Know your product, know your market and know the rules. Below is a useful "exporters checklist". Every market is different and no checklist can capture all of the requirements of all markets, but this is a useful set of questions to ask before exporting to a new market.
Do I need an EXPORT LICENSE to export my product from the United States?
Some sensitive products or dual-use products require an export license from the Department of Commerce. Defense related products require an export license from the State Department. Products, destinations, and/or entities may be restricted.
Do I need to REGISTER MY PRODUCT or obtain an import license?
Depending on your product, you may need to obtain an import license or register your product with the competent authority with jurisdiction over your product. Be careful, however, that you are aware of the timing requirements—some countries require that the licenses or permits be obtained before the goods are loaded on a vessel for transport. The difficulty of obtaining an import permit will vary from country to country.
What STANDARDS apply to my product?
Every country has its own set of standards. It is crucial for exporters to understand what those standards are and to ensure that their products comply. Restrictions may apply to ingredients in a food product, such as bans on certain sweeteners, additives, or ingredients—or they may place Maximum Residue Limits for pesticides on agricultural products. Standards for tires, machinery, plastics, toys, IT products may be in place including conformity assessment standards. Standards vary by product, so exporters should ensure that they are aware of the relevant standards and requirements for their products.
Is my product subject to SANITARY OR PHYTOSANITARY REQUIREMENTS?
Animal products (such as meat, pet food, feeds, eggs and dairy) and plant products (such as seeds, live plants, fruits and vegetables) often require a health certificate or a sanitary certificate. Generally these are obtained from a competent authority in the country of origin. Often, APHIS or FSIS is responsible for endorsing export certificates. These certificates certify that your product has been inspected and poses no threat to the health and safety of any person or animal.
Do I have all of my SHIPPING DOCUMENTS in order?
Generally, all consignments must be accompanied by the appropriate shipping documents. Language requirements, the number of copies, and whether they need to be authenticated may vary depending on the country. These documents generally include: Bill of Lading or Airway Bill, Pro-forma Invoice, Commercial Invoice, Packing List, Certificate of Origin, Certificate of Free Sale, and Insurance Certificate.
Is PRE-SHIPMENT TESTING OR INSPECTION required?
Testing and inspection requirements vary depending on the country. Some countries require mandatory testing and/or inspection while others require random sampling. Some countries will forgo mandatory testing if products are registered. Some countries adhere to a risk-based system, with the frequency of sampling and inspection being dependent on continual compliance of local regulations. Some countries require a Certificate of Analysis instead of or in addition to their own testing. Exporters should note that the cost for inspection and testing will vary by country, and is generally the responsibility of the exporter.
Lack of documentation or failure to comply with import regulations may result in costly delays. There are many other possible requirements. The only way to be sure of what is required for your product is to secure good advice from export advisors, such as TradeMoves LLC, or be willing to put the time in to research requirements yourself.