How to find your USA-Mexico tariff rate

Here’s a short guide to help you with finding the tariff rate for importing from Mexico to the USA, and how to compare it against the current US-China tariffs.

When sourcing from Mexico, the first thing you’re going to want to know is what your tariff rate is going to be. If you’ve been sourcing from China, then you’re probably having a wild rollercoaster time with trying to navigate through the US’ constantly changing tariffs on Chinese imports. At present, the US and China have reached a Phase 1 trade deal which still leaves most Chinese imports with tariff rates at 25%. The Phase 1 trade deal operates mainly to reduce tariffs on agricultural goods from 15% to 7.5%. Weaver and Tidwell L.L.P have prepared an excellent summary table which links you to the official lists of affected imports.

Generally tariff policy announcements can be found on the Office of the United States Trade Representative’s website and actions taken China is contained in the ‘‘Section 301 Investigations’ section. The USA’s tariff rates and import-related information can be found on the United States International Trade Commission’s Dataweb.

As these websites can be fairly tedious to navigate through, I thought I’d prepare a guide to show you where to get your tariff rate for importing in the US. We’re going to focus on finding the US’ tariffs on Mexican products.

Finding the US tariff rate on Mexican products

  1. Go to the UITC’s Dataweb – Once there, go to ‘ HTS Search’

HTS stands for ‘Harmonised Tariff Schedule of the United States’ and it’s the US’ system for classifying goods and assigning each good with a classification number e.g. apparel made out of reptile leather has the HTS code 4203.10.20. You use this code to find out your tariff code.

2. Find your product’s HTC code

If you don’t know your product’s HTS code, then you may want to consult with a customs agent. It’s fairly straightforward if you were importing leather shoes (which has its own HTS code), but a bit more ambiguous if you had a product which could fall into different HTS categories.

For example, you have a belt that has a mother-of-pearl buckle. It could be classified as ‘accessories’ (HTS 3926.20), ‘women’s belts of leather or of composition, each valued at $7.00 or more’ (HTS 9902.16.64, if it was a women’s belt made of leather).The US Customs though classified it as 9601.90.2000 – ‘worked ivory, bone, tortoise-shell, horn, antlers, coral, mother-of-pearl and other animal carving material, and articles of these materials (including articles obtained by molding): other: worked shell and articles thereof’ – due to its mother-of-pearl buckle.

To find your HSC classification code, you can do the following:

  • Primary Method – Using DataWeb’s HTS Search: In HTS Search, simply key in a few keywords that describe your product and you will get a list of possible classification categories. Try to keep your terms as broad as possible in the beginning before refining it further. Here’s an example for apples:

Note that the HTS Database has been updated to reflect the US’ 2019 tariffs on Chinese imports. To get the most recent changes to tariff rates in light of the continuing US-China trade negotiations and find out whether your product may be affected, you can go to this official page.

3. Now that you’ve found your HTS code, you’re pretty much there!

Once you’ve keyed in your HTS code, you’ll find a table with ‘Rates of Duty’ listed on the right. That’s where you’ll find your tariff rate! If your product qualifies for special tariff rates due to trade agreements (read: sometimes free), you’ll find these rates in the ‘Special’ column.

In the table above, ‘MX’ stands for Mexico and you’ll see that for apparel items, there are no tariffs if the products come from Mexico! This is because the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, just replaced by the United States Mexico Canada Agreement, reduces or eliminates tariffs on imports from Mexico to the US. This is one of the major reasons why Mexico is particularly advantageous as a ‘Make in Mexico’ location.

The ‘General’ column sets out the tariffs that will apply generally unless there is a special trade agreement that sets out different tariff rates. That means that if you do not see ‘MX’ in the ‘Special’ column, you can expect the General rates to apply. You don’t have to worry about Column 2 as that does not apply to Mexico. For more information about how the ‘Rates of Duty’ table operates, you can read this document.

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