A report from the US Congressional Research Service shared that 166,384 small businesses in the United States currently export, accounting for about 26% of all U.S. exports and about 96% of all exporters. With roughly three-quarters of world purchasing power and almost 95% of world consumers living outside U.S. borders, more attention is being paid to small business export promotion programs’ potential economic benefits for small businesses and national economic output.”

As aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners aim to grow beyond their local markets, it is important to have a thorough understanding of the legal requirements for their products in their destination markets. With the annual Small Business Saturday coming up on November 26, 2022, we are taking a moment to signal the correct way to prepare for doing business internationally.

Here are five reasons small business exporters need to know the legal requirements for their products in their destination market(s): 

Maximize your potential returns. 

Knowing the HS Code for your product helps to understand the market. Assuming the demand exists, is the product subject to more or less duties if the product is frozen, dried, smoked? Will you make a higher return if you ship the parts then have them assembled locally? 

Maximize the market potential for your product.

The product may be eligible for duty-free entry. Knowing this allows you to assess whether the goods are being priced competitively as well as to effectively market your product. 

Ensure product compliance. 

Knowing the rules allows you to ensure that the products are compliant before they are shipped. Goods that are stopped repeatedly at the border for non-compliance can be placed on a list of goods to be seized and refused entry on sight.  Selling internationally is not easy, though; you need an international distribution network and different supply chains for each market.

Rules change. 

If a product arrives and is found to be non-compliant the Importer is unable to clear the goods and loses the opportunity to sell. You will also have lost the anticipated revenue and, depending on the arrangement with the importer, the cost of shipping the goods.

Sometimes, you just have to. 

For example, the US Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) requires that food importers ensure that their suppliers of food products are complying with safety standards. To learn more about the legal requirements in your destination market or for support: 

  • United States: Export and Import or Contact Us. 
  • European Union: Help Desk for Importers & Exporters 
  • Canada: Import & Export Information 

Small businesses operating internationally face many challenges. Penetrating foreign markets may be difficult due to cultural differences, language barriers, lack of local expertise and knowledge. Although it can be a hard task breaking into a new market, expanding your small business outside of your current market can be incredibly rewarding with the right preparation and team. 

There are more practical tips for global traders in our free ebook, which you can download here. If you are interested in expanding your knowledge on trading globally or have a question send me an email via our Contact Us page or Book a Consultation here.


Andrea Ewart

Andrea Ewart

I am a seasoned international trade and customs attorney, and policy adviser for various companies and governments with a demonstrated history of successfully developing and implementing sustainable and dynamic trade programs. I am experienced in creating partnerships with various business-support organizations to drive compliance and growth in the international market.