of applicable laws and policies, to work for our clients. Our understanding of the business of global trade and customs extends well beyond customs duties and import taxes, to matters such as consumer product safety, e-commerce, as well as import and export controls. Some members of our group are former Canada Border Services Agency and Department of Justice, Canada employees. As such, they have a have a good understanding of the machinery of government.

Disputes and Litigation

We have commenced administrative appeals and applications before various officials, including officials with the Canada Border Services Agency, the Canada Revenue Agency and the Department of Finance. We have significant experience as litigation counsel in courts such as the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, the Tax Court of Canada, the Federal Court and the Supreme Court of Canada. We also have experience with proceedings in the London Court of International Arbitration. The following is a brief list of representative services:

  • Disputes concerning customs and excise, Goods and Services Tax, Harmonized Sales Tax, Provincial Sales Taxes, export charges, fuel taxes, environmental levies, digital media credits, export charges, and property taxes
  • Judicial review applications concerning government decisions, such as the request to produce documents and information
  • Verifications, audit defence, corrections, adjustments and voluntary disclosures
  • The prosecution and the defence of civil claims
  • Civil penalties including seizures and forfeitures
  • Criminal investigations, search warrants, production orders, information to obtain, alternative measures / diversions, plea negotiations and the defence of criminal charges (e.g., undervaluation, non-reporting, false statements, and double invoicing)
  • Alternative dispute resolution, including negotiations, mediations and London Court of International Arbitration proceedings
  • Remission of duties, taxes, penalties and interests
  • Foreign Extraterritorial Measures Act extraterritorial blocking measures (US Helms Burton Act restrictions)
  • Trade remedy disputes (including anti-dumping and countervailing duties)
  • Environmental permits pursuant to the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations

Legal Opinions

We have provided privileged and confidential legal opinions with respect to matters such as the following:

  • Import duty / tax minimization and customs planning
  • Duty deferral programs, drawbacks, and refunds
  • Off shore supplies, in bond shipments and the use of foreign trade zones
  • Non-resident importers
  • Valuation, tariff classification and origin declarations
  • Ruling requests
  • Self-audits and reviews of import / export compliance
  • Reviews of business processes (systems and controls)
  • Preferential and non-preferential tariff treatments
  • Free trade agreements
  • World Trade Organization agreements
  • Foreign investment agreements and claims
  • Requirements of agencies such as Agriculture Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Environment Canada, Health Canada, Industry Canada, Transport Canada and Public works and Government Services Canada
  • Environmental controls, economic sanctions and permits
  • Compliance with anti-money laundering and anti-foreign corruption legislation
  • Duty recovery strategies

Corporate and Commercial

We regularly assist global trade businesses with corporate and commercial matters, including the following:

  • Incorporations and extra-provincial registrations
  • Sale and purchase contracts
  • Distribution agreements
  • Royalty agreements
  • Bills of lading
  • Transport, logistics and warehousing agreements
  • Customs power of attorney and agency agreements
  • Inter-company transfer pricing agreements
  • Indemnity agreements
  • Corporate documents such as articles of incorporation, and resolutions

Consulting Services

We have extensive consulting and advisory services experience in the following areas:

  • Global supply chain assessments for compliance and the optimizations of customs, trade, tax and security
  • Export control compliance program review and development
  • Export control compliance audit
  • Export control classification
  • Export control compliance training
  • Liaison and engagement with government authorities on export control related matters
  • Ad-hoc export control and sanctions advisory service
  • M&A due diligence
  • Economic sanctions and trade embargoes
  • Export controls and the application for permits relating to goods and technology
  • Defence production controls
  • Foreign anti-corruption laws and policies
  • International trade agreements (including investment protection and government procurement provisions)
  • Compliance verification of customs programs
  • E-commerce
  • Business transformation

Anti-money Laundering (AML) and Terrorist Financing

We typically assist clients with matters including the following:

  • International: representation and advice respecting administration and enforcement and sanctions imposed for alleged non-compliance including monetary penalties, seizures, and forfeitures.
  • Litigation: representation and advice concerning administrative appeals, fraud, corruption, civil wrongdoing, and criminal offences.
  • Compliance reviews: business reviews to verify whether or not regulatory compliance requirements meet legislative and policy requirements and / or industry standards and best practices.
  • Corporate M&A: measuring risk of a target corporation’s non-compliance for corporate due diligence and insurance purposes.
  • Business threats: provide advice and assistance with the investigation and prevention of AML issues.

Global Trade and Customs Bulletin

Read the latest issue of Miller Thomson’s Global Trade and Customs Bulletin.


Non-Resident Importer Checklist

Consult our “paint by numbers” checklist to ensure you don’t miss a step in the import process.

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