What Does Ex Work Mean in International Commerce?

Alibaba.com JANUARY 04, 20249 MIN READ
What Does Ex Work Mean in International Commerce?

For businesses involved in international trade, knowing the necessary incoterms is a must. These incoterms facilitate effective communication between parties from different countries and ensure smooth transactions and deals. However, for beginners in international trade, incoterms can seem like abstruse jargon that forbids outsider understanding. Worry not, for in this blog, we’ll unravel one such set of terms - Ex Works - and explore its ins and outs. By the end of this blog, you will have learned the EXW meaning, its pros & cons, as well as when to use the EXW protocol. Let’s get started now!

What Does EXW Stand For?

Before any further introduction, let’s see what is EXW first. EXW, or Ex Works, is an international trade term defining a seller's responsibility. In this arrangement, the seller makes goods available at their premises like their factories or docks, then the buyer assumes all costs and risks from that point onward. From loading costs, transportation and customs to any further risks, the buyer assumes full responsibility.

Factory Price Example

Now let's see an example of factory price of how it's conducted. Suppose a manufacturer sells electronic components. The factory price of a batch of these goods would be $10,000, including the cost of production, packaging, and preparing the goods. However, the shipping cost would be $1,000.

After diligent research, the buyer finds a reputable third-party shipper willing to transport this batch of electronic components at $600, which is significantly lower than the $1,000 specified by the manufacturer. As a result, the buyer has entered into an EXW agreement with the manufacturer to save $400 on shipping under the delivery terms EXW. Meanwhile, the shipping and customs clearance and more would be the buyer's responsibility from the point of collection and should be paid by the buyer.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Factory Delivery

When to Use the EXW Protocol?

The Ex Works (EXW) protocol proves practical in diverse scenarios of international trading, providing a clear framework for buyer-seller dynamics. Here are instances where the EXW protocol is often employed.

The seller is unable to export: In situations where the seller lacks export capabilities or faces logistical constraints, EXW becomes advantageous. The buyer assumes control from the seller's premises, managing the entire export process seamlessly.

The buyer wants to combine multiple shipments: EXW is preferred when a buyer intends to consolidate shipments from various sellers. It offers flexibility, allowing the buyer to optimize freight costs and schedules while coordinating the collection of goods.

The goods are shipped via Air Express: International shipping via Air Express often involves collecting the goods from the seller’s location and all other formalities, which can add to the total cost. In this case, by switching to EXW, the buyer can cut down on shipping expenses to a good extent.

What Are the Responsibilities of the Buyer and Seller in an EXW Agreement?

In an EXW agreement, each party assumes specific responsibilities to jointly facilitate a smooth international trade transaction. Let’s inspect them thoroughly now for a clear understanding.

Responsibilities of sellers

The responsibilities assumed by sellers are relatively low in an EXW agreement. Basically, sellers need to make sure the cargo is properly packaged and placed in a designated location so that it can be collected by the buyer. The sellers can also help the buyer with the loading process, but this is not mandatory as far as EXW terms are concerned. So, we can say that making the cargo ready at the agreed location (often the seller’s premises, like factories, warehouses, mills, etc.) is essentially the seller’s sole obligation.

Responsibilities of buyers

On the other hand, almost all other responsibilities are on the buyer’s side as per the terms of EXW. Buyer’s obligations typically consist of the following categories:

Loading: It is the buyer’s part to load the cargo on transportation vehicles. As previously mentioned, the seller can aid the buyer in cargo loading, but the seller is not obligated to do so.

Delivery: The buyer must see through the whole delivery process from the seller’s premises all the way to the final destination.

Customs clearance: Buyers bear the responsibility of managing export customs clearance at the seller's location and import customs clearance upon arrival at the destination.

Freight costs: All costs associated with transporting the goods, including EXW freight charges, are the buyer's responsibility. This encompasses expenses from the seller's location to the final destination.

Destination terminal charges: Buyers are accountable for any charges incurred at the destination terminal, covering handling and related terminal fees.

Unloading costs: Upon arrival, buyers must arrange and cover the costs associated with unloading the goods at the destination, ensuring a smooth transition from transportation to final delivery.

All duty and taxes: Buyers assume the responsibility for paying any applicable duties, taxes, and fees associated with the importation of the goods into the destination country.

As is evident from the discussion above, it is the buyers who assume the preponderance of responsibilities in international trade under EXW agreements. However, this does not necessarily mean that the buyer is at a disadvantage. In fact, buyers can also enjoy the benefits of factory delivery under EXW shipping terms.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Factory Delivery

Next, let us explore the advantages and disadvantages of factory delivery under the EXW agreement.


The advantages of factory delivery for the seller are multifold:

Minimal Responsibility: The primary advantage for the seller is that their responsibility ends once the goods are made available. They don't have to worry about the complexities of arranging transportation, loading, or export documentation beyond making the goods ready at their premises.

Cost Savings: Since the seller is not responsible for transportation costs from the factory to the buyer's location, the seller can save substantial costs, especially if they are not well-equipped to handle logistics.

Simple Transaction: Ex Works simplifies the transaction process. The seller only needs to focus on producing and making the goods available, without getting bogged down in the complexities of international shipping.

Factory delivery under EXW brings lots of advantages for the buyer too:

Consolidate Multiple Purchases: Ex Works facilitates the consolidation of multiple purchases for buyers. By taking control of shipping arrangements, buyers can coordinate the shipment of various goods from different sellers, streamlining logistics.

Cost Savings: The cost-saving potential of Ex Works is substantial. Buyers can independently negotiate and choose cost-effective shipping solutions, often finding better deals with third-party shippers.

Capability to Maintain Supplier Anonymity: Products can be transported using an incoterm or a different exporter's name to maintain the confidentiality of your supplier, especially when there is potential competition monitoring.


Although EXW frees sellers from an essential portion of responsibilities related to shipping, it should be pointed out that this comes at a price.

Below are the disadvantages for the seller under the EXW agreement.

Limited Market Access: Offering goods Ex Works may limit the number of potential buyers, especially those who are not familiar with or willing to handle the logistics of transporting goods from the seller's location. This can result in a smaller market reach.

Competitive Disadvantage: In certain industries or markets, competitors offering more inclusive terms (e.g., Free on Board - FOB) might be more attractive to buyers, due to the fact that they take on more responsibilities and provide a more comprehensive service.

Potential for Disputes: The risk of disputes may increase if the seller and buyer do not have a clear understanding of their respective responsibilities. Disagreements may arise over the delivery process, documentation, or the condition of the goods.

Disadvantages of EXW for the buyers, on the other hand, should also be noted:

Increased Burden of Responsibility: Embracing Ex Works as a delivery term places a heightened burden of responsibility on buyers. They must manage and finance the entire shipping process, including handling customs clearance and coordinating logistics.

Requirement of Representative: Another drawback of the Ex Works arrangement is the necessity for buyers to have a representative or agent in the seller's country. This representative is crucial for overseeing the collection of goods, ensuring they meet the required specifications,

Inexperience Can Lead to Higher Costs: Inexperience with the costs and logistics of EXW might lead to unexpectedly higher expenditures than initially anticipated.


Being an international trading agreement, the EXW incoterms specify responsibilities between the seller and the buyer. It places the majority of responsibilities on the buyer’s side while leaving the seller little to worry about other than getting goods ready. While buyers shoulder a substantial burden, they are also granted more control over the logistics process. By this clear delineation of responsibilities, EXW facilitates trading, promotes collaboration, and helps enterprises navigate the vast territory of global markets with confidence.

Start Selling on Alibaba.com

International trade is an arena where the correct choice of platform plays a major and decisive role in commercial success. For international sellers wishing to adopt the EXW agreement, it is vital to choose a selling platform that can connect you to a vast international customer base, thereby increasing the exposure of your business. Fortunately, Alibaba.com is such a platform.


As one of the largest online marketplaces globally, Alibaba.com allows you to gain access to a massive audience of potential customers. No matter what country you are selling your products to, Alibaba.com will find the right customers for your enterprise. Moreover, Alibaba.com provides a user-friendly platform with tools to manage your online storefront, communicate with potential buyers, and handle transactions. This makes it universally accessible across businesses of different sizes.

An alibaba.com account can be your gateway to increasing sales and business growth. With so many tools at your disposal, alibaba.com opens up endless potential and steers you readily toward success. So, if you don’t have an alibaba.com account, yet, create one and start embracing a sea of opportunities right away!

contact with alibaba.com


What does the EXW price mean for shipping?

The EXW price denotes the price of goods during transactions under EXW terms. Basically, it involves the costs related to manufacturing and preparing the goods for collection at the seller's premises. It does not, however, include any shipping costs or customs fees associated with transporting the goods to their final destination, whose cost is covered by the buyer.

What is the difference between EXW and FOB?

The key difference between Ex Works (EXW) and Free On Board (FOB) lies in the point of transfer of responsibility and risk.

EXW: In an EXW arrangement, the seller's responsibility ends when goods are made available at the designated premises, with the buyer shouldering all subsequent costs.

FOB: In contrast, FOB places the transportation cost and responsibility on the seller until the goods are loaded onto the vessel at the port of origin.

What is EXW on Alibaba.com?

The EXW on alibaba.com is an international trade term indicating that the seller will make the goods available for pick-up at their location or dock, such as a factory or warehouse. Buyers, in turn, assume all costs and risks associated with shipping, customs clearance, and delivery from the seller's premises.