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Navigating International Regulations

By Ryan Russell, Director, U.S. Commercial Service Pittsburgh

As your company begins or expands its international growth journey, it’s important for your products to comply with U.S. and international regulations. For example, there are U.S. laws that regulate exports of certain products to certain places and to certain people.  Many exporters are also unaware of the regulations foreign countries place on imports entering their markets. These regulations vary based on your target market, and exist to ensure the safety, quality and conformity of products entering their market.  

Steps U.S. Companies Should Take

When looking at your global export plan, it is important to be aware of foreign import regulations and requirements, as well as what steps you can take to ensure your products are released by foreign customs to your buyer.  Depending on the applicable standards, you may need to register your products, undergo testing, adhere to labeling requirements, and in some cases, obtain a specific license.  One example is the European Union’s CE Marking requirement, which most consumers likely have seen stamped or included on products or products’ packaging.  CE Marks demonstrate compliance with EU requirements.  While regulations differ around the world, products in the agricultural and food, health and beauty, medical and chemicals, electrical/electronics, and machinery and toys sectors commonly face the most detailed import requirements. This list is not exhaustive, but these products often must meet standards to ensure health, safety and environmental requirements.  

How to Successfully Address This Need

Often the best way to make sure you are aware of and comply with local requirements is by having a trusted local partner or distributor in the market – this is an area where your partner can contribute true value to your relationship.  Because they are on the ground, speak the local language, and are likely already familiar with both general and industry specific requirements, they can quite literally be the key to unlocking a foreign market’s potential.  Other resources are available to U.S. exporters, including the U.S. Commercial Service Pittsburgh office.  Our team is equipped with the knowledge and insights to help you understand these requirements and can connect you with our international offices in your target market. Finally, there are a host of resources available on our website, including our Country Commercial Guides that highlight market entry requirements, including the applicable standards and regulations U.S. exporters should be aware of for countries around the world. 

When Questions or Issues Arise at Foreign Point of Entry

When or if issues arise at the foreign port of destination, our office is here to help.  As part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, we are well positioned to answer any questions about foreign import requirements and may also be able to assist with misunderstandings at the border and getting shipments unstuck at customs. 

Plan, Plan, Plan

As you conduct market research to determine key markets of opportunity, it’s critical to understand the applicable regulations and documentation requirements and these factors should be added to your export plan, including the potential additional costs or time required to meet the regulations. With offices located in more than 80 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service is well positioned to assist your company to expand into new markets and grow in existing ones and we stand ready to support your international growth initiatives.

Ryan Russell is the Director of the U.S. Commercial Service Pittsburgh Office and can be reached at or (412) 644-2817.