Since textiles can vary so widely in material and composition, Customs’ duty rates and regulations vary dramatically. The textile industry is considered trade sensitive, and as a result is highly regulated.
When importing silk textiles, perhaps the most important and difficult task is identifying its classification number and duty rate. Many companies hire import specialists to assist them in determining both the classification number and duty rate, which are outlined in the U.S. Trade Commission’s Harmonized Tariff Schedule, because there are so many classifications for one type of material.
For example, silk garments can be classified as raw silk, silk waste, silk yarn, or yarn or wool that is spun from silk waste. The silk may be subject to cotton restraints or man-made fiber restraints, and classifications can even change based on the percentage of the textile that is composed of silk, and the size of the silk garment itself. If these descriptions are enough to make your head spin, don’t worry, it’s for this very reason that hiring an outside expert is so common.
The U.S. Trade Commission provides a database (http://hts.usitc.gov/) for the Harmonized Tariff Schedule that extensively outlines the classifications for a type of product, along with its duty rates and special duty exemptions under trade agreements. Chapter 50 in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule outlines the different classifications of silk:
The first four digits of the HS code for the major categories for silk products are:
However, products consisting of silk are classified differently, depending on the type of apparel, footwear, etc. Referring to the HS code database to identify the code for your specific product is advisable (and ultimately required).
The Committee for Implementation of Textile Agreements (CITA) regulates a majority of textile imports under Section 204 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act. When importing silk, the most important factors are:
Compliance with quota restraints and visa requirements
Through the Multi-Fiber Arrangement provisions of Section 204 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act, CITA outlines the existing agreements with individual exporting countries. Bilateral agreements may impose restrictions or quotas on products that mix silk and other fibers. Contact the International Trade Administration’s Office of Textiles and Apparel to make sure you are updated on the current quotas, as they change regularly.
Submission of U.S. Customs Country-of-Origin Declaration(s)
Any wearing apparel must be labeled with information specifying the apparel’s material and content (fiber content and fiber name), the percentages in weight for all the component fibers, and instructions for care. “Country of origin classifies as the country in which the product is “wholly grown, produced, or manufactured,” and if the product is produced in various countries, the country of origin should be the country in which the most important part of production occurred.
Compliance with entry invoice and labeling requirements
The product’s label must specify the country of origin, and if that information cannot be put on the label, that information must be placed somewhere that the ultimate purchaser can see it.
If this is a silk apparel product ready to be worn, this label must be near the inside center of the neck. For lower-body products, the label should be near the center of the waist.
Silk scarves, mufflers, shawls, etc., are considered accessory articles and not wearing apparel, but any scarf, shawl, muffler, mantilla or veil with more than 70% silk or silk waste composition is exempt from the labeling requirements under 19 U.S.C. 1304 a) and b).
In terms of invoice information, textile products imported into the United States must contain the following information as required by the TFPIA, unless TFPIA Section 12:1 states otherwise: the generic names and percentages, by weight of the product’s fibers that constitute more than 5% 2) the name of the manufacturer or the FTC name or registered identification number of whomever is importing the textile fiber product; and 3) the name of the country where the good was processed.
Be sure to check with the full TFPIA requirements for your particular type of product classification, as they are extensive.
Compliance with flammability standards adopted and enforced by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) under the Flammable Fabrics Act (FFA)
Silk textile products for consumer use must meet the FFA’s standards for flammability hazards, outlined in FFA Section 4. If your product fails to meet flammability standards, FFA Section 11c may allow for the product to be altered to meet those standards after further processing.
Special Trade Agreements
Since many textiles come from developing countries, there are many exceptions to the duty rates for countries with preferential or free trade agreements with the United States. These exemptions are outlined in the same HTS Database (http://hts.usitc.gov/) alongside the typical duty rates and fees.
Because of this, there are very strict standards for import rules and regulations regarding the import of silk to the United States, as the CBP attempts to minimize tactics like under-invoicing. It is important to follow the regulations regarding rule of origin and tariff classifications and provide valid documents for the import declarations filed for textile shipments or deliveries to the United States. Because of the high level of scrutiny involved in importing silk, many companies hire a local point of contact within the United States to serve as the liaison between the CBP and the overseas importer.