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Op-Ed: Importing community must comply with federal requirements

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recommends the importing community to ensure articles imported in preparation to the Hurricane season complies with all US import requirements. 

Nearly four years after Hurricanes Irma and María pounded Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, leaving some in the dark for almost a year, frustration over the island’s still-fragile power supply is mounting. 

Due to the aftermath of these events, consumer and business demand for generators, solar panels, solar powered articles, and extension cords have risen in recent years and are projected to continue steady growth. Businesses looking to capitalize on this opportunity need to be mindful of some important details.

For example, to import generators, importers will need to comply with several import requirements. The strictest regulations are enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA requires imported generators to comply with US emission regulations, hence, importers must provide this proof at the time of import. If this documentation is unavailable, the generators will be refused at the port of entry. 

Federal agencies require importers to exercise caution at the time of importing other emergency articles such as extension cords. It is highly recommended that cables have the genuine certification of national recognize laboratory such as the Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL) or CSA-International (CSA) to ensure product safety.

Furthermore, properly classifying your hurricane emergency articles with the correct Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) code is a critical step in the process. Ensuring that you have the correct HTS code in place enables you to know the exact amount of import duty the importer is required to pay at the time of import. 

If your articles are imported from China, there is even more reason to ensure proper classification since additional import duties have been assessed to imported goods from China through the introduction of Section 301 tariffs ranging from 7% to 25% on top of normal duty rates.

In addition to Section 301 consideration, antidumping and countervailing duties can also come into play. Antidumping and countervailing duties are applied when an imported product is sold in the US for well below market value. The intent of this duty is to offset this low valuation and level the playing field for domestic manufacturers. 

One example of merchandise that may be subject to those additional duties are certain solar panels and/or articles with built in solar panels.

Author Leida Colón is the assistant director of Field Operations for Trade in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Before initiating your import of hurricane related articles, it is highly recommended to consult with a Licensed Customs Broker. Customs brokers are private individuals, partnerships, associations, or corporations licensed, regulated and empowered by CBP to assist importers and exporters in meeting federal requirements governing imports and exports.

Brokers submit necessary information and appropriate payments to CBP on behalf of their clients and charge them a fee for this service. 

The following is a list of licensed customs brokers available in Puerto Rico. You may also contact the San Juan Area Port Import Division at 787-729-6850.

CBP encourages importers/exporters to become familiar with applicable laws and regulations and work together with the CBP Office of Trade to protect American consumers from harmful and counterfeit imports by ensuring the goods that enter the US marketplace are genuine, safe, and lawfully sourced.​​​​​​

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.
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