United Kingdom 2018-03-22T21:25:12+00:00


Country Facts
64.8 Million (2017)*
English (British)
Pound Sterling (£)

*Source: The CIA World Factbook

Trade Indicators
5th largest export market for U.S. goods
Top export market for U.S. services worldwide
5th largest economy in the world
U.S. exports of goods and services totaled $120 billion (2015)
GDP of $2.9 trillion (2015)

Top Industry Export Opportunities

Agricultural and Food Products

The UK is a very important market for U.S. agricultural products and is the 9th most important destination for U.S. consumer-oriented food products. In CY 2015, U.S. exports of agricultural, fish and forestry products to the UK were $3.0 billion, an all-time high. Consumer-oriented food and beverage products accounted for 38% ($1.1 billion) of total U.S. exports of agricultural, fish and forestry products to the UK in CY 2015. Fruit, vegetables and nuts account for 38% of this category imported from the U.S. into the UK. U.S. wines, particularly from California, have established a high profile in the UK and remained strong at $305 million in CY 2015. Opportunities in the market include: natural, wholesome & healthy foods, wine, seafood, fresh fruit & vegetables, dried fruit & nuts, specialty sauces & condiments, snack foods, confectionery, wood pellets, beer (including from micro-breweries), soft drinks.

Building Products and Sustainable Construction

Increasing sustainable construction is a core component of the UK strategy to address climate change. The UK is the 6th largest global construction market outside the United States. U.S. products enjoy a strong reputation for quality and reliability in the UK. The United States is currently the 4th largest source of the UK’s imports of sustainable building products (including heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR), lighting, plumbing, insulation, wood, doors and windows, and glass) claiming 6.5% of the market after products from Germany, China and Italy. Opportunities in the market include: HVAC products & systems, insulation, lighting (especially green or high-tech lighting), and wood products.

Pet Products

The total pet products market in the United Kingdom reached $5.2 billion in 2015 and is forecast to grow by 7.2% to reach around $5.6 billion in 2016.  Imports accounted for 67% of the market in 2015, with U.S. products accounting for 34% of that total. Pet food is the largest sector of this market, accounting for around three quarters of sales. There are 3,500 pet shops, including independent retailers, pet superstores and garden centers and approximately 600 specialist aquatic centers in the UK.  Veterinary clinics and pet salons are also becoming important distribution outlets for food, healthcare and grooming products. To be successful in the UK market, pet products need to be innovative and incorporate the newest trends. Opportunities in the market include “dog treats” & wet cat foods, especially organic; specialized healthcare, grooming & accessories for small-breed dogs, including bedding, clothing, & housing; and specialized housing & accessories for exotic pets.

Trade Regulations & Customs Information

Import Tariffs: Customs duty is assessed on the fair market value of imported goods at the time they are landed in the UK. Import prices for products entering the UK from non-EU states generally consist of: Cost, Insurance, Freight and Duty, with VAT of 20% levied on the aggregate value. The commercial invoice value is usually accepted as the normal price, but if a preferential arrangement has been established between the overseas supplier and the importer, or an unrealistic value has been declared, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) reserves the right to assess a fair market value for duty purposes. The duty is payable at the time the goods are imported, but established importers can defer payment for, on average, 30 days.

Import Duty: In addition to customs duties on imported goods, an excise tax is levied on in-country sales of alcohol, tobacco, and road vehicles, and on sales of oil and petroleum products. The applicable import duty and excise tax rates can be obtained from U.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Centers, and copies of the tariff can be purchased from the HMRC Stationery Office.

Import Requirements and Documentation: An import license is not needed to import the majority of industrial goods into the UK or EU.  However, some industrial goods require import licenses issued by the Import Licensing Branch (ILB), a two-person team, part of Europe Trade and International Directorate (ETID) but based in Billingham, as a result of controls imposed at national, EU or UN level. ILB publicizes these restrictions by issuing Notices to Importers. There are numerous goods which are currently subject to import controls, whether because they are banned, subject to quotas or where the import is monitored with licenses.  The list of goods subject to controls can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/duty-free-goods/banned-and-restricted-goods.

Customs Regulations: The documents required for shipments include the commercial invoice, bill of lading or airway bill, packing list, insurance documents, and, when required, special certificates of origin, sanitation, ownership, etc.

A copy of the commercial invoice should accompany the shipment to avoid delays in customs clearance. It is worth noting that imprecise descriptions are a common reason for goods being held without customs clearance, meaning that a clear description of the goods is essential and should be worded in such a way as to describe the goods to an individual who may not necessarily have an understanding of a particular industry or article. A clear description of goods should satisfy three basic questions as to what the product is, for what is it used, and of what it is made.

No special form of invoice is required, but all of the details needed to establish the true value of the goods should be given. At least two additional copies of the invoice should be sent to the consignees to facilitate customs clearance. Consular documents are not required for shipments to the UK.

Export Controls: Most export transactions do not require specific approval in the form of licenses from the U.S. Government. It is up to the exporter to determine whether the product requires a license and to research the end use of the product.

Source: The International Trade Administration (ITA), U.S. Department of Commerce www.export.gov

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