An import-export agent or broker, also known as a trade agent or customs broker, is an individual or a company that sends and receives goods to and from different countries. Import-export agents or brokers work with both importers and exporters by helping them prepare necessary documents for exporting or importing their products. They also help their clients establish connections in foreign companies.
So, they work on both ends of import-export deals—that of the origin and that of the destination. If you are looking to become an import-export agent or broker, then read on to understand the guidelines you need to get started.
How to Become an Import / Export Agent or Broker
Table of Content
1. Get a degree
To become an import-export broker, you must understand the basic jargon of import-export law, currency transactions, trade policies, and everything else that goes into making profitable import-export deals.
This explains why your first step towards becoming a successful import-export agent or broker is to get a relevant degree or diploma in international economics or any other discipline that focuses on international business, international marketing, and import-export trading. You can enroll for this at any accredited institution within your state or country.
Obtaining a relevant degree will not only give you the basic conceptual and mathematical knowledge you need to understand and profit from both established and developing markets, but it will also give you insights into the problems and benefits of international markets. You must have all these because import-export brokerage is a risky business that you need to understand before plunging into.
After obtaining a relevant degree, you need to decide on a specific area of specialization. You can either focus on a specific type of products such as electronics or agricultural produce, or you can focus on a geographical area such as Southern China.
Specializing is necessary because it helps you understand and meet the licensing requirements of the specific products or geographical location you’re focusing on. Because the success of your import-export career hinges largely on your fluency in the legalities of both sides of the transaction, focusing on one political and geographical area is the best.
3. Study your area of focus
After choosing an area of specialization, you need to study that area deeply. If you are focusing on a geographical location where a different language is spoken, your first step would be to study the native language and basic protocol that obtain in the country. This is necessary because there is no guarantee that all the documents you will be presented will be in English or that the people you will deal with will understand English.
In addition, you need to study the politics and economics of your area of focus. For example, if you are focusing on agricultural produce, you need to understand the rules and regulations binding these products in certain international markets, how the prices of the products change with times of the year, and so on.
Similarly, if you are focusing on a geographical location, you need to understand the danger, opportunities, and common problems that come with trading with that specific country.
4. Obtain the necessary licenses and permits
If you are based in the united states, contact the United States Department of Commerce to apply for appropriate licensing or to find out the licensing requirements for doing business with certain other countries. But if you are outside the United States, visit the appropriate local agency to do the same.
5. Review your local export laws
Before starting out as an import-export agent or broker, you need to understand your country’s export laws. In fact, this is equally as important as studying the import laws that obtain in the country you will be doing business with. You must avoid running into legal problems, as this can cripple your career and prolong your journey to success.
6. Find import-export opportunities and get started
Once you have carefully taken all the previous steps, then you can apply for import-export job positions or start your own agency or brokerage firm. If you are starting your own business, you need to acquire an initial operating fund and secure office space.
7. Continue researching
The import-export market is ever changing, and one of the keys to success as a broker or agent is to keep abreast of global economic trends and act accordingly. This is the ‘continuing education’ aspect of the business.
For example, the government in the country you are focusing on might make an announcement that will either increase opportunities or make things more unfavorable. If you get this information on time, you will be able to quickly shift some of your resources accordingly. This is how you build business.