Customs and Products Importation

  • Holland & Knight's Customs Team represents clients in legal matters related to the importation of products into the United States.
  • Our team prepares tailored customs compliance programs to ensure that clients are operating both properly and effectively within the regulatory framework.
  • Our international trade law attorneys have extensive contacts within government agencies, which enable us to effectively advocate for our clients.

Holland & Knight’s International Trade Group has extensive experience regarding all aspects of importation into the United States, including representation of clients before local port officials, at agency headquarters in Washington, D.C., and before the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York. Members of our Trade Group have extensive contacts at Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and the Food and Drug Administration.

Typical matters handled for our clients include tariff classification and valuation issues; administrative protests; rulings and internal advice proceedings; penalty and mitigation proceedings; country of origin and marking issues; drawback claims; and duty preferences under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other tariff preference regimes. We routinely provide advice on Customs valuation issues and methodology, including the relationship between valuation and transfer pricing. In addition, our Trade Group is frequently called upon to draft and review international commercial agreements, including purchase orders and sales agreements, and to ensure proper application of INCOTERMS and other international sales provisions.

Our clients call upon us to prepare Customs Compliance Programs that are tailored to the size and operations of their companies. We have experience assessing the effectiveness of internal controls, drafting compliance manuals and providing on-site training to employees. In addition, our Trade Group has experience conducting internal investigations as well as compliance audits for our clients. In the event a client becomes the subject of an agency investigation, we provide advice at all stages of the investigation. We frequently submit “prior disclosures” to Customs, negotiate for the reduction of penalties and petition for the remission of forfeited merchandise.

Our Trade Group provides assistance to grantees, operators and users of various Foreign Trade Zones located in the U.S. We also represent companies in all aspects of Foreign Trade Zone proceedings, including the preparation and processing of applications to establish general purpose zones and special purpose subzones, new zone manufacturing authority, scope determinations, and boundary modifications.

We also have experience representing importers of products regulated by the FDA to ensure compliance with the import and export laws specific to FDA-regulated products, and advise on labeling and marking requirements of the Federal Trade Commission.

Members of our Trade Group have extensive experience in litigating before the U.S. Court of International Trade, and have handled over 120 civil cases involving Customs determinations and the actions of other U.S. Government agencies involved with trade matters.
The following is a brief overview of some of the Trade Group’s experience in this area:

  • successful mitigation of a CBP penalty assessed against a produce importer from $8 million to less than $100,000
  • representation on a liquated damages penalty claim exceeding $100 million
  • advice to a Canadian lumber exporter on prior disclosure submission and negotiation with respect to NAFTA classification and preference rules
  • advice on the establishment of duty drawback programs and preparation of duty drawback claims, including prosecution of Customs protests when the drawback is denied
  • advice regarding classification and duty preference issues under NAFTA for hardwood lumber products
  • establishment of an import compliance program for a fruit importer utilizing the deductive value methodology of Customs valuation
  • conducted an import compliance audit and advised a multinational electronics manufacturer on the adoption of an import compliance program
  • strategic counseling on the use of alternative computed value methodology to reduce overall duty valuation
  • advice on U.S. import restrictions, including U.S. quota limits, on textile and apparel products imported into the United States from numerous Asian countries
  • registration with CBP of the first copyright recognized under the Berne Convention to halt import of bootleg records
  • advice to the Republic of Malta on whether it would lose GSP privileges on its exports to the United States upon becoming a member of the European Union
  • advice on structuring manufacturing operations in Mexico and the U.S. to minimize Customs duties for sales in the U.S. and Mexico