Importing From the Americas: A Guide for Businesses

Importing from the USA and the Americas is big business. Since 2010, exports from the USA alone have risen by 26.7%, and they’re worth $1.62 trillion, with America’s total Gross Domestic Product amounting to $17.42 trillion in 2014 according to the International Monetary Fund. This means that exports account for 9.3% of total American economic output, which equates to roughly $5,040 for every resident in the country.

America’s Top Exports

America’s export market may be huge and varied, but there are still a number of top items that make up the majority of their exports. Look to America for any of the following items:


  • Machines, engines, pumps
  • Electronic equipment
  • Oil
  • Vehicles
  • Aircraft, spacecraft
  • Medical, technical equipment
  • Gems, precious metals, coins
  • Plastics
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Organic chemicals


In South America, exports were worth $594.5 billion in 2014, which is 14.5% more than it was in 2010. Overall, South American exports represent around 3% of the world’s total exports, with Gross Domestic Product for all South American countries amounting to roughly $6.5 trillion in 2013, which represents around 9% of South America’s total economic output.


It was the mid-1990s before South American countries switched to a free market economy, and this pulled them out of a debt crisis. Now, most South American economic activity is built upon agriculture, forestry and mining.


Overall, South America’s economy is largely agricultural, with the main agricultural products including coffee, soybeans, wheat, rice, corn, shrimp, cocoa, citrus, beef, bananas and sugarcane.


Additionally, the South American economy has a large mining industry. Chile contributes around a third of the world’s copper production while Brazil is the world’s leading producer of tantalum and niobium and Peru is the world’s largest producer of silver.

Importing from the Americas

When you’re importing from the Americas, you’re importing from a non-EU country. This means that:



You can use the UK Trade Tariff to find the duty charges, tax, custom rules and paperwork and classify your goods. In addition, a freight forwarding agent can make a declaration for you.


If you’re importing from a non-EU country but your goods pass through another EU country on their way to you, then you must ensure that an Entry Submission Declaration has been made. You must check that the supplier or responsible business has done this, otherwise the receiving business (you) becomes responsible.

Paying Duty on Imports from the Americas

The amount of duty you will pay on your goods is dependent upon how they’re classified under the Trade Tariff and how they’ll be used in the UK. For instance, on some goods, you may be able to apply for a reduced or zero rate duty, which is also known as a ‘preference’. This, however, is dependent on a number of variables, but this guide can help.


None of your goods will be released by customs until all duty and VAT has been paid. However, you may be able to claim some of this back or suspend it. If you’re only holding the goods you’re importing and aren’t planning to put them into free circulation, you can use customs warehousing to avoid paying duty and VAT.

Paying VAT on Imports from the Americas

You have to pay VAT directly to HMRC when you bring in goods to the UK from outside the EU. The amount you pay is dependent on the costs of importing the goods and any duties or levies payable on importation into the UK.


You have to make sure that the items you’re importing are not either banned or restricted before you bring them into the country. You can read more about your responsibilities when importing from outside the EU here.