International trade and customs regulations require expertise and know-how.
International trade was one of Florida’s mightiest sectors in 2010, reaching an all-time high of $55.2 billion, according to Enterprise Florida. The state is also home to the largest number of exporters in the U.S. after California, accounting for 19 percent of all U.S. exporters.
With more deepwater ports than any other place in the country, Florida companies stand to benefit from the completed expansion of the Panama Canal in 2014 plus pending bilateral free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama. Yet, tremendous opportunity is accompanied by a labyrinth of rules and procedures.
Customs and international trade law is a dynamic, complex set of laws, regulations, policies and procedures of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP or U.S. Customs). Violations of the import and export laws can result in confiscated shipments, penalties and/or civil and criminal investigations.
“Saving companies time and money is our goal,” says Peter Quinter, chair of Becker Et Poliakoffs Customs and International Trade Law Group and a Board Certi fied International attorney. Quinter uses his 22 years of experience – including five years working for the Office of Chief Counsel for U.S. Customs for the Southeastern United States and Caribbean- on his clients’ behalf.
Quinter has seen too many companies engaged in the business of moving cargo without first getting approval from U.S. Customs.
Many exporters get into trouble for not obtaining the necessary license, or exporting an item to a country not allowed by the license. Both situations are violations of the Export Administration Regulations that come with hefty penalties.
Long-time client and Chairman of the Board of Directors of lntcomex, Anthony Shalom, emphasizes the importance of staying informed about the ever-changing rules impacting international trade. lntcomex is a Miami-based distributor of computer components, peripherals, software, computer systems, accessories, networking products and digital consumer electronics. “Our team works closely with Peter and the Becker & Poliakoff group. They have helped us avoid penalties and kept us up to date with recent changes,” Shalom says.
One area of regulation that’s currently changing involves what we eat.
President Barack Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act into law in January, and the regulations began to take place in July.
“There will be more examination of imported food products, more paperwork to establish where the product came from, and more ongoing record-keeping,” Quinter says.
Seafood fraud is a major issue for Florida companies, since the majority of foreign seafood enters the U.S. through Florida.
“Florida has a high percentage of seafood detained for false origin, improper description, or containing chemicals that it shouldn’t,” Quinter says.
Importers have an opportunity to “recondition” food that the FDA detains or refuses, but few companies take advantage of it.
Misbranded items don’t have to be destroyed; many companies don’t realize that a few changes to the label can make a huge difference. There are also ways to legally clean up contaminated goods. If a shipment contains various types of fish and a tenth is bad, there are still nine-tenths that can be salvaged and potentially entered into the commerce of the United States.
Peter Quinter writes a blog to help importers and exporters with common problems and to provide insights into laws, rules and regulations. Sign up at www. customsandinternationaltradelaw.com or contact Peter Quinter at (954) 985-4101 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ashley Cisneros is a co-founder of Chatter Buzz Media, an Orlando Internet marketing firm that helps companies and organizations engage with their target markets through inbound marketing via the Internet. Chatter Buzz Media, which won the Social Madness competition for the Orlando small business market, is a full-service digital marketing firm specializing in website design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing and content creation. Prior to founding Chatter Buzz, Ashley worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, technical writer, marketing manager, public relations practitioner and freelance journalist. To see Ashley’s content writing, visit www.ashleycisneros.com. You can also reach Ashley on her Google profile.