I have imported from China but that doesn't make me an authority. I can only tell you what my experience has been thus far. The quotes I get from manufacturers over there are always FOB quotes, which means "Freight on Board". Basically what that means is the cost to get the product made and get on board whatever means will be used to transport it, typically a plane or a ship. It's then your responsibility to get it from there to your destination and that includes things like customs duties, any applicable taxes, freight forwarding, etc. Occasionally a manufacturer may offer to undervalue and invoice so that the recipient will pay less in taxes and duties while still paying the true value of the invoice. Obviously, this sort of thing is done with a wink and a nod.
My silicone supplier simply ships the product via DHL, which gives them a good rate for door-to-door service and includes all the customs clearance, etc. I simply reimburse them for that cost as part of my total cost for the product, i.e. they simply build that into the quote. If you can a manufacturer to do that, it will make your job much easier. The alternative is to locate your own customs broker/freight forwarder. Ideally, if you're going that route you want the same people doing both as opposed to have one person handling customs and the other forwarding the freight because the less hands involved, the complicated the process which will likely save you some cost. If your manufacturer cannot or will not include those services as part of their quote you will need to locate those people yourselves which isn't all that hard depending on where you live. I live right in the Boston area and there are literally dozens of customs brokers here because Boston is a major port. I have no idea how it might work if you live in a place like Lawrence Kansas.
I'm still very much in the middle of learning this whole process myself. As I type this, I have a broker/forwarder from Go Global Logistics working to bring in a shipment of plastic clamshells from another Chinese manufacturer. I simply had the two of them put their heads together on the logistics and I'm still waiting for a cost number from the person at Go Global. Does that make me a little anxious, you bet! The Chinese manufacturer has already been paid! (BTW, you don't just cut a check to pay for your goods over there but rather, they all seem to require an electronic funds transfer for payment.) All I have to go on from the broker/forwarder right now is a very rough estimate I was given when I first made contact with Go Global. I'm not even sure yet if the goods are coming by air or by sea. The latter is much less expensive but takes much longer, as much as 4 weeks or more so you'll have factor in those sorts of things as well. Ideally, if you can get the manufacturer to quote you for a door-to-door shipment your life will be easier but don't expect them all to be willing to do that. They may not want to have responsibility for your product once they get it on board whatever vessel will be transporting it. I should also mention that when I get my silicone delivered from DHL the box looks as though it's been through an earthquake. It comes in REALLY beat up condition but since the contents are in no way fragile, it's not a problem. However, my plastic clamshells could never take that abuse without a high percentage of losses.
I hope haven't muddied the waters too much with my rambling explanation of the process. In order to not take up additional space on this board you can e-mail me directly at email@example.com
if you have additional questions. I'll do the best I can to help you with the caveat that Im am by no means an expect at this!