Legal Considerations

Exporters are frequently faced with legal issues, such as those relating to agent/distributor agreements, protection of intellectual property rights and appropriate licensing arrangements, which can determine the viability of a successful export transaction. Here are some other legal issues:

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act FCPA

U.S. firms seeking to do business in foreign markets must be familiar with the FCPA. In general, the FCPA prohibits American companies from making corrupt payments to foreign officials for the purpose of obtaining or keeping business. The Department of Justice is the chief enforcement agency, with a coordinate role played by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Office of General Counsel of the Department of Commerce also answers general questions of U.S. exporters concerning the FCPA's basic requirements and constraints, see other legal resources.

Anti-Boycott Regulations

The United States has an established policy of opposing restrictive trade practices or boycotts fostered or imposed by foreign countries against other countries friendly to the United States. In general, these laws prohibit U.S. persons from participating in foreign boycotts or taking actions that further or support such boycotts. The laws are administered by the Bureau of Industry and Security.


If a company exports a product at a price lower than the price it normally charges on its own home market, it could be said to be “dumping” the product. Opinions differ as to whether or not this is unfair competition, but many governments take action against dumping in order to defend their domestic industries. The WTO agreement does not pass judgment. Its focus is on how governments can or cannot react to dumping—it disciplines anti-dumping actions, and it is often called the “Anti-Dumping Agreement”. (This focuses only on the reaction to dumping contrasts with the approach of the Subsidies and Countervailing Measures Agreement.)

Although the Department of Commerce cannot provide legal counseling, there are many legal resources available to help small companies with exporting.