• Deanna Clark-Esposito

Even With a Trade War, Opportunities in Exports Remain - Just Remember These 4 Agencies


While a trade war may be brewing as we speak, there are still opportunities to grow your business through selling your goods abroad.


Most exports can transit out of the country with no issues. Simply file an export declaration where your shipment is over $2,500 per merchandise type, and keep your records. Export transactions grow more complicated however, when either the product itself is one that is subject to the acquisition of a permit or license in advance of such a shipment, e.g., an automobile or other vehicle, or a product that is “dual-use” - that is, one with both a civilian and military use, such as night vision goggles which may be used for hunting at night (civilian-use), or a covert mission by the military. Four primary US government agencies regulate transactions destined to other countries. The following briefly explains each of these agencies and their purpose.


1. BIS

Exports and “export controls” are overseen by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, or BIS. Their regulations govern what merchandise needs a license and how to go about obtaining one, among other activities. More information on this agency may be found here.


2. Census

The filing of electronic export information, or EEI, is done through the electronic system knows as the Automated Export System, or AES. It is within AES that a license designation is declared, or that an exception to a license is indicated. While the data from AES is also governed by the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, it is their Census Bureau office which maintains the data and requires its submission by an exporter to their agency. More information on Census may be found here.


3. OFAC

The U.S. Dept. of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, or OFAC restricts activities and transactions which may be done with


a) Certain countries and regions in the world,

b) Certain individuals or companies, or

c) Certain activities in certain locations in the world, including financial transactions


OFAC related matters impact several types of businesses directly, including exporters, shipping companies, and banks. In addition, with the restrictions related to the Crimea region of the Ukraine being regional rather than a country-specific prohibition, compliance with this sanction can be tricky when trying to ensure that shipments are not routed there downstream by secondary foreign companies with no prohibition on shipping in that region. For a shipping company this means additional oversight by any US company responsible for ensuring that shipments don’t inadvertently slip through the compliance cracks and end up there anyway. More information on OFAC may be found here.


4. US Customs

While primarily used in relation to imports, customs agents are physically on the ground at the ports of entry and exit. They are therefore, also present where cargo being exported arrives for transport to other countries. Customs has its own declaratory requirement with respect to the export of automobiles and other vehicles and the filing of such information is required pre-export. In addition, some US Customs programs provide for the duty-free entry of goods considered “Made in the USA” that were exported for reasons such as cleaning, repair, or replacement. In these situations where an exporter will also be an importer on the same goods, certain paperwork may be done in advance so that such returned goods may enter without the need to pay duties on them. This documentation must be completed in advance of any export however. More information on this agency may be found here.


The agencies described above, are only with respect to those governing outbound cargo from the U.S. – not the laws governing the same cargo into the foreign country where the ultimate purchaser is. Be sure when shipping to foreign destinations that their country’s laws are understood by you (the exporter) as well so that avoidable delays and problems may be avoided.


Have questions about an upcoming export transaction? Use our Contact form above to start a dialogue with us about this today.

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