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Export-Import Specialists

The Job

A variety of professionals are involved in the export-import industry. Some focus only on the importing of raw materials or finished goods, while others are only involved with exporting. Many specialists, however, are involved in both the importing and exporting of foreign trade. All specialists must understand international law and be aware of export-import regulations, such as duty fees, but specific responsibilities vary according to the area of specialization.

Export managers direct foreign sales activities, including negotiating sales and distribution contracts and arranging payment for exported goods. They handle details involved in the transportation of goods, including licensing agreements, customs declarations, and packing and shipping. Export managers work with foreign buyers, federal agents, and company executives to coordinate shipping, airfreight, and other transportation methods. They also supervise clerical staff in preparing foreign correspondence and other foreign language material, such as sales literature and bid requests, meant to expedite foreign trade.

Customs brokers act as intermediaries between importers and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. They prepare entry documents for goods arriving from abroad. They file appropriate documents to allow delivery of foreign goods and to assess import duties and taxes. Customs brokers must be familiar with more than 500 pages of customs regulations and thousands of tariff items. They must determine proper classifications of dutiable value and know which goods are subject to quotas. They may also help importers find the best routes for shipment. Customs brokers act as troubleshooters between importers and the federal government, counseling importers on relevant rules and regulations, working out any last-minute problems, and arranging for storage of goods in warehouses, if necessary. They may be in regular contact with more than 40 government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture for meat import questions or the Consumer Product Safety Commission for product safety information.

Import-export agents are independent contractors who usually work for several clients. They manage activities of import-export firms, coordinating settlements between foreign and domestic buyers and sellers. They plan delivery of goods and supervise workers in the shipping and receiving departments. Import-export agents act as trade representatives throughout the freight handling process. They oversee the assessment of import and export taxes and the granting of entry permits. They also resolve any concerns on the part of customs officials or foreign or domestic business people. 

Freight forwarders act as agents for exporters in moving cargo to overseas destinations. They are familiar with the import rules and regulations of foreign countries, methods of shipping, U.S. government export regulations, special packaging or handling restrictions, hazardous materials rules, and the documents connected with foreign trade. Freight forwarders advise clients on freight costs, port charges, consular fees, cost of special documentation, and insurance costs. Forwarders find the most appropriate services so that products are moved by the most timely and cost-effective methods, making arrangements for storage, pick-and-pack operations, consolidations or full-container movements, as well as inland transportation. They also assist with initial quotations, prepare invoices, and bank clients' documents for collection.

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