How To Start An International Import/Export Business

In an increasingly globalized world, it’s never been easier to take part in global industry. With the click of a button, folks can be communicating with those in other countries, setting up any number of business transactions through the miracle that is e-commerce. The import/export industry, for example, is just one example of a global economic sector that is becoming an ever more viable option to the average entrepreneur. After all, when ordering, shipping, receiving and invoicing can all be done via a single computer, what’s stopping anyone from getting in on this global economic business?

The answer is not much. But even though it’s possible for anyone to dip his or her toe in the shallow waters of the import/export game, diving right in is another matter entirely. To this end, here is some practical advice for those looking to enter this world.

Product Handling

Different countries have different rules concerning proper handling of imported products. What might conform to the regulations in the U.S. in America, say, could be different in Australia. This is why many in the import/export business opt to enlist the services of a customs broker, or another such professional entity.

What’s all those new to the world if importing and exporting should be aware of are the charges that can occur for mishandling of goods. Even if an employee in another country mishandles the goods, the owner can still be charged with a penalty.

How To Start An International Import/Export Business


Most countries have their own tariff schedules by which they determine duty fees for products imported into the country. Products imported into the U.S., for example, are given an HTS (Harmonized Tariff Schedule) number. But this isn’t set in stone. Importers can consult with customs officials in order to determine an HTS number that is beneficial while still being representative of the products coming into the country. The most important thing is to thoroughly research the country in question’s HTS number before bringing products in.


Keeping with the “studying” theme, it’s also vital to bone up on the insurance needs of the products in question. There are many different types of coverage, country to country, and it behooves importers to learn their risk factors so they can wisely purchase the appropriate policies.

Country of Origin

This may seem like a fairly straightforward consideration, but it’s more complex than most would think. It’s also one of the major pitfalls for new importers. For example, even if a product is listed as being from China, it may not have been manufactured there. Also, the United States has some 20 different definitions of “origin,” and determining which applies in a given scenario can be a real headache. Best for the importer in question to know beyond a certainty exactly where his or her products come from.

Ultimately, the import/export game is a global endeavor. Therefore, it is incumbent on the entrepreneur in question to think globally. That means expanding one’s horizons in order to take in considerations and regulations from the cultures of new and different countries. In other words: possessing an adventurous spirit and a high capacity for research are paramount to success.

Chris McMurphy is an expert on international business, covering import/export topics in the U.S., the Uk., as well as customs clearance Australia.