Attorney Peter Quinter, a shareholder at Gunster, spoke with Florida Trend about his work and shared his thoughts on some key trends in foreign trade.
Economic Backbone: Transportation/Trade/Logistics
Attorney Peter Quinter talks about key trade trends.
Peter Quinter doesn’t spend much time behind a desk. On any given day, the trade attorney might be at a port warehouse, aboard a freighter or inside a Boeing 747 helping clients deal with import or export hiccups and advocating to get their shipments back on track.
“I like to be with the uniformed personnel, whether it’s the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or U.S. Customs and Border Protection or the Consumer Product Safety Commission,” Quinter says. “I’m with them, looking at cargo.”
Quinter — who early in his career was an attorney with the U.S. Customs Service in Miami and is now a shareholder at Gunster — also spends a fair amount of time helping fledgling import/export businesses navigate the rules and regulations that govern international trade. Alcoholic beverages and tobacco products, for example, require specific permits, as do military-related items. Businesses also have to know exactly where the goods that they're bringing in originated, which can be challenging when exporters engage in illegal relabeling.
“I’m able to help them understand what the nature of the product is, who the seller is, who the buyer is. I help them with their terms of delivery, their terms of payment and help them obtain whatever license or permit is required to import or export their products across U.S. borders,” Quinter says.
In a recent interview, Quinter talked about his work and shared his thoughts on some key trends in foreign trade.
- Rookie Mistakes: “Many people go online and think, ‘I’m going to buy something from Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia. It’s a great price, and I can resell in the United States for a profit,’ and that may be true,” he says. Oftentimes, those products were actually made in China, shipped to other countries and relabeled that they were made in Malaysia or Indonesia or Vietnam before being shipped to the United States. If Customs officials seize the shipment and conclude through an investigation that the products were made in China, then the U.S. importer has made a false statement and has a big problem on its hands, he says. “They might not have intentionally made a false statement, but it’s a false statement of the country of origin of the product. Customs seizes the entire shipment, and it’s gone. The company may be out millions of dollars, even though they didn’t intentionally do anything wrong. They just were duped.”
- Shifting Trade Winds: While China has been the United States’ No. 1 trading partner for 20 years, the relationship has become strained amid changing political and military dynamics. One of the hot topics in U.S.-China trade policy, Quinter says, is forced labor. “The United States passed a law last year, which went into effect in 2022, that prohibits the importation of a product from a particular province in China unless the U.S. importer can prove to the U.S. government that product was not made by forced labor. It’s almost an impossible task,” he says. At the same time, a record number of products coming from China are being subject to anti-dumping duties. China is also making it more difficult for U.S. companies to sell their products to China, or even incorporate in the country, Quinter says, and he senses a decoupling is occurring. “I would expect in the years to come that China will no longer be our No. 1 trading partner.”
- Shipping Rates: Freight rates have fallen substantially in recent months, Quinter says. “To move a standard 40-foot container from Miami to Beijing and back pre-pandemic cost about $3,000 one way. Then the pandemic hit, and it went from $3,000 to $20,000 — same destination, same route. It’s come back down. Now it’s maybe about $4,000. Things are definitely back to normal when it comes to the supply chain based upon cost."