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Trade finance signifies financing for trade, and it concerns both domestic and international trade transactions. A trade transaction requires a seller of goods and services as well as a buyer. Various intermediaries such as banks and financial institutions can facilitate these transactions by financing the trade.
While a seller (or exporter) can require the purchaser (an importer) to prepay for goods shipped, the purchaser (importer) may wish to reduce risk by requiring the seller to document the goods that have been shipped. Banks may assist by providing various forms of support. For example, the importer's bank may provide a letter of credit to the exporter (or the exporter's bank) providing for payment upon presentation of certain documents, such as a bill of lading. The exporter's bank may make a loan (by advancing funds) to the exporter on the basis of the export contract.
Other forms of trade finance can include Documentary Collection, Trade Credit Insurance, Factoring or forfeiting. Some forms are specifically designed to supplement traditional financing.
Secure trade finance depends on verifiable and secure tracking of physical risks and events in the chain between exporter and importer. The advent of new information and communication technologies allows the development of risk mitigation models which have developed into advance finance models. This allows very low risk of advance payment given to the Exporter, while preserving the Importer's normal payment credit terms and without burdening the importer's balance sheet. As trade transactions become more flexible and increase in volume, demand for these technologies has grown.
Banks and financial institutions offer the following products and services in their trade finance branches.