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U.S. Customs
When President Obama was in office in 2016, his decision for the United States to be a part of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) was based on strengthening economic ties with Asian Nations. Flash forward to President Trump’s first week in office, and the TPP is officially terminated.

Trump supported his decision by insisting that the TPP would have harmed the country’s workers. If the partnership had passed, it is argued that the US would have seen job losses in their manufacturing industry. In fact, even Bernie Sanders expressed gratitude towards Trump’s decision.

With the US pulling out, eleven countries were left committed to going forward, but unable to. The TPP’s enactment date was set for February 2018; Trump opted out on January 23, 2018. In order for the agreement to have gone forward, a portion of the countries making up 85% of the network’s economic output would have to have signed. Of course, the US made up a significant portion of that 85%.

Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, Chile, Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico, Japan, and Canada decided to move forward, even without the US. They have since renamed the agreement, “Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership” (CPTPP).

Although President Trump maintained his position that the TPP did not reflect his America First Policies, only a couple days after opting out, he expressed a willingness to renegotiate. The President made it clear that the US had been made a “terrible deal”. If the US were offered a better deal, Trump would reconsider.

At this point, however, the CPTPP is moving forward without the involvement of the US.
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Forms and Documents, U.S. Customs
Expanding into international markets is a worthwhile business decision. There is no need to occupy a physical address in the country whose market you wish to become involved in either. By registering to become a non-resident importer (NRI), you can do all your business from the comfort of your home – wherever that may be!

As a NRI, you facilitate both the exporting and importing of your product from origin to destination. Once your product has cleared customs and crossed the border, it is considered to be coming from a domestic retailer. This is made possible by the fact that you will have obtained a domestic business number.

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U.S. Customs

In January 2018, import prices rose by 1% in the United States in contrast to a forecasted rise of 0.6%; the forecasted rise for December 2017 was 0.2% but turned out to only be 0.1%.

What caused such an unexpected hike in import prices in January 2018? There are two factors at play here: the cost of imported petroleum, and the weakening US dollar against foreign trade partners’ currencies.

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U.S. Customs
Gone are the days of setting up shop at a brick and mortar store down the street. If you’re starting a business, making sales can be as simple as setting up a website. It’s no secret that having an import/export business can be extremely profitable — especially if you do it wisely and keep your costs down.

So, you’ve found a product you like, or know will sell, why not start an import/export business?

Here’s how:

1. Find your market


Your chances for success will improve if you do a thorough job of tracking and anticipating trends. In fact, being one of the first importer/exporters of a product that becomes a super-seller is what business dreams are made of!

Doing your homework and being knowledgeable of trends, both past and present, will work to your advantage. By researching the market, you will be able to locate the best potential foreign market for your product. There are multiple resources out there for you to get a good overview of the market, such as The World Bank and Global Edge.

2. Source a supplier


With a product in mind, you can now approach a reputable supplier like Alibaba, or Thomas Net Register (there are many other options as well).

When contacting a potential supplier, you’ll want to get an idea of a few things: product specifications, packaging, and company capacity. Ensure that the supplier you work with is professional, and poised to work within your needs.

Most importantly, make sure that the supplier is ready to keep up with the potential demand.

3. Determine price

The general business model for an import/export business is centered around two things: volume, and commission on that volume.

You will want to ensure that your markup on the product does not exceed what your customer is willing to pay, while still making it worth your while. Typically, a 10-15% markup is reasonable. As such, the more you sell, the more profit you make!

Hot tip: keep the product price separated from the logistical processes because those two will eventually be combined into the landed price per unit. Don’t worry– a solid transportation company can help you out here!

4. Start a website

Establishing an online presence for your business is necessary. Without one, you won’t have a platform for your prospects to get to know you and your product, and ultimately, press that “order” button. And setting up a website is easier than you might think, with a variety of do-it-yourself resources available.

Register your domain name, create a website, and create a blog. At this step, it may be advisable to consult with legal counsel and accountants in order to make sure that you are in a position to move forward. However, don’t worry about hiring a website designer/developer just yet! You can set up your own website and play with preset layouts with services like GoDaddy, Wix, and Squarespace.

5. Target your customers

Beyond basic marketing and SEO practices, you should always be on the hunt for customers! Use social media to your advantage by posting information about your product online, posing questions to your customers about your product and its benefit or use to them, and ultimately — keeping the conversation going.

Social media tip: create content for your target audience, don’t just talk about your product! (Ex: informational blogs, infographics, etc.)

Beyond this, trade organizations such as the Chambers of Commerce can connect you with consumers in the international marketplace, contact lists specific to your industry, and trade-shows that are taking place on the local and international scale.

6. Transport your product

At this point, with an engaged customer base that loves your product, you must decide how you will move your product. First and foremost, hire a freight forwarder that is geared towards serving moving cargo, from factory door to warehouse.

Next, it is advisable to consult with a customs broker, in order to ensure compliance with regulations and handle the tricky documentation that comes with shipping across borders. A blunder here can result in costly fees, duties, and taxes.

Click here to contact a customs broker.
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U.S. Customs
It may or may not come to you as a surprise that the United States is party to many international free-trade agreements (FTAs). In fact, the US is a leader of the free-trade movement, and operates in accordance with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (a legal agreement between 123 countries).

As of today, the US is party to 14 different free trade agreements, and is in negotiations for 18 more. This may not be exactly in line with today’s political climate, in which the Trump administration has been very open about their protectionist ideologies, and distaste for NAFTA.

FTAs are, of course, an effective method for opening up foreign markets to American exporters, reducing trade barriers, and enhancing the rule of law in the FTA partnering nation. Point blank, the reduction in barriers and the creation of transparent trading makes it easier and more affordable for US companies to export their products.

The currently enacted free trade agreements include (over half were signed during the George W. Bush presidency) :

Israel-United States Free Trade Agreement
North American Free Trade Agreement
Jordan-United States Free Trade Agreement
Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement
Chile-United States Free Trade Agreement
Singapore-United States Free Trade Agreement
Bahrain-United States Free Trade Agreement
Morocco-United States Free Trade Agreement
Oman-United States Free Trade Agreement
Peru-United States Free Trade Agreement
Dominican Republic/Central America Free Trade Agreement
Panama-United States Trade Promotion Agreement
United States-Colombia Free Trade Agreement
United States-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement

What is the difference between Unilateral, Bilateral, and Multilateral Agreements?

Unilateral – This kind of agreement occurs when a country chooses to impose trade restrictions, without the reciprocation of another country. This is rare, as it puts the country at a competitive disadvantage.

At times, developed nations use unilateral trade as a method of providing foreign aid. It helps smaller, emerging markets grow, and creates new markets for exporters.

Bilateral – This agreement occurs between two countries, when the duo mutually agrees to loosen restrictions on trade in order to expand markets.

Tariffs are lowered, and the nations are granted preferential trade status with each other.

Multilateral – The more the merrier is absolutely true in this case. Multilateral agreements are very powerful, covering a large area, and boosting the parties’ competitive advantage on the market.

The drawback? These agreements are incredibly difficult to negotiate, as different countries’ interests may clash.

In most forms, the enacted free trade agreements are instrumental in supporting the American economy. Today, the Trump administration faces the challenges of fostering public support for these agreements as the political climate shifts.
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Talks between the participating countries in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)–The United States, Canada, and Mexico– have already begun, as of August 2017. President Trump has been very obvious in stating his distaste for the agreement, and has pledged to repeal it as a part of his campaign promises. Since then, the President has shifted his views slightly, and has agreed to renegotiate the deal rather than scrapping it in its entirety.

On the other side, Canada and Mexico have been in favor of updating NAFTA, in addition to business lobbying in favor of preserving the agreement, as it covers a total of $1 trillion in trade in North America– in a wide range of products and industries across the countries.

US Perspective

As with any deal, there are pros and cons. For the US, NAFTA has been fruitful for many US industries, like the agriculture industry. However, President Trump persists that the agreement can be linked to the decline in manufacturing jobs. Of course, this is consistent with the protectionist rhetoric that has sprung up in the nation recently.

Ultimately, the US’s goal in this is to lower the trade deficit overall. In addition, the administration has also stated that they wish to strengthen regulations to correctly identify the country of origin.

Canada Perspective

Canada’s position has been in favor of NAFTA, as the agreement has generally benefitted the economy since its activation in 1994. Indeed, the Canadian economy has grown a total of 2.5% more annually than it would have without the agreement being in place.

Canada will be going into the negotiations with the intention of making it more progressive, with benefits for all three nations.

Mexico Perspective

Mexico has been clear that NAFTA has widely contributed to the development of manufacturing plants, and has boosted many industries, such as the agricultural industry, helping them become more internationally competitive. Mexico will be entering negotiations with the goal to ease seasonal workers’ regulations and the integration of telecom markets.

As negotiations go forward, we will get a more clear idea on how this will affect a range of business practices in the three countries. For now, all we can be sure is that the US, Canada, and Mexico will be pushing for NAFTA to further reflect their interests.
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U.S. Customs

If you’re a US importer, no matter the scale of your business, it’s more likely than not that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will audit your operations and your transactional compliance at some point. They may look for a history of compliance errors, poorly defined and documented internal control procedures, or other red flags. It’s important to take it seriously. This is a process that should be handled with the same attention to detail and comprehensiveness as a tax/IRS audit. An unprepared importer can suffer greater penalties, up to and including the loss of import privileges.

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U.S. Customs

Even though there’s no law that says you need to hire a customs broker to get clearance for your goods, there’s a reason so many do. The fact is, navigating import brokerage can be intimidating no matter who you are. Not only is there a lot to learn, but the information is always changing. To avoid a lot of stress and possibly penalties, you’d do well to realize you’re not alone in this process! The right customs broker can benefit your business and make your life easier in more ways than one.

Here are several real-life benefits of appointing a licensed customs broker:

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