Importing Aluminum: Tariffs, Regulations, and More

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Use this information as a guide for importing aluminum, and get the best advice for successfully shipping the metal from top suppliers.
November 9, 2020
Last Modified: July 10, 2024
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With its many uses, light weight, and impressive durability, it’s no wonder that aluminum is big business in the United States. If you’re in that business, it’s likely you’ll explore importing aluminum from foreign sources. 

Key Takeaways

  • Canada is the number one supplier of aluminum to the United States.
  • High tariffs have made China a less desirable trading partner when it comes to aluminum goods.
  • You will need an entry-specific license from the International Trade Administration for each shipment of aluminum you bring into the country.

In this article, we’ll review the ins and outs of importing aluminum into the United States. 

Where Does the U.S. Get Aluminum From?

While China is the number one producer of aluminum in the world, the U.S. sources most of its aluminum from other countries. This is largely due to high tariffs on aluminum and other goods from China, which we’ll review a little later in the article. 

In 2023, the United States imported aluminum products to the tune of over $22 billion. Most of those products came from Canada, making them the primary supplier of aluminum to the U.S. 

Other countries from which the U.S. imports substantial quantities of aluminum include:

  • The United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • Australia
  • Mexico
  • South Korea
  • India

Most aluminum goods are classified in chapter 76 of the Harmonized Schedule (HS), which plays a part in determining their Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) number. In the table below, I’ve listed the HS codes for some of the most commonly-imported aluminum products and the commodities they describe.

An infographic titled “Range of General Duty Rates for Imported Aluminum Goods” displaying information about common aluminum goods, their four-digit HS codes, rates of duty, and the total value of each good imported into the United States in 2023. The infographic is labeled with “HS Code” on the left, “Commodity Described” in the first top column, “Total Value Imported in 2023 (Millions of USD)” in the right-hand column, and “Range of General Duty Rates” along the bottom. The information reads as follows.

HS Code 7601: Unwrought aluminum. Total Value: $11,579 million. Rate of Duty: Free to 2.6%.
HS Code 7602: Aluminum waste and scrap. Total Value: $1,166 million. Rate of Duty: Free
HS Code 7604: Aluminum bars, rods, and profiles. Total Value: $1,580 million. Rate of Duty: 1.5% to 5%.
HS Code 7606: Aluminum plates, sheets and strip, more than 0.2 mm thick. Total Value: $2,879 million. Rate of Duty: 2.7% to 6.5%.
HS Code 7607: Aluminum foil. Total Value: $1,476 million. Rate of Duty: Free to 5.8%.
HS Code 7610: Aluminum structures (not including prefabricated structures). Total Value: $2,726 million. Rate of Duty: 5.7%.

Aluminum importers have a couple of advantages going for them in 2024. Firstly, Canada is a top supplier of aluminum to the USA, and the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) ensures largely favorable trade relations with our nearby neighbor to the north.

The other notable benefit of importing aluminum is nearly guaranteed demand due to U.S. manufacturers being unable to keep up with the country’s need for this versatile metal.

Related: Explaining the Difference Between HTS Codes and HS Codes

Is There an Aluminum Shortage in 2024? 

While global availability is in good shape, the U.S. is facing a domestic production shortage of aluminum. 

In March 2024, Missouri-based Magnitude 7 Metals ceased operations at their plant in the Show Me state’s city of Marston. The plant, which is purportedly capable of supplying up to 30% of the aluminum needed in the U.S., is the third such location to close in the last two years. 

While this is obviously a blow to domestic production, importers can benefit by meeting the gap in demand. The already pressing need for this lightweight, malleable metal is likely to increase as companies work to meet new green energy standards for a variety of products. 

Thinking about diversifying your selection of imported metal goods? Check out our guide to importing copper into the United States.

Are There U.S. Tariffs On Chinese Aluminum? 

This is a fluid situation, as tariffs have been repealed, increased or even expanded to cover additional aluminum products over an extended period of time.

Section 232 of the U.S. Trade Expansion Act of 1962 was used as justification for the 2018 implementation of these tariffs. This states that Section 232 tariffs can be enacted in the interest of national security.

In May 2024, the Biden Administration announced a new set of tariffs on aluminum imports from China, raising the rate of tariff to 25%. The president has also indicated that he’s in favor of even higher tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum, so it’s unlikely that these extra fees will disappear any time in the near future. 

The Biden Administration also instituted a 10% tariff on on aluminum from Mexico.

In addition to the tariffs on Chinese goods, there are several other countries that have been hit with anti-dumping duties, which I’ve listed below.

  • Colombia
  • Ecuador
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Italy
  • South Korea
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • Vietnam

You probably noticed that this list includes some top suppliers from 2023. This goes to show that duties can fluctuate with little to no warning from the Commerce Department, requiring importers to do their due diligence on every transaction. 

USA CUSTOMS CLEARANCE
Avoid Overpaying Duties and Tariffs on Your Imported Aluminum.
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How to Clear Aluminum through U.S. Customs

Accurate documentation is at the heart of customs clearance. Some of the most important documents required are: 

Considering the complexity of these documents (and the potential penalties associated with inaccuracies), it’s often wise to leave this aspect of importing up to a licensed customs broker.

Related: What Documents Do I Need To Import and Export?

Do I Need A Customs Bond To Import Aluminum?

In short, yes. Customs bonds are required for any shipment valued at $2,500 or more, so if you’re importing aluminum for commercial purposes, you’ll almost certainly exceed that value.

However, imported aluminum must be covered by a bond regardless of value since each shipment requires a specific license per rules established by the International Trade Administration

Related: How to Get a Customs Bond: A Guide for New Importers

Working With a Customs Broker to Import Aluminum Into the U.S.

An experienced U.S. customs broker can provide a number of services to your business that allow you to focus on growing your business without getting buried in the minutiae of customs clearance regulations. 

Some of the tasks a customs broker can offer include:

  • Filling out all the forms needed to successfully import your aluminum 
  • Helping you secure a customs bond
  • Ensure you’re using the correct HTS codes

In some cases, brokers can even pick up your aluminum at port once it passes CBP’s muster and ship it directly to you. This is because brokers often work for firms that provide third-party logistics (3PL) services. 

Import Aluminum Into the U.S. With USA Customs Clearance

Given the demand for aluminum in the United States, importers will find themselves in a lucrative but competitive business space. By partnering with experts in customs brokerage, you can give yourself a leg up on that competition. 

At USA Customs Clearance, you can schedule a 1-on-1 consulting session via phone or video conference with one of our import specialists. You’ll receive personalized guidance and be able to ask anything about the customs clearance process.

In addition to consulting, our services include:

If you’re ready to begin importing aluminum, give us a call today at (855) 912-0406 or fill out a contact form online. Our customs experts are standing by to help you avoid the potential pitfalls of importing this in-demand metal.

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