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Questions & Answers

If you do not find the answers to your questions, please contact the Trade Information Center at (800) USA TRADE between 8:30 and 5:30pm, Eastern time.

"I have some questions about export licensing."
See Understanding the Rules of Trade in this Tutorial, or contact the Western Regional Office of the Bureau of Export Administration at (408) 748-7450.

"I have some questions about imports, tariffs, or duties."
Imports are handled by U.S. Customs. The San Francisco number for Customs (415) 705-4488 or you can call Washington DC at (202) 927-1000. Tariff schedules for APEC countries can be found on the home page of the APEC Tariff Database.

"I need to get a patent/trademark/copyright."
Extensive information on this topic is covered in Understanding the Rules of Trade in this Tutorial. Or, you can contact the Patent and Trademark Office for forms or more information. The U.S. Patent Search office offers downloads of full issued patents and patent applications for free at

"Where can I get a copy of ...?"
If the document is published by the U.S. government, visit the U.S. Government Online Bookstore.

"I need to find out about regulations in [foreign country]."
Country-specific information can be found in the Market Research section of TradePort.

"I am planning to set up my own import/export business. What are the regulations and licensing requirements?"
The Federal Government does not require a company to have a license or permit to engage in the import/export business. Contact your appropriate state or local city hall regarding requirements and procedures for obtaining business permits.

"What products require an export license?"
Certain products, becuase of both their civilian and military purposes, may require an export license as such products can readily be applied to a foreign country's military program. U.S. companies exporting these products, such as super computers and high-technology devices, need to obtain an export license. See Understanding the Rules of Trade in this Tutorial or contact the Western Regional Office of the Bureau of Export Administration at (408) 748-7450.

"We are a small manufacturing company and would like to export our product overseas. What kind of assistance can you provide?"
A local export assistance provider in your area of California can provide you with a wide range of services. To find the provider nearest you, please see the TradePort Assistance Centers page.

"I would like to set my business in [foreign country]. What are their requirements?"
Country-specific information can be found in the Market Research section of TradePort.

"How can I obtain a carnet?"
Carnets are handled by the U.S. Council for International Business.

"I am an exporter in need of a financing assistance. Can you help me?"
Many different forms of financing assistance are discussed in-depth in the Obtaining Financing section of this Tutorial.

"Can I purchase a product to be exported overseas and have it exempt from California sales tax?"
The State of California Board of Equalization regulates all sales tax in California.

"I need to find some statistical information regarding cost of living or any reference regarding consumer price index."
Statistical information can be found by visiting the Market Research section of TradePort.

"Which governmental agency regulates the labeling of products, such as Made is U.S.A.?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) determines whether a product can be labeled, "Made in the U.S.A.", provided that it is comprised of 51% U.S. parts or components.

"I would like to register my product to get an R.N. Number?"
Contact the Federal Trade Commission.

"Where can I copyright my publication/book?"
Extensive information on protecting your intellectual property rights can be found in the Understanding the Rules of Trade section of this Tutorial, and in the TradePort Library.

"I would like to establish my own freight forwarding company. Can you help?"
Contact the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration

Where would I obtain information on classifications of products and documentation/licensing requirements to export merchandise?
This Tutorial provides extensive information on product classification in the Market Research section.

What carrier offers service to a particular country and do they have the special cargo handling equipment I need?
Focusing on the Details in this Tutorial provides information about finding the right carrier.

What is the harbor maintenance fee? How is it used?
The U.S. Customs Service is authorized by the Water Resources Act of 1986 to assess a harbor maintenance fee on the value of commercial cargo loaded on or unloaded from a commercial vessel at ports covered by the Act. Proceeds of the harbor maintenance fee are made available to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the improvement and maintenance of U.S. ports and harbors.

The fee is paid by the importers and exporters of cargoes. The fee is based on .125 percent of the value of the cargo.

What is cabotage?
Cabotage is the trade or transport of cargo in coastal waters between two points within a country. U.S. cabotage laws are referred to as the Jones Act. Cabotage laws are common to all countries with waterborne transportation systems.

Where can I obtain information on the Jones Act?
The actual interpretation and enforcement of the Jones Act is the responsibility of the U.S. Customs Service and U.S. Coast Guard. For general inquiries concerning coastwise laws contact the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration.

What is an SGS Inspection? Are preshipment inspections required?
The SGS Government Programs Inc. is an independent service company with offices worldwide. It carries out the majority of preshipment inspections. Preshipment inspection is an international program verifying that the quantity, quality, and price of purchased goods meet the import requirements of specific countries. According to SGS, the purpose of these inspections is to monitor purchases arranged by importers in these countries.

Quality and quantity are verified by the packing list and pro forma invoice. Price is evaluated based on the prevailing market price at the time specified in the conditions of sale. Verification of quality, quantity, and price also involves physical inspection.

The cost of preshipment inspection is paid by the importing country, or by the importer. The seller is only obligated to present the goods for inspection. Disputes over the final determinations of the SGS can be appealed by writing to the Appeals Committee, SGS New York.

For information on the countries that require preshipment inspections, contact SGS

Who can complete a bill of lading?
U.S.-flag carriers can prepare bills of lading. They also have value added services such as cargo status tracking and electronic data interchange (EDI). Freight forwarders also prepare bills of lading. Focusing on the Details in this Tutorial provides information about freight carriers, forwarders and customs brokers.

What is Cargo Preference?
Cargo preference is the reservation, by law, for transportation on U.S.-flag vessels, of all or a portion of oceanborne cargo which is sponsored directly or indirectly by the Federal Government.

Where do I get information on cargo preference laws and issues?
Contact the U.S. Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration

Who can tell me if a commodity that I am shipping is a hazardous material and possibly subject to certain restrictions or regulations?
Contact the  U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security.

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