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Trade Security

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The United States government maintains a series of controls on certain products and services for national security reasons. If you are engaged in international trade, research or produce high tech products and services, there are numerous federal rules and regulations of which you should be aware.

The export of a majority of U.S. products and services do not require specific approval from the U.S. government. However, licenses are required in cases involving a commodity, software, or technology with national security, foreign policy, short-supply, nuclear non-proliferation, crime control, or terrorist-related concerns. These items are known as “dual-use”. Dual-use items have both commercial and military or proliferation applications. Purely commercial items without an obvious military use may also be subject to the dual-use controls.

In addition to commercial dual-use items, the United States closely controls the release of defense articles and defense services to foreign persons. If an product or service has a potential military application, it is likely controlled for export and you will need authorization from the U.S. government to export it.

Want to know more? Read, Trade Security In Context.

All products coming into the United States are also subject to regulation. All merchandise coming into the U.S. must clear customs and is may be subject to a duty. The clearance process involves various steps including entry, inspection, appraisement, classification, and liquidation.

Items can also be seized upon entry into the United States for a variety of reasons including for alleged violations of various U.S. laws including the import of prohibited or restricted merchandise (i.e., counterfeit goods, controlled substances, etc.); as well as undeclared, unreported, or smuggled merchandise.

Corporations, individuals, and non-profit entities such as universities must comply with these laws and regulations. Violations are subject to civil and criminal penalties, including monetary damages and prison time.

We have a great deal of experience in this area and can assist you with your export and import needs including compliance, enforcement and litigation, contract provisions related to this area such as reporting offset agreements, as well dealing with the public policy challenges that frequently arise in this area such as the managing the Congressional Notifications process or Congressional investigations.


U.S. Government websites of interest:

  • Department of State, Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC)
  • Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS)
  • Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP)
  • Department of Defense, Defense Technology Security Administration (DTSA)
  • Department of Energy,  Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
  • Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)



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