What does the Census Bureau have to do with international trade? More than you may think.
The government agency charged with counting the U.S. population every 10 years also has its eyes on your exports for two main reasons:
- To collect trade statistics, and
- Ensure compliance with U.S. export regulations.
Gathering Export Trade Statistics
Under Title 13 of the United States Code, the Census Bureau is responsible for collecting, compiling and publishing export trade statistics for the United States. Those statistics are primarily collected through the electronic export information (EEI) that exporters or their agents need to file through the Automated Export System (AES).
There are many other nuances of when an AES filing is required, so if you aren’t sure when or how to file, download the free white paper:
The Census Bureau also maintains the classification of domestic and foreign commodities exported from the United States through Schedule B Codes, which cover goods from live animals to food products to airplanes to computers. These 10-digit codes are based on the Harmonized Tariff System, and U.S. exporters use these codes with their AES filings and on other export documents.
The data submitted to AES end up on the desks of the nation’s accountant, the Bureau for Economic Analysis, which provides important economic statistics including the country's trade balance and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Probably the most common and one of the most important statistics, the GDP measures the total value of all final goods and services produced within the United States during a given period of time.
Export Control Purposes
Other government agencies use the EEI for export control purposes to detect and prevent the export of certain items by unauthorized parties or to unauthorized destinations or end users. For example, if your goods require a license and you attempt to export an item without one, the Bureau of Industry and Security or another agency charged with export enforcement may find you are violating an export regulation. Similarly, the EEI data may alert these agencies that you are exporting to an embargoed country or person.
The Census Bureau's Foreign Trade Regulations specify fines up to $10,000 per violation for incorrectly reporting your export information regardless of whether you made a mistake or you’re purposefully being deceptive. That's why exporters need to be confident that they know the correct steps in the process.
Wondering where to begin with AES? Our whitepaper, Filing Your Export Shipments Through the Automated Export System, can help.
This article was first published in June 2014 and has been updated to include current information, links and formatting.