Question from an entrepreneur...
My friend, Jim Loux, is customs broker and President of Allegheny Brokerage. He knows all about this stuff. Here's Jim's reply.
In a practical sense, almost all products exported from the US, and all products being imported to the US are controlled by the Departments of State, Commerce, Treasury or Justice (permanent defense imports). These export and import transactions are subject to regulations that are monitored and enforced by US Customs & Border Protection Service (USCBP). As the exporter or importer, you are obligated to comply with those regulations or be subject to significant fines and penalties (including but not limited to suspension of your export or import privileges) if you fail to do so. Additionally, USCBP enforces the regulations of 50+ government agencies such as FDA, FCC and others. The regulations are vast, complex and are constantly changing due to heightened security issues.The traditional Customs broker is a specialist licensed by USCBP and trained in the field of importation and often, exportation of goods. As such they are thoroughly familiar with the applicable regulations, processes and documentation needed by the importer or exporter (You) to comply with those regulations. A Customs broker can be a key advisor to you and should be a critical part of your export/import planning. Many Customs brokers also perform air, ocean and truck freight forwarding services either directly or indirectly and can provide these services to you to facilitate your international freight movement needs. In summary, if you plan to do business internationally and hope to export or import or both, it will be in your best interests to seek guidance from a Customs broker early in the process.