I want to learn everything there is to know about exporting products to the United States from Europe
July 28, 2010 7:48 AM   Subscribe

I want to learn everything there is to know about exporting products to the United States from Europe. More specifically, agricultural products. Not necessarily meat but canned goods, gourmet products, dry goods etc. My goal is to help producers and distributors by becoming an expert in the process and offering my service (management of forms, regulations, legal compliance) for a fee. I will be doing lots of googling of course but any specific help or suggestions would be much appreciated. Thanks!
posted by postergeist to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You need to know shipping. Read up on your INCOTERMS and get familiar with freight forwarders and marine insurance. Learn all about the various forms of bills of lading.

You need to know international commercial transactions. Make sure you read up on letters of credit and their variations (at sight, usance) and other documentary payment arrangements (documents against payment, documents against acceptance). You need to know about performance guarantees and standby letters of credit as well. You will need to review several publications from the International Chamber of Commerce: The Uniform Customs and Practices for Documentary Credits Pub. No. 600 (letters of credit); Uniform Rules for Demand Guarantees, Pub. No. 758 (demand guarantees), and The Uniform Rules for Collections (Documents against acceptance/payment).

You will need to know United States Customs and the applicable tariffs for the goods you intend to import as well as any additional barriers to commercial viability, such as anti-dumping penalties. That means familiarity with the Harmonized Tariff Schedule and at a minimum, chapters 1-199 of Title 19 of the Code of Federal Regulations.

You will need to make sure that your goods meet safety/sanitary standards. You'll have to register the producer with the FDA before you ship. If you want to import alcohol, you'll need a permit from the Treasury.

Depending on the dry goods, if you're talking bulk grains (wheat, soy, etc.), you'll want to consider researching GAFTA (Grain and Feed Traders Association) contracts.

The United States Customs and Border Patrol has a very good publication out called Importing Into the United States (link to free, downloadable .pdf). This covers a good deal of the basics from a customs clearance perspective.

Good luck!
posted by holterbarbour at 8:41 AM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]

To add to holterbarbour's excellent advice I would add that having access to legal counsel with experience in international trade law is also a very good idea. If all you need is advice, having counsel in either the EU or the US is probably sufficient. If you ever need more than that (and I hope you never do), counsel based in the relevant jurisdiction is a must. My (very large) company has US counsel and counsel in a couple of EU countries on retainer along with some non-lawyer trade experts we consult with occasionally. When we have to go to court in the EU, our US counsel is part of the team but local counsel leads (and vice versa).
posted by tommasz at 9:10 AM on July 28, 2010

You might want to read this Fast Company article (recently referenced on This American Life) about the entrepenuerial creation myths. It appears that most people who go into a business get their knowledge of the business by already being working in the industry. This may be the way for you to break into this business.
posted by Jahaza at 9:47 AM on July 28, 2010

Response by poster: Wow, thanks to holterbarbour for that extremely thorough response.

@Jahaza: I actually heard that episode some months ago and of course, that is good advice but in my situation there currently isn't really anyone where I am that does this (am in southern europe lets just say). A friend of mine recently bought a processing plant for a certain dry good and has spent the last couple of years researching and planning his business. He is the one that gave me the idea to do this because according to his assesment, there was really no one out there who offered this service at any of the trade shows or anywhere he looked and he thinks it would be a very valuable service to a lot of people, most of whom he says sit on large production stockpiles because they only know how to sell domestically.

So, if i were to offer this service i would literally have to learn it from scratch, and all on my own. Definitely more difficult but doesnt seem impossible.
posted by postergeist at 1:30 PM on July 28, 2010

You might want to check to see if your state has anything analogous to the MN Trade Office. I happen to know someone who used to work there, and they are excellent at answering just the kinds of questions you ask. If you are in NY as your profile says, I think this might be a good starting point.
posted by freezer cake at 3:39 PM on July 28, 2010

Tommasz: Since you're at a large company, a trade specialist is probably much more relevant for your needs: trade law (WTO, dumping, trade barriers, etc.) is at a higher level addressing national trade policies and the responses by other countries. Trade lawyers are also called in to represent companies if they are being investigated for dumping. However, I might suggest that at postergeist's level (which sounds like a start-up and small scale operation for the time being), a lawyer with expertise in customs matters would be better.

Better still (from a cost perspective at least since lawyers are so very fnarfing expensive), would be to find a Customs Broker (properly licensed by the CBP) that is willing to give guidance (on practical matters, and not legal advice).

And postergeist, unless you yourself are willing to go through the formalities of filing paperwork with Customs when bringing stuff into the US, you will almost certainly be needing to retain the services of a Customs Broker to handle that for you anyway.
posted by holterbarbour at 4:54 PM on July 28, 2010

Response by poster: What is the job of a customs broker? is that not the role that I am trying to fill or is it something separate?
posted by postergeist at 9:22 AM on July 29, 2010

Ah, sorry I'm late in seeing your question, postergeist...

Customs brokers do all the paperwork that is required by CBP for entry of goods into the US. There may be significant penalties for filing incorrectly, so it's usually best to have an expert doing this. Also, because some goods might be subject to anti-dumping penalties which have not yet been finalized as to percentage (and which may be finally calculated and imposed some time after entry), importers are required to either leave a deposit of some percentage of the value of the goods with CBP or to put up a bond for that amount. Customs brokers are usually in a position to do that and individual importers are not.
posted by holterbarbour at 7:37 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

« Older Oil Change or No?   |   email/task management-elderly Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.