The TradeLaw Q&A column addresses your questions concerning the import and export regulations of the United States.
When importing goods into the U.S., is there a requirement that the goods be marked with the country of origin?
Yes there is. 19 USC 1304 and 19 CFR Part 134 address the country of origin marking requirements for all goods of foreign origin imported into the U.S. Basically, all goods of foreign origin, or their immediate container, must be marked with the country of origin legibly and conspicuously so that the ultimate purchaser here in the U.S. is aware of the origin.
Under the regulations, 19 CFR 134, there are certain exceptions to the marking requirements. For example, there is what is referred to as the “J” list which identifies specific products that are exempt from marking. However, even with the exemption for the product itself, its immediate container must be marked with the country of origin.
If you believe that your product qualifies for one of the exceptions set forth in the regulations, it would be prudent to request a marking waiver from your local Customs office to avoid the shipment being detained by Customs if inspected. In addition, the immediate outer container would need to be marked.
Other issues that can arise with country of origin marking include goods that are repacked after importation and sold to a third party here in the U.S. and goods that are labeled with references to other locations such as “Distributed by…Anytown, U.S”. In such instances, there are special marking requirements that must be followed.
In addition, if you are shipping within the three NAFTA countries, there are some differences in the marking requirements and companies should be aware of them.
If a company is uncertain on how to proceed with the appropriate marking, U.S. Customs offers the binding ruling option, which allows the company to obtain a written opinion on the marking.
Also, when purchasing products abroad, you should not assume that your foreign supplier understands U.S. Customs marking regulations. Make sure that you address marking as part of your purchase order. The U.S. has the most restrictive marking requirements in the world.
It is important to also note that the use of the term “Made in USA” is governed by the Federal Trade Commission, and not U.S. Customs.
Finally, the fact that Customs has not questioned your current method or marking does not mean that they approve. It may simply mean that they have never checked it. With new security initiatives resulting in more examinations, more marking violations have been issued, even to companies who have never had a marking issue in the past. Failure to comply can result in detentions, penalties and assessment of a special 10% marking duty.
Paula Connelly is principal in the Law Offices of Paula M. Connelly and has over 25 years of experience in Customs law and related import and export matters. She works with businesses of all sizes providing advice on all aspects of international trade law. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-897-1771.
Disclaimer – Material presented in this column is intended for information purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice and should not be construed as such.
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