Essential Guide To Translate International Trade Documents

Kristina Temelkova

I am born and raised in Bulgaria, but I'm currently living in Vienna, Austria. Besides content writing, I work as a translator, video editor, and caption writer. At present, I’m also finishing my master’s degree in applied linguistics at the University of Vienna. I speak four languages: Bulgarian, English, German, and Russian.

Oct 5, 2023 | Business, Translation

Overseas expansion and international trade are the most common strategies for companies to increase their revenue and grow their client base.

While this step can lead to great success, there are many challenges along the way, such as overcoming language barriers and dealing with differences in legal systems.

The preparation and translation of international trade documents, for example, requires special expertise and specialized technical assistance. Thus, opting for a professional translation service is greatly beneficial.

In the following blog, we’ll discuss the most important aspects of international trade translation, so that you can make the most informed decisions for your business.

Looking for a reliable translation partner for your translation needs?

Milestone helps you seamlessly translate content your content into 70+ languages with precision and accuracy.

The Significance of International Trade Document Translation

In the post-pandemic world, international trade is expected to undergo massive growth, exceeding its pre-pandemic levels. From that perspective, international trade document translation is vital for such an expansion since it’s an essential tool for cross-border commerce.

Global Trade Trends


International trade document translation covers all areas of global trade procedures, from manufactured products to organizing international supply chains and enabling global banking processes and financial services.

When trading internationally, you’ll encounter different types of documents.

How these documents need to be translated depends on your specific situation and the laws of the countries involved. Different countries or even regions may have their own rules, and if your products cross multiple zones, it can get more complex.

Consult a specialist for advice, but keep in mind that in many cases, you may need to translate certain documents to enter the international market.

As you’ll learn throughout this blog, international trade document translation is a key tool for optimizing each level of international trade in this globalized, multilingual world!

Also read: eCommerce Localization Guide For Selling Across Borders

An overview of the typical documents involved in international trade

In international trading, there are quite a few guidelines and requirements that one needs to follow. Usually, these require certain documents that need to be translated into the official languages of the local authorities.

Here are some examples of the most common international trade documents:

  • Insurance Policy (or Certificate)
  • Air Waybill
  • Combined Transport Document
  • Bill of Lading
  • Draft (or Bill of Exchange)
  • Certificate of Origin
  • Packing List/Specification
  • Inspection Certificate

International trade documents


Common Types of International Trade Documents

The list of international trade documents can be endless. But here you can find the most common types, which you will inevitably encounter regardless of the sphere of your business:


When you get into international trade, you’ll encounter different certificates. The kind of certificates you need depends on your industry and the countries your business operates.

However, international trade regulations usually require companies to have their certificates translated into the local language. In some cases, such translations should be done by a sworn translator, so make sure to check all the requirements set by the local authorities.

Some examples of certificates that might need translation for your international business are:

  • International import certificates
  • Delivery verification certificates
  • Certificates of origin
  • Landing certificates
  • Inspection certificates
  • Health and safety certificates

Financial Documents

In international trade, there are also various financial documents to deal with. Some examples are financial statements, annual reports, bank returns, tax reports, etc.

Depending on the location of your partners and customers, there might be certain requirements about the languages in which you are obliged to submit your financial documents.

What’s more, it’s important to translate some financial documents, such as Financial Statement Analysis, for your partners. This might help establish straightforward communication and trust between both sides.

Also read: Financial Translations – Importance & Best Practices

Import-Export Declarations

In international trade, you’ll deal with import-export declarations, which are forms that contain information about the shipped products and their value.

These documents can be quite tricky, and mistakes can cause customs delays, so it’s important to get an expert translator’s help.

Import-Export Contracts

You’ll also need to translate import-export contracts with your international trade partners.

These contracts are legal documents and, as such, must follow particular guidelines and contain no errors.

Thus, it’s crucial to have a specialist who translates your company’s contracts so that they meet international standards. To stay safe and avoid problems, it’s best to hire a professional translation service provider for such important documents.


In international trade, you are very likely to encounter patents, which must be translated into different languages. Since patents are legal documents, it’s super important to have an expert translator do the translations.

Make sure to check their credentials and experience, and read reviews about them and the translation agency to avoid issues later. Sharing your experiences through service reviews can help other business owners too.


Audit Documents

Independent audit results are important in international trade, and they may need translation for two reasons.

Firstly, you can translate them to attract partners. Audits are a great way to show that your company does business well and that potential partners can rely on you.

Secondly, if an audit involves your international partners and the documents are in a foreign language, they need to be translated into the native language of your trade partners. This enables smooth communication of the final results.

It’s smart to translate these documents in advance to avoid rushed and costly translations during an audit.

International Trade Documentation Issued
Also read: Legal Translation: Importance, Challenges & Best Practices

Challenges in Translating International Trade Documents

International trade document translation has its pitfalls. Being aware of them is the first step to avoiding falling into them.

Thus, we offer you a list of the biggest challenges when translating international trade documents.

Terminology and Jargon

Translators often face the challenge of getting the right words because even one little inaccuracy can lead to big problems.

Translating financial terms, for instance, needs a deep understanding of the complex terminology and jargon of this field. What’s more, some institutions might require translations to follow certain standards, such as the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). In such cases, translators must make sure the terms match IFRS standards.

Terms used in international trade

Also read: Why should companies localize corporate training?

Numerical accuracy and consistency

In international trade, numbers are crucial, especially in financial documents like balance sheets and income statements. Making sure numbers are accurate and consistent across languages is a big challenge in translation.

Different languages and countries use different number formats, currency symbols, and decimal separators. For example, punctuation rules with numbers can also be quite important. For example, in English-speaking countries, 21.50 means 21 and 1/2, but in Vietnamese, it means 2150.

Translators must pay attention to these details to keep financial figures clear and accurate.


International trade document translation often deals with sensitive information.

For example, financial documents like cash flow statements, income statements, and annual reports often contain numbers and other information that is strictly confidential. If the information in these documents becomes public, it can be risky for the company or any other financial institution.

So, keeping financial documents confidential and secure during translation is super important. Financial translators need to follow strict confidentiality rules and take steps to safeguard any sensitive data from unauthorised access.

Non Disclosure Agreement

Also read: India’s Digital Personal Data Protection Act (DPDPA) & Need For Translation

Deadlines and Effective Communication

International trade document translation often has tight deadlines because many processes, like shipping, approval, and transactions, are time-sensitive.

For instance, financial statements, shipping agreements, and partner contracts have strict deadlines. To meet these deadlines, efficient project management, good communication, and coordination among translators, clients, and other stakeholders are essential.

Also read: Use Of Checklists In Translation Projects (Template included)

Legal differences

Legal differences in international trade document translation are critically important as they can impact the validity and enforceability of contracts and agreements across borders.

These differences encompass various aspects such as contract laws, dispute resolution mechanisms, and regulatory requirements. These must be accurately translated to ensure compliance and protect the interests of all parties involved in international trade.

Failing to address these legal disparities can lead to misunderstandings, disputes, and potential legal liabilities.


Milestone helps you seamlessly translate content your content into 70+ languages with precision and accuracy.

The Legal Implications of Translation Errors and Non-Compliance

Translation errors and non-compliance in international trade document translation can have significant legal implications.

Firstly, inaccuracies in translated contracts or agreements can lead to misunderstandings between parties. These can potentially result in contract disputes or litigation. What’s more, even the smallest of errors can undermine the legality and enforceability of a given document, rendering it unenforceable in certain jurisdictions.

Secondly, failing to comply with the legal requirements of a specific country or region can lead to regulatory violations and legal penalties. Different countries have distinct legal systems, contract laws, and regulatory frameworks. Any lack of compliance with these can result in fines, sanctions, or even the termination of business operations in that region.

Furthermore, translation errors in legal documents related to international trade can impact intellectual property rights, patents, trademarks, and copyright protection. Mistakes in translating intellectual property-related terms or clauses can lead to a loss of protection or disputes over ownership.

Last but not least, the failure to adhere to privacy and data protection laws when working with translated documents containing sensitive information can result in legal action as well as reputational damage.

Indeed, there are several legal implications due to translation errors or non-compliance with local legal guidelines and requirements. To mitigate these risks, it’s crucial to employ experienced and qualified translators who will ensure compliance with the laws and regulations of the countries involved in the international trade process.

Also read: Top Qualities of A Good Translation

Best Practices for International Trade Document Translation

International trade document translation is a critical aspect of conducting business on a global scale. Accurate and precise translation of documents is essential for ensuring legal compliance, effective communication, and successful international trade relationships.

In this section, we will explore the best practices of professional translation services in international trade.

Hire Professional Translators

Look for translators who are not only proficient in the target language but also have expertise in the specific subject matter of your documents. This ensures they understand industry-specific terminology, which is crucial for accurate translation.

Indeed, language service providers (LSPs) are essential in global communication, thanks to their networks of skilled native legal and sworn translators. Due to their huge pool of translators, they can pick the right translator for a project’s specific requirements, ensuring linguistic accuracy and cultural appropriateness.

Legal Expertise

Legal documents, contracts, patents, agreements, etc. are an essential part of international trade. When translating such documents, the translators must have a deep understanding of the local laws and regulations of both the source and target countries.

Legal terminology varies significantly across jurisdictions, and errors can have legal consequences, so legal expertise is a must.

Also read: Legal Translation: 6 Practical Tips For Translating Legal Documents


After the initial translation, a thorough proofreading should be conducted to catch any errors or inconsistencies. This step is vital for maintaining accuracy and clarity in the translated documents.



Make sure to implement effective confidentiality measures to protect sensitive information in your documents. This includes secure data storage, non-disclosure agreements with translators, and adherence to data protection regulations.

Cultural Sensitivity

Be aware of cultural differences that may affect the interpretation of your documents. Certain phrases or concepts may carry different connotations in different cultures. Ensure that translations are culturally appropriate to avoid misunderstandings and offensive content.

Timely Translation

Adherence to deadlines is critical in international trade. Late translations can disrupt important processes such as shipping, approvals, and transactions. Hence, plan translation timelines carefully to ensure smooth operations.

Document Preservation

Keep translated documents for future reference and compliance checks. Properly organised and accessible records are essential, especially in cases of audits, disputes, or regulatory inquiries.

The Importance of Certified Translation in International Trade Document Translation

Certified translation plays a pivotal role in international trade document translation and businesses engaging in global commerce.

Certified translations are performed by professional translators who have been authorized or accredited by relevant language associations or government agencies.

The significance of certified translation lies in its validity and legal recognition. In many international transactions, especially those involving legal contracts, financial documents, and regulatory filings, certified translations are often mandatory for documents to be legally acceptable by foreign authorities.

Certified translations ensure that the content accurately represents the original documents and adheres to the linguistic and legal requirements of the target country. Furthermore, they ensure trust and credibility, assuring all parties involved that the translations are accurate and reliable.

This is especially critical in international trade, where misunderstandings or inaccuracies can lead to disputes, legal complications, and financial losses.

In essence, certification facilitates smooth and legally compliant international trade processes.

Also read: Top 10 Translation Companies In India [2023]

How to obtain certified translations?

To obtain certified translations, there are a few steps you need to follow. The process is very straightforward, so you don’t need to worry about it at all!

Find an appropriate translator or translation company

How to choose the right translation agency?

It’s crucial to hire a licensed professional who is specifically qualified to issue certified translations, ensuring accuracy and legal validity.

For instance, certified translators are required to include a so-called “Certificate of Accuracy.” This is a formal statement from the translator or translation agency stating that the translation is accurate, complete, and a true representation of the original document.

It’s always advisable to look for ISO-certified translation agencies. They are highly regarded for their commitment to quality and accuracy in translation services.

ISO Certifcation

Their translation certificates hold global acceptance due to their adherence to stringent international standards. Thus, they are a trusted choice for businesses and organisations that seek reliable and precise translation services. Following the ISO certification standards ensures that agencies prioritise consistency, precision, and client satisfaction.

Ask for a quote and delivery time

The quote and the delivery time will vary according to the type of documents you need to translate and the number of documents you submit.

Other factors that can affect the end cost and delivery time are the length of each document, the specific language combination, the format, and how urgently you need the certified translation.

Submit your documents to your translation provider

When sending the documents, there are some details you should include, such as contact details, the language of the original document (source language), and the language you want the translations to be in (target language).

Receive your certified translation

When your certified translation is complete, the language service provider will review it for accuracy and consistency. Then, you will receive the translated documents, either online or in hard copy—whichever version you opt for.


International trade document translation can be quite challenging since different countries have distinct legal frameworks and requirements.

Thus, opting for certified translation is a must. Certified translators are authorised and accredited by governmental and language associations and, thus, can ensure accurate translations.

What’s more, the procedure itself for obtaining a certified translation is so straightforward that you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Also read: Localization & Translation Costs – Breakdown Of Factors Involved


Milestone helps you seamlessly translate content your content into 70+ languages with precision and accuracy.