What Documents Are Used for Foreign Trade?

What Documents Are Used for Foreign Trade?

In any foreign trade operation, the corresponding documentation is attached , which is specified in the contract. The success of a foreign trade transaction depends largely on the correct execution of the documentation. The documents that accompany the goods from the place of departure to the place of destination occupy an important place.

Almost all documents are issued on special forms. Each document has certain details, as a rule, they contain: the name of the document, the place and date of issue, the names of foreign business partners, their addresses, telephone numbers, the contract number and the date of its signing , the name and description of the goods, their quantity, the shipment specification number.

International practice has developed documents that make it possible to guarantee delivery and payment to both parties. With the help of these documents the following tasks are solved:

  • The seller can confirm the fulfillment of the delivery obligations in accordance with the terms of the contract
  • The transfer of the documents can make the buyer meet his payment obligations
  • With the transfer of the documents, the right to dispose of the goods can pass to the buyer
  • The use of documents makes possible the participation of credit institutions in the execution of foreign trade operations .


The documents accepted in foreign trade include transport documents, insurance, merchandise, customs and others. Let’s look at some of the most used.

Transport documents are those that certify the acceptance of the goods for transport. These carrier-issued documents include:

  • In maritime transport: bill of lading, sea waybill, dock and steamship receipts
  • In rail transport: rail consignment note and track list
  • In air transport: air waybill
  • On the road: roadmap
  • Multimodal transport: combined transport document.

Documents related to the transport of goods also include a transport certificate, a postal receipt, a goods delivery receipt and a letter of guarantee.


The consignment note occupies a special place among the transport documents. It is a document issued by the transport company to the shipper as proof of acceptance of the goods for transport. There are two types of consignment note: receipt and on board. In the first, reception is confirmed and in the second, the loading of the merchandise on board the transport appointed by the company.

The consignment note has three main functions:

1) Certifies the acceptance of the merchandise for transport by the shipping company

2) It is a document of ownership, the dispatch of the merchandise by the shipping company at the port of destination only occurs after the presentation of the document

3) Proves the conclusion of a maritime transport contract.

The consignment note is usually prepared in triplicate. All copies of the consignment note are originals, with the original seal . Once the merchandise is released under one of the originals, the other originals lose their validity and the transport company is no longer responsible for the merchandise. When the contract provides for full control of the goods, a complete set of consignment notes must be submitted.

The exporter or carrier draws up the bill of lading and submits it for the carrier’s signature. If the carrier, upon receipt of the merchandise, finds no damage to it or its packaging, he simply signs the bill of lading. Such a bill of lading is called a clean bill of lading . If any damage is found, the carrier will indicate it on the consignment note. This type of bill of lading is called a dirty bill of lading or conditional bill of lading . In this case, the owner of the goods may be harmed.

These are some of the essential documents for foreign trade. Although as mentioned, in addition to the bill of lading there are other documents that are also important in the safe transfer of goods.