Exporting to the USA

Exporting successfully from France to the United States: what steps should you take?

Mar 2, 2024

The American market is a majore-commerce market. France is the 3rd European partner of the USA. French companies and products benefit from a major asset: internationally recognized know-how. However, labelling a product as "Made in France Made in France "is not enough for successful exportto the United States. It requires strict compliance with regulations, meticulous preparation of the required documents, and adaptation of your offering to a different and demanding clientele on the other side of the Atlantic. The procedure depends on a number of variables, including the type of merchandise and its value. Here are the 5 steps to exporting to the USA.

1. Take a look at free trade agreements with the United States

While the CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) between Canada and the EU is on track for a positive outcome in 2023, negotiations with the USA are proving more complicated. Here's a quick overview of these trade agreements.


TAFTA (Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement) is the free trade agreement between the USA and the EU. It is also known as TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership).

Although negotiations are still ongoing, TAFTA has three main objectives:

  1. Facilitate access to public procurement markets on both sides, and abolish the principles of protectionism and national preference.
  2. Encourage regulatory cooperation and alleviate the constraints of different environmental and safety standards.
  3. Abolish customs duties for trade in goods, although certain sensitive products will remain exceptions.

New regulations in force

Entry Type 86 (ET86) supplements the current section 321. It provides duty and tax exemption for products regulated by the PGA (Partner Government Agencies) and arriving in the USA. However, this benefit is limited to packages with a retail value of less than 800 USD.

Certain shipments are not eligible for this regulation. Formal customs clearance remains applicable to goods and products:

  • alcohol-based ;
  • taxed under the U.S.Internal Revenue Code;
  • affected by quotas or anti-dumping and countervailing duties.

Please note that the new declaration is currently being tested. Despite exemption from customs duties and taxes, your shipments may incur additional costs, for example in connection with administrative formalities.

2. Understanding U.S. customs procedures

There are two types of customs clearance: formal and informal. The procedure applied by customs varies according to the merchandise and its market value. Customs fees are calculated on the basis of HS (Harmonized System) classification. You must therefore provide the HS code of your goods. In all cases, however, a security deposit (IOR) may be required.

Informal customs clearance

Informal customs clearance concerns products worth less than US$2,500. They are subject to a simplified delivery procedure. No weight restrictions are imposed on these low-value shipments. Supporting documents are limited to a packing slip and a commercial invoice.

Formal customs clearance

Goods with a value in excess of US$2,500 and regulated products are subject to informal customs clearance. A specialized broker, such as DHL, must handle the customs formalities for these high-value goods. In addition to the indispensable packing slip and commercial invoice, you may also need to provide supporting documents:

  • a commercial invoice ;
  • Form 5106 completed by the importer or consignee;
  • a customs bond ;
  • product-specific licenses ;
  • proof of origin;
  • import permit.

3. Prepare the documents required for shipping goods to the USA

To export to the USA, you need to present two main documents: the commercial invoice and the packing slip. U.S. authorities may require additional documentation for regulated goods (see step 3).

These documents can be sent in paper or digital format. This depends on the country of origin and the type of goods.

The commercial invoice

Customs authorities use the commercial invoice to authorize or refuse entry of goods, and to calculate customs duties and taxes. This document must contain the following information:

  • Description of shipment: this should be as precise as possible.
  • The SH code: available on online search tools or on the French government website.
  • Country of origin: enter the place of manufacture, not the place of shipment.
  • Incoterms: discover our dedicated article.
  • Recipient's contact details: useful in the event of problems with customs clearance.

The packing slip

Also known as a "bill of lading", this is a contract between the shipper and the carrier. The waybill contains information essential to tracking the shipment:

  • the contact details of the sender (you) and the recipient (your customer);
  • shipment data (number, type, dimensions and weight of package, description, value, HS code, etc.);
  • day of dispatch ;
  • billing information.

4. Check the specificities of your product for export to the USA

Products exported to the USA may be subject to different regulations. Here is a summary of the types of goods concerned, and the specificities to which they are subject.

Products restricted for export to the United States

Exporting soil to the USA is prohibited, unless the American recipient has a USDA import permit. This document must accompany the package. Food products derived from hemp are also subject to restrictions. To be accepted on American soil, they must not contain Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Goods prohibited from shipment to the USA

There are some products that you cannot ship to the United States under any circumstances. These are :

  • automatic opening knives ;
  • Kinder Surprise eggs;
  • pipes linked to the consumption of illicit materials ;
  • carpentry items imported from China and containing branches, logs or twigs exceeding one centimetre in diameter and with intact bark.

Note: these prohibitions and restrictions apply to both commercial and personal shipments.

Other types of shipment to the USA and their specific requirements

In addition to the particularities mentioned above, shipments to the USA are subject to standards and requirements specific to each type of product. These may include labeling, packaging or certification requirements. Discover the list of goods you can export to the U.S. and the conditions you need to meet to avoid being blocked at customs.

5. Taking into account the habits of American consumers

Adapting to the country's culture and consumer habits is essential for successful exporting to the USA. This will increase your chances of winning over this new market on the other side of the Atlantic.

Adapting the e-shop to American users

Your e-commerce site must also speak to your new target audience. Be sure to translate all your pages into English and possibly Spanish. 13% of the American population is Spanish-speaking. You also need to offer payment methods that are suitable for Americans:

  • credit card ;
  • electronicwallet;
  • bank transfer ;
  • deferred payment(Buy now, pay later).

Diversifying delivery services

Unlike the French, Americans allow the delivery driver to leave the parcel in front of their door in case of absence. So it's important to choose a carrier that offers consumers different delivery options. Thanks to a wide network of logistics providers, D&figroupe guarantees optimum flexibility to maximize your customers' satisfaction.

Choosing the right sales channels

In addition to your e-commerce site, being present on the right sales channels is important for reaching American consumers. Among the leading marketplaces in the U.S. are: Amazon, Walmart, eBay, Target and Etsy. These popular platforms increase your visibility. Choose the ones that best match the habits of your target customers.

Also consider the social networks most used by Americans, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or Tiktok. Post your promotional offers and brand news there. Use influencers to boost sales. These levers enable you to reach a qualified audience, provided you implement the right communication strategy.

In conclusion, successfully exporting to the United States is not just a matter of understanding free trade agreements. It also requires a thorough understanding of customs procedures and specific regulations. Diversifying sales channels and adapting to consumer preferences are essential steps.

The American market is one of the most virtuous. D&figroupe can help you conquer it now! Contact us to set up an effective and successful export strategy for the USA.

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