While importers are permitted by law to clear their own goods, they cannot clear on behalf of others. That is where Customs brokers come into play. We pass a written examination given by Customs (offered twice yearly and for the past several years has averaged a pass rate of under five percent), then a background check AND a reference check before being granted an individual license. For a corporate license, there’s another application to be completed.
And don’t even get us started on what we have to do for the FMC and TSA to be an ocean freight forwarder, NVOCC and air freight forwarder.
As people on Facebook sometimes tag their relationship status: “It’s complicated.”
But having cleared all those hurdles, you can throw open your doors and do business with just about anybody who ships just about anything. Put in medical terms, your Customs broker and freight forwarder are usually general practitioners. Food, live animals, cars, machinery, pharmaceuticals, sporting goods, textiles, consumer goods…each with their own unique set of their regulatory agencies, reporting requirements and classifications.
Along with knowing how to properly enter and release goods, we have to keep current with rulings that may affect what tariff numbers we should use and the duty or admissibility implications for them.
We can’t possibly know it all operating in a vacuum. There are a number of resources we use, from media that covers the industry to services who monitor the activities of the government and other agencies and report on them daily. There are three that are utterly invaluable to us that we want to share with you. These aren’t solely the province of companies like us, any importer or exporter can and should consider using these services or ones like them.
Broker Power (International Trade Today)
Camelot have been subscribers of Broker Power so long it used to be on our thermal paper fax machine when we arrived in the morning. There; we just dated ourselves. Based in Washington, DC, this is a service that most recently joined the family of Warren Communications giving them even greater reporting resources. BP (for short) covers the activities of all the federal agencies that impact commerce, trade, import and export. “Back in the day” they used to monitor quota for openings, closing and availability. Broker Power offers free thirty-day trials and all the old content is indexed and searchable through their archives.
Whether court decisions from the CIT or private or public rulings covering classification, valuation or country of origin issues, you can count on Customs Record. Delivered weekly, it provides a great synopsis and links to the source content for those people (the compliance officer and attorney crowds) who want to do a full dive into the issues in play. We use it to make sure that our clients hear about things that impact their business from us rather than getting a rate advancement from CBP later.
Customs Info has evolved over time through several iterations. They started as a “we’ll send you a dozen CD’s with rulings” (remember the CD?) to install and maintain a local database on your computer. Today, Customs Info is a powerful global trade management platform providing classifications and duty rates for countries beyond the United States as well as as providing global data mining services. They are subscription based and have an impressive roster of household-name importer and exporter clients.