Resources for Exporting: A Visit to the Mississippi Gulf Coast

Last week I visited the beautiful Mississippi Gulf Coast to attend the Gulf States Trade Alliance’s 2012 Annual Export conference from April 10-12 at the Beau Rivage Resort.  The theme for the event was “Export Resources and New Market Opportunities for Small Business”, and the markets focused on during the conference were Central America, the Caribbean, and Canada.  First, a little background on the trade alliance.

The Gulf Coast Trade Alliance consists of economic development agencies from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida who come together in organizing a regional conference each year focused on international trade and exporting.  The conference highlights tools and resources available to small businesses in each of these four states that enable small business to enter into the world of international trade or grow their existing international business.

After a warm welcome, the conference started out with a discussion of Caribbean market opportunities with discussions by Robert Jones, Counselor for Commercial Affairs for the Caribbean Region (U.S. Commercial Service, American Embassy, Santo Domingo, DR) and Gandy Thomas, Consul General of Haiti Atlanta.  Mr. Jones discussed the benefits of doing business in the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean nations and noted that among  the best prospects for exporting to the region are:  construction in support of tourism, medical equipment and supplies, and renewable energy.  As many businesses engaged in export already know, the United States also has a free trade agreement that encompasses the Dominican Republic making trade with that Caribbean country even more inviting for U.S. businesses.  Mr. Thomas spoke to the fact that demands in Haiti for energy and manufacturing is huge, and the plethora of languages spoken in the region suggests that Haiti is a prime location for businesses to locate call centers.  Each speaker identified that one of the most important aspects of doing business in the Caribbean is establishing relationships face to face and keeping up those relationships even after your visit to their sunny islands.

Later in the conference we heard from Leroy Sheffer, Managing Partner, ITAS Group (Specialized Services Firm, American Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Panama) and Bryan Smith (Counselor, Commercial Affiars for the U.S. Commercial Service at the U.S. Embassy in San Jose, Costa Rica regarding opportunities in Central America, specifically Panama and Costa Rica.

Rounding out the afternoon was Jennifer Rosebrugh, the Senior Trade Commissioner for the Consulate General of Canada located in Atlanta, Georgia.  Ms. Rosebrugh extolled the virtues of doing business with Canada, the United States largest trading partner.  Similar to Mr. Jones and Mr. Thomas, Ms. Rosebrugh said that a key to international trading is to do business with honesty, reliability, kindness, friendliness, compassion, civility, forgiveness, and generosity, and these actions are much more easily undertaken with someone who you’ve met face to face than with someone solely interacted with over email and phone.

Other conference speakers discussed services that will help a small business engage in international trade.  These services are provided by agencies such as the U.S. Commercial Service, the Small Business Administration, the Southern U.S. Trade Association, the Mississippi Development Authority (or other state development boards), banks with international departments, law firms with expertise in international trade issues, customs brokers, etc.  If you are considering entering into international trade business or looking to expand the business you already have, there are many resources available.  Using these resources from the outset to ensure you are making the right choices for your company will help you succeed in both the short and long term.  Understanding both the advantages and pitfalls of international trade will allow your company to make wise decisions that will help ensure your success.

Our firm provides not only legal services for those who have already encountered issues related to international trade, but we also provide business services for those seeking to engage in or expand their trade operations in a way that helps them avoid legal problems down the line.  With over three decades of experience in international trade from both the logistics and the legal sides, we can help you ensure your company is on the right track.  For more information, please visit our website at www.customscourt.com , email us at either nmooney@customscourt.com or smorrison@customscourt.com, or call us at (850) 893-0670 or (800) 583-0250.

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Free Trade Agreement Series: Part 2- Importer Requirements Under NAFTA

Having originated nearly 20 years ago NAFTA, is a well established free trade agreement that continues to have a significant impact on importers and exporters.  In efforts to open global markets to U.S. businesses, the U.S. government has entered or is planning to enter into fourteen other free trade agreements and promotions.   The most recent agreements include the Colombian FTA, the KORUS (Korea) FTA, and the Panama TPA.

With these new FTAs comes the need to revisit basic principles of NAFTA in order to better understand the rules and regulations these new FTAs will impose on exporters and importers.  Throughout the next few weeks, this series on FTAs will delve not only into NAFTA requirements, but will move on to discuss the implications on free trade that other FTAs have had and will have on the U.S. trade community.

In last week’s entry we discussed the requirements for exporting goods to Mexico or Canada (“NAFTA Countries”).  Importing requirements are similar in some ways, but in order to ensure preferential duty, you should be aware of the significant differences.  In the U.S., the rules governing NAFTA importers are set forth in 19 C.F.R. 181 Subpart C* and 19 U.S.C. Chapter 21.

  • Declaration = A declaration must be made seeking duty free treatment for importing goods into the US. The declaration must include as a prefix the symbols “CA” if your product is from Canada, or “MX” if it is for Mexico.  Generally, this declaration will be based on the Certificate of Origin (this is the same document, CBP form 434, as that referenced in the exporter post last week. http://forms.cbp.gov/pdf/CBP_Form_434.pdf
  • Any errors on the declaration and/or Certificateof origin should be corrected in writing within 30 days of the mistake being discovered, and any change in duty must be paid.
  • Records and Submissions = Importers must maintain all importation documents pertaining to their product, including a copy of the Certificate of Origin, for five years after the entry of the goods.  Such documentation must be provided to the port director upon request (within 4 years of the date on the Certificate) and must include:
  1. CBP Form 434 signed by exporter or exporter’s authorized agent
  2. Be completed in English or have an English translation if prepared in the language of the actual Country of Origin
  • The Certificate and Declaration may be applicable to single or multiple importations occurring within a specific period of time set forth by the exporter or producer but not to exceed 12 months.
  • Acceptance = When the Certificate is accepted by the port director as valid, the acceptance will result in the imported goods being granted preferential treatment.
  • Certificate Not Required When=
    1. The port director is satisfied that the product is NAFTA qualified and waives the Certificate requirement
    2. The importation of the product is non-commercial
    3. The total value of the originating goods does not exceed US$ 2,500.  In this instance; however, your invoice must be included with the following signed and dated statement:

“I hereby certify that the good covered by this shipment qualifies as an originating good for purposes of preferential tariff treatment under the NAFTA.”

  1. The statement must indicate whether the signatory is the producer, exporter, importer, or agent.
  • Failure to comply with regulations may result in the cancelation or denial of preferential treatment for your product.

* http://ecfr.gpoaccess.gov/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=707af3099083c027393664c26eeb50ca&rgn=div6&view=text&node=19:2.0.1.1.25.3&idno=19

**http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/19/chapter-21

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