When looking into how to export to overseas markets, take into consideration whether the countries you are targeting have a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States. While the specifics of each FTA vary, they generally provide U.S. sellers with lower import duties, making it easier and cheaper to export products or services. FTAs can also make it easier for U.S. companies to bid on foreign government procurements. Some FTAs require a written certificate of origin to accompany shipments if the value exceeds a certain dollar amount. There are a lot of variables when it comes to FTAs, so watch Introduction to Free Trade Agreements, the second of our five-video Make the Export Sale set. You’ll also find additional in-depth information in our FTA overview further below.
Last Published: 3/14/2018

FTAs: U.S. Exporting Help 

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U.S. Free Trade Agreements Overview  

What is an FTA negotiated by the United States?

An FTA is an agreement between two or more countries where the countries agree on certain obligations that affect trade in goods and services, and protections for investors and intellectual property rights, among other topics. For the United States, the main goal of trade agreements is to reduce barriers to U.S. exports, protect U.S. interests competing abroad, and enhance the rule of law in the FTA partner country or countries. The reduction of trade barriers and the creation of a more stable and transparent trade and investment environment make it easier and cheaper for U.S. companies to export their products and services to trading partner markets.

With which countries does the United States have an FTA?

There are 14 U.S. free trade agreements in force with 20 countries: Australia, Bahrain, Chile, Colombia, Israel, Jordan, Korea, Morocco, Oman, Panama, Peru, Singapore; DR-CAFTA (Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, & Nicaragua); and NAFTA (Canada & Mexico). 

How can FTAs benefit U.S. exporters or investors?

U.S. FTAs typically address a wide variety of government activity. One example is the reduction or elimination of tariffs charged on all qualified products coming from the other country. For example, a country that normally charges a tariff of 5 percent of the value of the incoming product will eliminate that tariff for products that originate (as defined in the FTA) in the United States.

Documenting how a product originates, or meets the rules of origin, can make using the FTA negotiated tariffs a bit more complicated. However, these rules help to ensure that U.S. exports, rather than exports from other countries, receive the benefits of the agreement.

Other types of opportunities for U.S. exporters frequently found in FTAs:  

Increased opportunities for a U.S. company to bid on certain government procurements in the FTA partner country;
  • Expanded opportunities for U.S. service sector companies in the FTA partner country;
  • The protection and enforcement of American-owned intellectual property rights in the FTA partner country;
  • Increased opportunities for U.S. exporters to participate in the development of product standards in the FTA partner country.

How can U.S. companies identify tariffs on exports to FTA partner countries?

U.S. exporters can take advantage of two complementary tariff look up resources—the FTA tariff tool, and the Customs Info Database global tariff tool: 
  • The FTA Tariff Tool can help you determine the tariff (or tax at the border) that U.S. FTA partners will collect when a n eligible U.S. exported product enters the country. Exporters can look up the FTA tariff rate for a given product today, and identify when the tariff rate will either be reduced or totally eliminated in the future.
  • The Customs Info Database enables you to compare current (applied) tariff rates against corresponding preferential FTA rates for specific shipments. Use the Customs Info Database, under Logistics of the export.gov website.

Get Help

Export.gov, the U.S. federal government’s export portal, links to many resources, including the following: 
  • Get up-to-date numbers for U.S. export sales to FTA countries and other worldwide destinations through trade/industry statistics.

Prepared by the International Trade Administration. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.