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It’s Now Cheaper For American Shoppers to Buy Foreign Goods

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Good news for U.S. consumers who like to shop abroad: Whether you’re bringing back trinkets from a trip or shopping online for overseas goods, buying merchandise from outside the U.S. has gotten cheaper.

Thanks to a trade law announced March 10, individual U.S. consumers can now import goods worth as much as $800 in a single day without duty or import taxation. That’s four times the previous maximum of $200.

The duties on purchases exceeding $200 were not light: They averaged 33% of purchases, based on the top 50 goods bought abroad, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing data from UPS. On certain products such as costume jewelry, duties could go as high as 110% of the merchandise’s retail price.

That means consumers are likely to spend more abroad, and that could lead to big changes in the global retail markets. Shipping and packaging companies such as FedEx and UPS are expected to get more business as U.S. consumers buy more from abroad.

Foreign retailers will also likely see more sales on their balance sheets as the new trade rules could unlock an additional $600 dollars worth of potential spending abroad per U.S. citizen.


While most consumers still shop online within their own countries, the relaxed duty-free rules may also accelerate the retail market toward a future when cross-border purchases are common. While 309 million people bought goods online from abroad in 2013, 943 million are expected to do so by 2020, according to data from Accenture and AliResearch, a part of Alibaba.

But there is at least one party that is likely to feel pressured by the new rules: U.S.-based retailers. As consumers increasingly buy from abroad (and occasionally, from countries that produce cheaper alternatives to U.S. goods), Americans are likely to spend less and less on U.S. products.

“If it’s going to be easier for other retailers to import to the U.S. and get away without paying duties and taxes, I think it’s definitely a pain point,” John Haber, CEO of Spend Management Experts, a consulting firm, told the Journal.