The Business of Importing and Exporting


Businesses who want to sell their products or services worldwide are involved in the export business; those who want to buy products and services from countries outside of the United States are in the import business. They may choose to do this in any number of ways. They can use an export trading house in their own country, they can find a distributor in the export market to sell their products, or they can sell their products to customers in a targeted market directly.

There are thousands of import and export businesses in the United States. Many businesses are involved in both sides, that is, they import some products and export others. These businesses are not regulated (outside of standard regulations that apply to solely domestic businesses, such as in pharmaceuticals or food products) but they are monitored and often supported by many divisions of the U.S. Government. These government organizations help importers and exporters (but especially exporters- the government is interested in selling more products abroad) in setting up an international business, locating trading partners, keeping abreast on the latest news in global trade, negotiating and communicating with businesses in other countries. Companies who import or export goods need to give careful consideration to the all of the practical aspects of international trading, how to get the goods into or out of the country, as well as the many legal requirements and restrictions.

An importer must make sure that the items they’re planning to import are allowed into the country freely, or whether they will need an import license. Import restrictions exist on many products because those products may be directly competing with American products, and if those products are seen to be crucial to our economy, there may be restrictions on their importation. The steel industry, for instance, is strongly protected. An importer may also be liable, under the principles of product liability, for any harm caused by the imported items. In addition, there may be laws in the items’ country of origin that apply to that product; these need to be adhered to as well.

Exporters receive the bulk of assistance from government and quasi-government organizations. The United States has a balance of trade deficit in excess of $50 billion each month. This is caused by more products being imported into the U.S. than are exported out of it. The government therefore assists American companies in exporting their goods in order to increase the level of U.S. exports.

Increased U.S. exports will lead to increased demand for dollars and an increased supply of foreign currency on foreign exchange markets. This increased demand will lead to a stronger dollar relative to other currencies. On the other hand, an increase in U.S. payments due to increased U.S. imports will lead to an increase in the supply of dollars and thus a weaker dollar relative to foreign currencies. Among the many organizations that help U.S. exporters are: the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, the Bureau of Industry and Security (formally the Bureau of Export Affairs), the Small Business Administration and OPIC (Overseas Private Investment Corporation).

These organizations offer exporters export counseling, market research, advocacy services in case of export problems within a foreign country, dispute resolution services, advice on regulatory problems, assistance in finding buyers and establishing business relationships, trade shows and trade missions, and, most importantly for most exporters financial assistance. The Export Import Bank assists in the export financing of U.S. goods and services through a variety of insurance, loan and guarantee programs and the Small Business Administration (SBA) issues guarantees to commercial lenders for loans to exporting firms.

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