Frequently Asked Questions – International Trade

How do I find companies in California as international trading partners?

You may be able to contact a trade association that deals with your particular industry such as the “California Widget Makers Association”, “United California Widget Makers”, “Association of California Widget Makers” or something similar (obviously, substitute the industry you’re looking for) via the Internet. These would be independent associations dedicated to helping that specific type of industry in their particular needs. Try searching around on the web with a possible association name, or through www.asaenet.org, or possibly toll-free telephone directory assistance 411.

How do I get information about export licensing?

The main source for information on export licensing and controls is the Bureau of Industry and Security at the U.S. Department of Commerce. Useful sources at the U.S. Department of Commerce include:

Also informative are these link within the U.S. Small Business Administration International Trade Program:

An Export license gives permission to conduct an export transaction. The license is granted after it is reviewed by a licensing agency specific to the product being exported. Only a few exports actually require a license. To determine whether or not a product needs an export license, contact the Bureau of Industry and Security Exporter Services in Newport Beach, CA. at 949-660-0144 or see the U.S. Department of Commerce Exporting Guide: Exporting Basics

In importing or exporting my product, how do I determine what the custom duties are?

U.S. and foreign tariffs, taxes, duties and customs information (including the Harmonized Tariff Schedule) can be obtained via several sources.

For further information, see:

How do I find information about international commercial terms, or “Incoterms”?

Established by the International Chamber of Commerce in 1936, and revised frequently since then, incoterms are industry-defined standard trade definitions used in international contracts. You can find information on “incoterms” from the:

What is a Certificate of Origin and where do I obtain one?

Chambers of commerce traditionally have issued Certificates of Origin on behalf of U.S. exporters who are required to provide assurances to foreign buyers that the goods they are purchasing originated in the United States. The California Chamber of Commerce does not issue Certificates of Origin; however, many local chambers throughout the state provide this service. Note: There is no single authority in the United States supervising compliance of the international rules regarding certificates of origin,

For further information, see:

How do I market and sell my products overseas via the Internet?

The US Department of Commerce has created a website to assist US businesses with internet exporting. The site provides practical advice, information on e-commerce, and a host of resources for small and medium sized businesses interested in “e-exporting.”

How do I get export financing?

The US Department of Commerce / International Trade Administration has an Invest in America initiative to manage foreign direct investment promotion. Please visit the website to learn more about investing and about the impacts of FDI on the US economy.

www.selectusa.gov

CalChamber FDI page

How do I find out about international missions?


How do I find out if my product or company is ISO compliant?

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) promotes the development of standardization and related activities in the world with regard to the international exchange of goods and services.

How do I get information about exporting and foreign markets?

There are numerous U.S. and foreign government agencies and contacts involved in the international trade process. Good sources for these contacts include:

How do I get information about import licensing?

The US Customs & Border Control website, www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/home.xml, is a great resource for new and established importers alike. CBP also posts all of its Informed Compliance Publications here, including information on recordkeeping, reasonable care, rules of origin, fines, seizures, penalties, etc., as well as papers on specific types of products.

The US Customs & Border Control have published a document, titled Importing Into the United States, which explains the process of importing goods into the U.S., including informed compliance, invoices, duty assessments, classification and value, marking requirements, etc.

Information on Importing into the US

Tips for New Importers and Exporters

Additional Importing Requirements for California’s Prop. 65
http://oehha.ca.gov/prop65/background/p65plain.html

Where do I obtain trade statistics?

Trade statistics can be obtained at the state, federal and worldwide levels from a number of sources, including:

I am interested in California agricultural exports. Where do I go for further information?

You may be able to contact a trade association that deals with your particular industry such as the “California Widget Makers Association”, “United California Widget Makers”, “Association of California Widget Makers” or something similar (obviously, substitute the industry you’re looking for) via the Internet. These would be independent associations dedicated to helping that specific type of industry in their particular needs. Try searching around on the web with a possible association name, or through www.asaenet.org, or possibly toll-free telephone directory assistance 411.

Do I need to pay a California sales tax on goods I am exporting abroad?

Goods sold to the resident of a foreign country will, in general, only owe California sales tax if the buyer receives the items in the state of California or if the products are used before they are shipped abroad.

For further information, please see the Board of Equalization article Sales to Residents of Other Countries.

What is the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the United States?

The US Department of Commerce / International Trade Administration has an Invest in America initiative to manage foreign direct investment promotion. Please visit the website to learn more about investing and about the impacts of FDI on the US economy.

www.selectusa.gov

Where do I obtain information re Protocol?

There are several sources:

U.S. Department of State Office of Protocol, www.state.gov/s/cpr

United Nations, Protocol and Liaison Service, www.un.int/protocol/

Protocol (Protocol: The Complete Handbook of Diplomatic, Official & Social Usage
by Mary Jane McCaffree and Paulien Innis

Where can I get a list of all Ambassadors to the United States?

The US Department of State maintains the Diplomatic List. For more information, please see their website at: US Department of State

What is a Certificate of Free Sale? Where do I obtain one?

A Certificate of Free Sale is an export document required by some countries as evidence that the goods are normally sold on the open market and approved by the regulatory authorities in the country of origin. There are several types of Certificates of Free Sale, also called Export Certificates, issued by the California Department of Health Services: California Department of Health Services regarding product exports. (Click on the Export Document Application form, then on Export Document Requirements to download the necessary paperwork.) The US Food and Drug Administration also issues certificates. Please see: US Food and Drug Administration for detailed information about certificates issued at the Federal level.
The federally issued certificate of free sale confirms that the product is in compliance with the federal regulations neccesary to sell the product is in the United States. The California issued Certificate is more specific, validating that the product is in compliance with the requirements neccesary to sell the product in California. Both are legal documents. The government or importer requesting the Certificate will specify which they require.

What is a Foreign Trade Zone?

Foreign-trade zones are designated sites at which special Customs procedures may be used. Procedures allow domestic activity involving foreign items to take place as if it were outside U.S. Customs territory, thus offsetting Customs advantages available to overseas producers who export in competition with products made here.

For further information, see:

How do I get information about Sister Cities?

For further information on the Sister City program worldwide, please contact Sister Cities International.

For information about other California Sister City programs, as well as California Sister States, please contact the California Senate Office for International Relations.
There are numerous partnerships of this type throughout the world.

How do I assure my business of foreign market access and compliance?

There are numerous U.S. and foreign government agencies and contacts involved in the international trade process. Good sources for these contacts include:

What is the CE Mark required in Europe?

The European Commission describes the CE Mark (“Conformite Europeenne”) as a “passport” that allows manufacturers to circulate products freely within the European Union (EU). The Mark certifies that products have met EU health, safety and environmental requirements. It is required for electrical products, machinery, medical devices, radio and telecommunications equipment, etc. For a more detailed list of products requiring the CE Mark, please see: CE Marking

I seem to be receiving an increasing number of “scam” emails from Nigeria and other countries around the world. What is this all about?

The Nigerian Scam (also known as a “4-1-9” or “Advance Fee Fraud” scheme) is a letter, fax or email from Nigeria (or Sierra Leone, or the Ivory Coast, or almost any other foreign nation) sent to addresses taken from large lists. The scams have recently gone high-tech and are emanating from several countries throughout Africa, as well as New Zealand, Brazil and Great Britain. The communication promises rich rewards for helping officials of that government (or bank, or quasi-government agency or sometimes just members of a particular family) out of an embarrassment or a legal problem. The pitch usually includes mention of multi-million dollar sums, with the promise that you will be permitted to keep a large percentage of the funds. The Nigerian Scam has been emptying the pockets of victims for decades — first through letters, then with faxes, and now via e-mail. In its earliest incarnation — which dates to the 1920s — it was known as “The Spanish Prisoner” con when businesses were contacted by someone trying to smuggle the scion of a wealthy family out of a prison in Spain. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) says that swindlers using Nigerian names had extorted millions of dollars from people in the United States, Asia and Europe under the guise of transferring cash abroad. The elaborate fraud involves fake official approval to transfer up to 15 million dollars in excess claims on bogus Nigerian contracts as well as pledges to cut the claims amount for help in the use of offshore bank accounts. The real Central Bank of Nigeria tries to warn people about this scam. They have even placed half-page ads explaining the scam and warning off those who might be tempted to fall for it in major newspapers around the world. Other forms of 4-1-9 schemes include: c.o.d. of goods or services, real estate ventures, purchases of crude oil at reduced prices, beneficiary of a will, recipient of an award and paper currency conversion. ( “4-1-9” is the relevant section of the Criminal Code in Nigeria.) In response to this growing epidemic, the United States Secret Service established “Operation 4-1-9” designed to target Nigerian Advance Fee Fraud on an international basis. The Financial Crimes Division of the Secret Service receives approximately 100 telephone calls from victims/potential victims and 300-500 pieces of related correspondence per day. Secret Service agents have been assigned on a temporary basis to the American Embassy in Lagos to address the problem in that arena. Agents have established liaison with Nigerian officials, briefed other embassies on the widespread problem, and have assisted in the extrication of U.S. citizens in distress. If you have been victimized by one of these schemes, please forward appropriate written documentation to the United States Secret Service, Financial Crimes Division, 950 H Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20223, or telephone (202) 406-5850, or contact by e-mail. If you have received a letter, but have not lost any monies to this scheme, please fax a copy of that letter to (202) 406-5031. For additional information visit – The 419 Coalition Website.

What is an ATA Carnet/A4 Carnet and where do I obtain one?

The ATA Carnet, is an international customs document that allows for duty-free customs into over 75 countries in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America.

The ATA Carnet System was established as a Convention by the World Customs Organization in Brussels and administered worldwide by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC),in Paris it is operated in the United States by the U.S. Council for International Business under appointment by the U.S. Treasury Department.

The initials “ATA” are an acronym of the French and English words “Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission.

For more information, please see the following link:

I am thinking of moving business operations to California. Where can I find help?

See: The Govenor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GoBiz)

State of California – Business Investment Guide

Setting Up Business in California: A Guide for Investors

Also see the California Secretary of State Business Programs.

What is the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act?

This was enacted in 1977 to halt the bribery of foreign officials and promote public confidence in the American business system domestically and abroad.

For further information see:

What is Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA)?

The Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for workers program is administrered by the US Department of Labor and assists the individuals negatively affected by import competition. The aim of the program is to help these workers obtain income support, relocation services, a health coverage tax credit, etc.

The TAA for Firms concentrates on providing financial assistance to manufacturers who have been adversely impacted by import competition. This includes cost sharing programs to improve a manufacturer’s competitiveness. Please see the TAA for Firms homepage for detailed information on the program and how to get started. TAA for Firms

The TAA for Firms is a federal program which provides financial assistance to manufacturers affected by import competition. This is sponsored by the US Department of Commerce and run by regional non-profit Trade Adjustment Centers. The Trade Adjustment Center for California manufacturers (the Western Trade Adjustment Center) is managed by the USC Viterbi School of Engineering in Los Angeles.

Where can I find out about Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and what the US government is doing to prevent piracy and counterfeiting?

Intellectual Property and the rights associated with it, are defined by the US State Department as “creative ideas and expressions of the human mind that have commercial value and receive the legal protection of a property right. The major legal mechanisms for protecting intellectual property rights are copyrights, patents, and trademarks. Intellectual property rights enable owners to select who may access and use their property and to protect it from unauthorized use.”
The increasing trade in counterfeit goods is harmful to American competition and innovation. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that American businesses lose nearly $250 billion every year in copyright piracy, with intellectual property theft costing the United States 750,000 jobs. Both piracy and counterfeiting are considered crimes, but each refers to different acts of theft. Piracy is defined as the unlawful reproduction of a copyrighted product (movies/music/books). Counterfeiting is the creation of fake goods.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is helping businesses combat IP theft through the STOP! (Strategy Targeting Organized Piracy) Initiative, “is the most comprehensive initiative ever advanced to smash the criminal networks that traffic in fakes, stop trade in pirated and counterfeit goods at America’s borders, block bogus goods around the world, and help small businesses secure and enforce their rights in overseas markets.” The US Department of Commerce states that “the new initiatives include the appointment of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) experts in key overseas countries including Brazil, China, India, and Russia, a new Small Business Outreach program to educates US small businesses on how to protect their IPR, and a Global Intellectual Property Academy that will provide training programs for foreign government officials on global IPR issues.” For further information about the STOP! Initiative, phone the USPTO’s informational hotline at 866-999-HALT, or visit their website USPTO. Also check out STOPfakes.
Related sources for information about Intellectual Property Protection:
World Intellectual Property Organization
US Patent and Trademark Office
US Copyright Office
European Patent Office

What is the Pier Pass Program?

Pier Pass is an initiative designed to address congestion and pollution at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. The program will facilitate the opening of coordinated, off-peak operations at international container terminals at the ports. Pier Pass will duplicate the dayside truck handling capacity of terminals at night and during weekends when trucks won’t compete with local commuters.

For further information on the Pier Pass Program: Pier Pass Program