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The Complete Guide to Importing Textiles to the U.S.

Importing Textiles to the U.S.
The U.S. is a big market for imported textiles used for clothing, accessories and furniture just to name a few. Use this guide to stay ahead of the competition.
USA Customs Clearance
September 11, 2020
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Last Modified: November 7, 2022

When it comes to importing textiles to the U.S., it takes time and effort to ensure that you have both the necessary legal precautions and provisions in place. There are laws and trade barriers that need to be considered and accounted for. Before beginning the process to import textiles to the U.S. it’s helpful to have a complete understanding of everything involved.

Importing textiles to the U.S. surprisingly comes with quite a few regulations. Multiple government agencies including the FTC, CPSC, and USDA are involved in regulating imported textiles. Failure to abide by all of the requirements can lead to textiles being seized upon entry.

Below, we provide a complete guide to importing textiles into the U.S. We cover the various regulations and what steps to take to fully comply with them.

If you don’t have time to read the full article or need immediate assistance, our team is ready to help you now. You can consult with our Licensed Customs Brokers today to get definitive answers to your importing questions. We’ll provide you with a step-by-step guide of exactly what needs to be done to successfully import your textiles. 

Work with a specialist to make importing and exporting to the USA a hassle-free process.

Get the details you need with our import consulting services.

Rules and Regulations

Rules and Regulations

All textiles that are imported to the U.S. have to comply with a range of regulations. There are specific rules for importing from Mexico, China, and India, which we will cover later, but the following applies broadly to any textiles coming into the country. The most basic regulations, enforced by the CBP, require textiles to have labels that accurately describe their content, such as:

  • Displays of the country of origin
  • Fiber content and composition
  • Identity of the manufacturer
  • Instructions for care of the textiles

The CBP establishes the guidelines for importing textiles and will be the first to inspect them on their arrival. However, as noted in the introduction, other Partner Government Agencies are involved in the regulation of textiles. 

The Environmental Protection Agency will check for toxic substances and pesticides. Federal Trade Commission agents are primarily responsible for verifying product label and intellectual property compliance.Textiles are frequently seized due to violation of intellectual property laws. The U.S. Department of Agriculture will inspect any clothes claimed to be organic to ensure they are free of synthetic materials. Finally, the Consumer Product Safety Commission will ensure that textiles meet flammability requirements. 

Another factor worth considering is that countries of origin must be established for mixed products, such as clothing created in France from fabrics made in China. In these cases, an importer must document the following:

  • The fiber composition of the textile
  • The country the fiber originated in
  • The country the textile was manufactured
  • The end use of the product

You’ll also be required to cover your shipment with a customs bond. Commercial shipments valued at $2,500+ or that contain goods subject to regulations by partner government agencies are required to be covered by a customs bond. Bonds can be either single entry or continuous. 

Any mistakes made along the way here will cause CBP or any of the agencies listed above to question the validity of your import. In turn, this will invite additional exams of your products and possibly lead to further issues.

It’s wise to verify the compliance of your shipment with a Licensed Customs Broker before initiating the import process. A Licensed Broker will be able to determine whether or not your shipment will safely clear customs.

Do you need an import compliance manual for your business? Make sure that all of your bases are covered in the event of an inspection by CBP, especially if importing goods that are impacted by an import ban. Read more about import compliance manuals and get help determining if it's the right move for you.

Go ahead and buy a customs bond today

and get your freight on the way around the globe.

Import Duty on Textiles

Import duties are taxes that are claimed on any of the imports making their way into the country. In the case of the U.S., the CBP collects the import duty. Also known as a customs duty or import tariff, this is a cost that anyone importing textiles into the U.S. needs to be aware of and account for.

Import duty is typically paid as a percentage based on the value of the product, rather than a flat fee. For textiles, the import duty rate can be based on a range of factors. This can include:

  • The country of origin
  • The level of processing applied to the product
  • The type of material
  • The individual unit value of each item

Duty on textiles can range from anywhere from 0-20%. That means that import duties will be more expensive on some imports than on others, such as in the case of silk imports. The Harmonized Tariff Schedule lays out the complete list of Import Duty rates that can apply to fabrics and other products. 

Before importing, it’s critical to understand what import duties will be applied to your shipment. Being surprised with additional import duties isn’t a pleasant experience. Thankfully, working with a Licensed Customs Broker can alleviate this issue. Before importing, our brokers will classify your textiles with the proper HTS code. We can even obtain a tariff classification ruling for the CBP if necessary. Doing this will give you a clear answer as to what your import duties will be.  

Work with a specialist to make importing and exporting to the USA a hassle-free process.

Get the details you need with our import consulting services.

Importing Textiles From China

Importing Textiles From China

As the current leading exporter of textiles in the world, China has risen to prominence as a supplier of all manner of fabric and textile products to countries across the globe, including the United States. As of 2018, their overall chemical fiber production exceeded 50 million tons, and their share of textile exports reached 37.6% of all exports in the entire world. At the same time their apparel exports accounted for 31.3% of all exports in the world. 

When it comes to importing textiles from China, there is a range of factors that need to be considered.

Are any of the goods you import from China manufactured in or sourced from the Xinjiang region? Any goods or materials produced in the region are prohibited from entry into the U.S., including cotton and textiles. Read our article on the Xinjiang import ban to find out more and avoid having your shipment fined and detained.

Affordable labor and product availability

Companies importing from China often do so because of the significantly low costs of both labor and production in the country. China has one of the largest labor class populations in the world thanks to being home to over 1.3 billion people. As such, wages tend to stay low in the country because the market favors employers. Production tends to also be cheaper due to lower compliance with guidelines as compared to other countries, as well as a rapidly evolving business ecosystem.

Increased shipping time and costs

However, while production and labor in China may be more affordable, the costs of importing textiles to the U.S. from such a distant country comes with its own costs. Your goods have to travel a much longer distance, so you have to pay more for them and have to wait longer for them to arrive.

Unstable trade relations between the U.S. and China

The political climate between the U.S. and China is rocky at best, which in turn affects trade. For instance, the recently imposed Section 301 tariffs increase the rate of import duty to be paid on the majority of goods imported from China. Shipments from China can be expected to experience additional scrutiny and observation than shipments from other countries. 

A common textile item that's shipped from China regularly is handbags. Unfortunately, many are fake/counterfeit products that violate IPR rules. To learn more, check out our article on replica purse imports.

Importing Textiles From India

While not a significant competitor to the like of China, India is one of the top three exporters of textiles in the world. China, India, and the EU together make up 66.9% of all fabric exports across the globe.  As one of the oldest sectors in the country’s economy, it has long served as both an apparel and textile export partner for many U.S. companies.

As with China, however, there are points to consider if you wish to import textiles from India, including the following:

Affordable labor and product availability

Many of the factors that contribute to the low cost of labor and production in China also apply to India. While wages are on the rise, a larger labor market keeps those costs low by comparison to the EU or the U.S.

Even longer shipping times and larger costs

Imports from India will, generally speaking, come across the Pacific, much like those from China. However, given that India is further away from the U.S., this means that shipping will take some. This also means the costs of importing can be greater than ordering from China.

More stable trade relations

Unlike the political and trade relations between the U.S. and China, the U.S.’s relationship with India is relatively stable. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, India is the 10th largest supplier of imports to the U.S., and imports continue to increase year over year from them.

Timezone differences

A company’s ability to communicate effectively with its suppliers can affect the working relationship. India is 12.5 hours ahead of the west coast of the US, and 9.5 hours ahead of the east coast, meaning there can be some communication barriers in working with companies in India.

Importing Textiles From Mexico

Importing Textiles From Mexico

While Mexico may not have a textile market output anywhere near the rate of China and India, they do have a continuously growing textile industry and, thanks to their proximity and other factors, are becoming a more popular partner for importing textiles to the U.S.  As of 2018, total textile and wearing apparel imports from Mexico to the US have totaled to a value of $2.58 billion, an increase $.12 billion from 2017.

Factors that should be considered when looking at importing from Mexico should include:

Availability of affordable and skilled labor

Wages in China and India have been rising, while Mexico is set to remain competitive on a global labor scale. Furthermore, the Mexican economy has promoted the rise of a range of specialized textile fields, such as leathers, airbags, seat covers, and more, leading to a higher wide range of products.

Positive trade relations between the U.S. and Mexico

Mexico is the third-largest trading partner of the U.S. and shares a relationship based on trade that has been steadily increasing since 1993 since the implementation of NAFTA. While NAFTA was recently by USMCA, many of the trade incentives still exist. To learn more about the differences between the two trade agreements, check out our article NAFTA vs. USMCA

Shared timezones improve communication

As mentioned, communication with your global partners is important. Mexico shares timezones with the US, meaning that it can be easier to get in touch with your partners when you need them. Additionally, there is a large number of Spanish/English bilingual individuals that can assist with communication as needed. 

Reduced shipping time and costs

Given how close Mexico is to the U.S., importation is likely to take less time and cost less due to the use of fewer resources to get textiles into the country. Importing from other countries require air or ocean freight which costs significantly more than using trucks. 

Textile Rules of Origin

USMCA, the trade agreement that governs large portions of trade between the U.S. and Mexico lays out a range of specific rules for textile and apparel products to ensure that any textile products said to originate in North America actually do.

The rules of origin dictate that the material which is used to form the fabric implemented in textiles must come from a USMCA country. However, some products in short supply are given some leniency in terms of the rules of origin requirements. 

The USMCA rules on Textile and Apparel Products go into much more detail, so it’s worth taking a closer look to ensure you’re following all rules and regulations on your own textile imports.

Challenges to Importing Textiles 

As with all forms of importation, there are specific challenges to importing textiles that need to be addressed by any company wishing to do so. Here, we’re going to break down some of those challenges and what, specifically, you must consider:

Proper classification

Textile products can be subject to a wide range of variations, based on where the fabric comes from, how it is processed, the type of material, and so on. As a result, there are a lot of different HTS codes applicable to textile goods. Companies that are importing textiles must be sure to apply the right HTS codes to ensure the products can make it into the country.

Wool is just one of the textile components that can be difficult to classify. To learn more, check out our article How to Import Wool.

Changing tariffs and origin rules

As trade relationships change, so too is importation on the company scale being affected. For instance, Section 301 tariffs could make importing from China more difficult than in the past. Meanwhile, improving trade relationships in North America might be beneficial to those importing from Mexico, but can adversely affect those trading from outside.

Communication and collaboration barriers

There are significant communication barriers in terms of timezones between companies based solely in the U.S. and those from India or China. This can make it difficult to adjust orders and meet shifting demands when you need to be flexible.

Other regulations

There are plenty of regulations that have to be strictly followed when importing textiles from across the world. For instance, there are labeling requirements on textiles that you must be able to ensure your exporting partners follow before the textiles arrive to the U.S., as well as intellectual property considerations.

While these challenges are tough, we’re here to help. We’ll guide you through the import process and get your textiles safely into the U.S.

How Can a Customs Broker Help?

How Can a Customs Broker Help

Many of the challenges mentioned above can be addressed with the help of the right partner. Customs brokers are often relied upon by companies that are looking to import textiles to the U.S. because of the myriad demands, rules, and regulations that are applicable.

Working with a Licensed Customs Broker to import textiles can make the entire importing process simpler in the following ways:

  • The customs broker will ensure that all necessary documentation is included. This will prevent your imported goods from getting turned away at the port of entry.
  • Brokers can submit and keep copies of all necessary files and documentation that have to be turned into customs officials on behalf of the importer.
  • Customs brokers can assist with a range of supply chain services, such as warehousing, shipping, order fulfillment, and much more.
  • They can prepare customs valuation, tariff classification, and offer international trade consulting so that you get an idea of how much you have to pay for importation before you start the process.
  • Customs brokers experienced in importing textile products will be sure to have processes to ensure the correct HTS codes are applied to any textile goods that you import.

The ways that a customs broker can help will depend largely on your needs. Many companies can depend on them to ease the legal and regulatory side of importing textiles to the U.S., but they can also help establish the importation infrastructure, such as storage and transport, as needed.

Import Textiles with USA Customs Clearance

When it comes to importing textiles to the U.S., we have the experience and knowledge to help you. Our experts are intimately familiar with all requirements in play when importing textiles. Thanks to this expertise, you can rest easy knowing that your goods won’t encounter unforeseen issues when importing.

Our team brings experience in importing textiles that your company will need, allowing us to help you navigate the customs clearance process as quickly and properly as possible. Furthermore, we offer our experience in a wide range of importing resources that can help companies learn everything they need to know about getting the products they need in the country.

Additionally, thanks to our partnership with our sister company, R+L Global Logistics, we can serve as your one-stop ship for all of your supply chain and logistics needs.

Our supply chain services include:

  • International & Domestic Transportation
  • Warehousing
  • Order Fulfillment
  • ISF Filing
  • Duty Drawback
  • White Glove Service
  • And More...

Get in touch with us today to take the next steps in importing your products. Our experts are ready to help you.

Work with a specialist to make importing and exporting to the USA a hassle-free process.

Get the details you need with our import consulting services.
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8 comments on “The Complete Guide to Importing Textiles to the U.S.”

  1. Hi: if I have to import in USA from China garments with duck down, do I need to provide also sanitary certificate?

  2. I have a small e-commerce resell company and want to expand. I am dealing with Amazon now and planning on heading to Mexico and Egypt to explore some family business buying and selling along the Atlantic and Gulf coast of the USA

  3. There were lots of times when I bought clothing made in other countries. On many occasions I found insects (probably microscopic) biting me from the garment. Aren't there any regulations regarding that?

  4. Do I understand your article correct, if I importat textiles I have to document the origin of the fibre?

  5. Does organic textiles from India get fumigated or treated with chemicals of any kind before entering the US (either at the port of origin or at the port of reception)?

    1. Hi Mokihana,

      There are no rules regarding fumigation of textiles. However, textiles have many other requirements that they have to meet including flammability guidelines in place through the CPSC.

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