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How to navigate import/export regulations

How to navigate import/export regulations

Trading with overseas businesses is something you will want to plan and research rigorously, as the rules governing Australian imports and exports can be strict, complex and constantly under review.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the more important trade rules that apply to Australian businesses. Keep in mind that regulations are subject to change, so consult with official government sources and seek advice from trusted authorities to be sure you’re covered.

Importing goods into Australia

If you plan to partner with an overseas manufacturer for a new product, or bring already-made products into Australia, you’ll need to make sure you know where you stand with the following rules.

  • Customs laws: All goods brought into Australian must be cleared by the Customs and Border Protection Service, and you may have to pay clearance fees, tariffs and import duties. GST is payable in most cases, calculated against the ‘taxable importation’ value. This is the value of the goods plus any associated import costs, such as insurance and transportation.
  • Labelling requirements: You may be required to label your imported goods with an appropriate ‘commerce marking’, to ensure consumers are not misled about the good’s contents, country of origin, manufacturer or other key information.
  • Prohibited and restricted goods: Special restrictions can apply to a range of goods, from foodstuffs to non-compliant electrical items. The full list can be viewed here.
  • Quarantine rules: Bringing plants, animals and minerals into the country requires an import licence, and the Department of Agriculture may want to inspect or treat your products for pests or diseases.

Exporting goods overseas

If you want to send goods overseas, it’s vital that you know the regulations at your destination. If you export goods to Europe, for example, you’ll need to know both the European Union (EU) and member state national laws that apply.

A number of local regulations also apply, including:

  • Customs monitoring: Australian Customs can inspect outbound cargo to ensure it complies with border control laws. Certain types of goods, such as cultural items, are banned from export or subject to strict controls.
  • Quarantine controls: In most instances, exporting animal products and livestock, and plant and grain products, requires registering with the Department of Agriculture.
  • Free trade agreements (FTAs): Several countries, including the US and New Zealand, have negotiated a free trade agreement with Australia to enhance access to each other’s markets for goods, services and investment. More information on these agreements can be viewed at

An import/export business can be both rewarding and lucrative, but there are always going to be risks associated with partnering with a foreign company. Knowing where you stand in relation to regulations is essential.

If your business is easily translatable to another country, it could be tempting to expand overseas. Find out how to manage the risks of international expansion.

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