posted by Jennifer Diaz September 26, 2010 7 Comments

I have been an international trade attorney for over 20 years.  In that time, I have represented a few thousand companies involved in the importation, exportation, and international transportation of merchandise.  I have seen respectful, efficient U.S. Government employees and the most uncaring bureaucrats, importers who care about the law and others who only care how to get around it, and customs brokers who always try to do the right thing and others who you wonder how they ever passed the broker exam and the background check.  I have listed the 10 Most Common Misconceptions in International Trade.

I have actually heard intelligent people who are CEOs or General Counsels of their companies say the most surprising things to me over the years. 

1.  It is ok to bring in up to $100 worth of Cuban cigars into the United States.

2.  Dietary supplements that are "all natural" are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and, therefore, can make all kinds of medical claims.

3.  The U.S. Government does not care about the value of cargo being exported from the United States because there are no duties, taxes or fees paid to the U.S. Government on exports.

4.  If an airlines passenger brings into the United States over $10,000 in cash, the passenger must pay a tax to U.S. Customs or the IRS.

5.  If an importer uses a customs broker to file an entry with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and some false information is provided to U.S. Customs, only the customs broker is liable to U.S. Customs, not the importer.

6.  No one gets hurt by importing, buying and selling counterfeit merchandise.

7.  If some food product is marked with "Made in America" it must be good, but if it is marked "Made in China" it must be bad.

8.  Is an imported item is marked "Made in Vietnam" or "Made in Malaysia" or "Made in America" then if really must have been manufactured or produced in the identified country, and no other.

9. Since it is illegal to sell military items to places such as North Korea and Iran, if a U.S. company ships those items to a friendly country such as Australia or England, and the buyer in those countries then re-export them to North Korea or Iran, the U.S. company has done nothing wrong.

10.  A product manufactured in India, transported to Mexico, and then imported into the United States from Mexico should enter duty free under NAFTA because Mexico, Canada, and the United States are all members of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

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Jane Taeger September 27, 2010 at 8:33 am

We had a good one not so long ago. The importer said his was a new product that had never before been imported, so he assumed it would be duty free.

Jonathan Cottingham September 27, 2010 at 9:22 am

I’m currently working for an importer but previously I worked as a licensed broker for over 20 years. During that time I’ve heard a lot of interesting comments and witness some interesting things.

There was this one textile importer that sent a very naive buyer to a German textiles trade show The buyer purchased several products from one supplier, having been told that all products were manufactured in West Germany. The buyer did not check the supplier’s credentials nor go to the factory but took the supplier at their word. When the shipment arrived I received a call from a good friend that worked at the CFS – there was a problem – some of the boxes had country marking such as East Germany and Czechoslovakia (this was before the Wall fell); and this CFS had an Customs inspector on site who had seen the products when they were unloaded. When I called my importer to give them a heads up, the owner told me it would be okay because the boxes were probably just reused.

Jorge X. de Tuya September 28, 2010 at 4:01 pm

What people don’t realize is when they fail to declare imported items that they are importing as baggage is, that they will also be charged with lying to the government for singing a government form that is false. When it comes to currency, they will forfeit the money but may also be criminally charged under title 18 for the false declaration.

Laura Kattner October 7, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Thank you so much for creating this blog. I am taking an Import/Export class and needed to find a blogger who writes about International Trade. I work for a book wholesale company in our Global Accounts Department so I am coming to the table with a ton of exporting experience. I look forward to reading your posts in the future.

Laura Kattner October 10, 2010 at 8:56 pm

So far, the Professor thinks you are a great source and really enjoyed the last story.


Katie August 1, 2012 at 12:51 pm

Could the broker making entry NOT be liable for, for example, counterfeit products? Assuming the broker just did the paperwork and was not further involved in the transaction (except for serving as importer of record).

Rosie November 20, 2012 at 7:20 am

Great blog, I encounter these ideas everyday. I recently lost an importer when he hired a new clerk and she said that I charged too much duties for their goods and their new broker charged them no duties. Come to find out that the new broker was unaware of anti dumping on wood furniture from China for this supplier. CBP is now all over this case.


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