Importing and Exporting

As your business grows, exporting and importing goods offers the potential for you to access new markets, provide new products and services to your existing customers and grow your business even further. But it’s important to consider if your business is ready and to be sure that you understand exactly what exporting and importing entails before you start.

What does it take to be ready for international business?

To have a successful international business, you need a product or service which is in demand in overseas markets, as well as the necessary commitment, resources, skills and information to support sustained exporting activities over the longer term.

The following are key signs your business is well on its way to being export-ready:

  • A solid domestic base – Generally, successful exporters begin with an established base in their home market. They already have reliable production capabilities, a reputation for quality, domestic marketing materials (such as a website and brochures) and an understanding that marketing materials for the international market may need to be developed.
  • Significant management time and strong management commitment
– Developing an international business is no different to starting and building your domestic business. Exporting requires substantial commitment from management across the business, not just from the CEO or sales manager. In fact, you can expect it to consume more management time than developing business at home.
  • The resources to succeed –
Exporters find they need strong financial resources to expand overseas to cover the costs of product development, travel and international marketing, to name just a few of the costs you might face. You also need to have the right people in place to run the export side of your business.
  • Business and export planning – Many smaller companies don’t get around to formal business planning, but once you start exporting you are moving your business to a different level, so it is wise to consider putting these plans in place.
  • Export knowledge and skills – To export successfully you will need to learn about a wide range of issues such as how foreign markets operate, labelling and packaging regulations for your target market, payment terms, export documentation and foreign currency management.

Exporting – What you need to know

Exporting consumes time and money, and requires strong management commitment, but gives you the opportunity to access a larger market. To achieve success, you need to carefully research the market for your product, identify reliable partners to help you export and have a clear export plan to guide your business.

According to Acting Trade Commissioner at Pacific Islands Trade & Invest, Jeremy Grennell, “Niche, high value premium products with strong branding and packaging provide great opportunities for Pacific Island exporters. Have a strong story to tell about your product and it will have great potential.”

Pacific Islands Trade & Invest provides services in export, investment, tourism promotion and creative arts to businesses in the 14 Pacific Island Forum countries. With a focus on the development of export-capable businesses and the international promotion and support of exporters in Pacific Island countries, Pacific Islands Trade & Invest provides a number of resources on their website including pricing calculators, export guides and their guide to ‘How to Write a Business Plan’. Visit their website for details.

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Download a copy of Pacific Islands Trade & Invest’s Export Plan Template here.

Importing – What you need to know

Importing goods can help your business meet its goals and provide goods to customers that may not be available locally. To ensure your importing is successful, you’ll need to be aware of government regulations, including clearance by the local customs authority and duty taxes.

Licensing and permits

Whilst there is no general licence required for importing goods in most Pacific countries, customs will need to clear your goods on import. You’ll need to know:

  • What import permits, quarantine permits and treatments apply to your specific category and type of imported goods; and
  • Whether they are subject to mandatory safety or information standards.

If you don’t follow the correct steps and regulations, you will risk breaking the law and not receiving your imports.

Customs requirements for imports

All goods imported into Pacific Island countries must be cleared by the customs agency in the respective country. Your local customs agency can provide you with information on duties and import regulations such as import clearance requirements, prohibited goods and import permits.

Depending on the type and value of the goods or products you import, there may be costs involved. These can include clearance fees, customs duty, goods and services tax (GST) and other taxes. It is essential that you are aware of all the costs involved, (particularly customs duties), and that you have the funds available once your imported goods arrive in country. Additional charges such as storage will be incurred if goods are not cleared in a timely manner.

Some goods may carry special restrictions or may even be prohibited from being imported. If your goods contain industrial chemicals like cosmetics, solvents, adhesives, plastics, inks, printing and photocopying chemicals, paints, household cleaning products and toiletries, they will require additional registration.

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Key resources

The following organisations offer support services to Pacific businesses interested in setting up importing and exporting operations. They are a must to consult for businesses wanting to develop export operations:

Fiji Export Council

Fiji Export Council provides Fijian businesses with help, support and advice on importing and exporting. To become a member, visit www.fijiexportcouncil.com

Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO)

PIPSO is the premier private sector representative body in the Pacific Islands region. Its members are comprised of the national private sector organisations of the 14 Forum Pacific Island Countries. PIPSO is mandated to advocate the interests of the private sector at the regional level and participate and contribute to the policy development and strategies for private sector development. PIPSO works with regional organisations and donor agencies to strengthen the capacity of its members through advice, training, mentoring, technical support and funding to enable them to dialogue with their governments on a level playing field. For more information visit pipso.org.

Pacific Islands Trade & Invest

An arm of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat based in Fiji, Pacific Islands Trade & Invest is the region’s lead export facilitation, investment and tourism promotion agency. The agency provides support services to export-ready and export-cable business across the 14 Pacific Island Forum countries in areas such as connecting exporters with international buyers, introducing potential investors and providing promotional support, networks and technical expertise. For more information visit pacifictradeinvest.com

Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)

As the Pacific Island region’s principal technical and scientific organisation, SPC delivers technical, scientific, research, policy and training support to Pacific Island countries and territories in fisheries, agriculture, forestry, water resources, geoscience, transport, energy, disaster risk management, public health, statistics, education, human rights, gender, youth and culture. For information visit www.spc.int

Additional Resources

The following organisations can also provide assistance for those wanting to start an export business:

Note: We welcome your feedback on additional resources or contacts that would help to improve Pacific Women in Business. Please contact us with your ideas and feedback.