Import challenges are a fact of life for U.S.-based importers. These hurdles can frustrate even the most experienced businesses. From calculating tariffs to ensuring compliance with trade regulations, each step brings its own set of issues. Businesses must anticipate these difficulties, and have contingency plans in place. Partnering with a seasoned customs clearance service will help you circumvent these challenges.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection states that import challenges include the following:
Overcoming these challenges can be the difference between a successful business and financial failure.
Don’t let import challenges overwhelm you. In this guide, we’ll review common import business risks and challenges, and how to beat them.
Every importer starts out with a vision of bringing goods into the U.S. to grow their business and meet consumer demands. Considering the recent growth of imports to the USA, it’s easy to see why.
Take a look at the following import statistics from 2018 through 2022.
|Year||Value of Imports in Billions of USD|
The last two years in particular have seen steady, large increases in imports to the U.S.
However, the importing process is often laden with hurdles that can turn dreams of dollar signs into a logistical nightmare. Uncertain economic conditions, complex regulations, and shipping difficulties are just a few examples of importing problems. In importing and exporting, these challenges are referred to as trade barriers.
Trade barriers come in many forms, and importers must keep a vigilant eye on them to maintain import compliance. If overlooked, they can result in fines and disruptions to your business.
One of the most common challenges for in global trade is calculating duties and tariffs. To shed some light on this area, let's take a closer look at how these costs are calculated in the USA.
Tariffs are taxes on imported goods and services. Tariff rates vary by product and country of origin, affecting your bottom line. These rates can change due to new trade agreements or policies, making it hard to predict costs.
The financial impact of tariffs is direct: they add to the cost of goods, reducing profit margins. For example, a tariff might increase the cost of a shipment of coffee beans by thousands of dollars. This cost either cuts into the importer's profit or is passed on to consumers, making the product less competitive.
When dealing with customs, importers face a series of fees and challenges. Some are put in place intentionally to discourage high volumes of certain products. Others are simply there as standard fees.
Common trade barriers may include:
All these fees add up to raise the cost of doing business. Delays can compound these costs, turning a minor expense into a financial disaster. If your goods aren’t properly classified, it can result in fines or even seizure of the shipment.
Unless you’re importing from a nation with a free trade or preferential trade agreement, plan on high tariffs. This cost will either cut into the importer's profit or get passed on to consumers, potentially making the product less competitive.
To lessen the impact of tariffs, importers can:
Doing your research before committing to a purchase is essential to avoiding certain high tariff rates. Online suppliers from around the world make it easier to buy a wide variety of products, but that ease does not translate over to customs clearance.
Managing tariffs and duties is a complex task but, importers can handle these challenges by planning ahead of time and working with customs experts.
Non-tariff trade barriers are restrictions that countries use to control and regulate the amount of trade across their borders without tariffs. They can take many forms and create challenges for importers by causing delays or limiting what goods that can be brought into a country. Unlike tariffs, which are taxes levied on imports, non-tariff barriers are often regulatory or procedural.
Some of these barriers, while inconvenient for importers, serve to protect consumers and local economies.
Here are some examples of non-tariff trade barriers that U.S. importers may encounter:
These barriers require importers to be well-versed in the regulations set forth by U.S. government agencies. It should be noted that many of these measures are simply in place to ensure health and safety measures are taking place.
Overcoming import challenges requires strategic planning, reliable trading partners, and the assistance of trade experts or customs brokers.
Many of the challenges we’ve spoken of are deliberately put in place by the U.S. government, as mentioned. This may lead you to ask why they exist at all. Why make it harder to do business internationally?
There are arguments in favor of trade barriers and arguments that they should be removed.
Arguments For Trade Barriers
Arguments Against Trade Barriers
While many free trade advocates continue to lobby for less restrictive international trade laws, it’s safe to say most of these barriers aren’t going anywhere.
Aside from tariff and non-tariff challenges, import challenges also occur as a matter of distance and scale.
International trade takes the challenges all businesses encounter and compounds them. Some of these challenges are:
Given the variety of challenges importers face, having a reliable customs broker on your side can make doing business dramatically easier.
Like any business, importing carries some financial risk. However, the risks tend to be greater than a fully domestic business would have.
These are just some of the risks involved with importing to the U.S.
This last point is worth further elaboration. The penalties for selling goods that don’t meet U.S. standards are severe and numerous.
When importing goods into the United States, you’re expected to meet all legal requirements. . U.S. import-governing entities and other regulatory agencies have standards in place to ensure safety, compliance, and fair trade. If your goods fall short of these standards, the repercussions can be severe.
Here's a snapshot of potential penalties.
To avoid these penalties, it's crucial to understand and adhere to all U.S. standards and regulations. Working with a customs broker mitigates the risks that come with importing goods into the United States.
Customs brokers simplify the complexities of bringing goods into the country. They work alongside importers, saving time, money, and stress.
Here's how customs brokers can make the import process easier:
By partnering with a customs broker, importers can handle the import process more easily. Goods clear customs quickly and regulations are followed precisely. This peace of mind allows businesses to direct attention to reaching more customers and growing profits.
While importing goods to the USA can be challenging, it’s also a great opportunity for entrepreneurs seeking profitable opportunities. With an expert customs broker on your side, these opportunities are easier to realize.
At USA Customs Clearance, we offer a number of services to assist importers, including:
Don’t let import challenges affect your business. Give us a call at (855) 912-0406, or contact our team of customs experts online. With over a century of combined experience, our brokers can help you overcome import obstacles while you focus on your business.