A guide to shipping from Pakistan to USA

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The trade relationship between Pakistan and the United States (US) is strengthening, evidenced by substantial increases in both exports and imports. Goods exported from Pakistan to the US stood at US$3.2 billion in 2022, marking a significant 106% increase from 2012, according to data from the Office of the United States Trade Representative. For Pakistani businesses, the US market is ripe with opportunities. By mastering the technical aspects of exporting, Pakistani companies have the potential to significantly expand their global presence.

Understanding the US market: Demand and opportunities

The US, with its population of over 334 million people, as released by The United States Census Bureau, and one of the highest per capita incomes globally, presents a lucrative market teeming with opportunity. The country's retail market is projected to reach approximately US$7.9 trillion in 2026, underscoring its massive consumer base and extensive purchasing power. 

Especially in sectors like fast fashion and home textiles, Pakistani products enjoy high regard due to their prompt production and competitive pricing. In fact, according to Trading Economics, the US imported over US$2.97 billion worth of apparel from Pakistan in 2022, demonstrating the strong market presence of Pakistani apparel. 

In the home textile sector, Pakistan stands at an inflexion point. Global consumers demand quality, sustainability, and unique craftsmanship — areas where Pakistan excels. According to a report by Geo News, textiles are one of Pakistan's major exports, contributing a staggering 57% to the country's total exports, 

Its rank as the world's fifth-largest cotton producer underscores this potential. Moreover, Pakistan's artisans are skilled in intricate textile designs, a distinct competitive advantage. This blend of attributes positions Pakistan for a greater role in the global market, meeting sophisticated demands with precision and environmental mindfulness. 

The opportunity for trade elevation is clear and immediate. It’s up to Pakistani exporters to seize this moment of immense potential. It's time to innovate, adapt, and lead — from exploring cutting-edge manufacturing to pioneering sustainable materials and processes. This proactive evolution isn't just about keeping pace; it's about creating a niche in these thriving sectors, propelling Pakistan-US trade relations into a new era of mutual growth.

Technical know-how: Shipping essentials

When exporting from Pakistan to the US, businesses must be diligent with several technical aspects to ensure smooth transit and compliance with American standards:

1. Prohibited & restricted goods

The US enforces strict regulations on the import of certain goods, categorising them as either prohibited or restricted. Prohibited items are never allowed entry, and some of these include absinthe (if not compliant with US standards), dog and cat fur, certain firearms and ammunition and drug paraphernalia. 

Restricted items can be imported but are subject to specific conditions, regulations, or requirements, such as obtaining a permit or declaring the items upon entry. For instance, the importation of certain animal products is restricted to prevent the introduction of diseases like mad cow disease, avian influenza, and others. These restrictions are enforced by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Pakistani exporters need to thoroughly understand these distinctions and ensure their products do not fall under these categories, as non-compliance can result in legal issues, extra charges, or severe shipment delays. This knowledge is fundamental in preventing unnecessary disruptions in the shipping process.

2. Customs duties & taxes

The exact amount of duties and taxes applicable when exporting goods from Pakistan to the US can vary widely depending on several factors, including the type of goods and their value. The Harmonised Tariff Schedule (HTS) of the United States determines the applicable duty rates. The HTS categorises goods based on various factors and assigns a duty rate to each category.

It's important to note that the US has a de minimis value on imported goods — items valued at US$800 or less may enter the US duty-free, enhancing opportunities for smaller shipments. 

Furthermore, while Pakistan and the US do not currently have a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), they do engage under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme, which allows duty-free entry for certain Pakistani products into the US, further incentivising trade between the two nations. This arrangement, coupled with America's growing demand for quality and affordable goods, provides Pakistani businesses with a robust platform for global expansion.

3. Export documentation

Accurate and thorough documentation is crucial when exporting goods from Pakistan to the United States.

Informal clearance is used for non-restricted goods with a value typically under US$800, requiring less documentation and no customs bond, making the process quicker and more straightforward. Formal clearance is necessary for goods valued over US$2,500 or for regulated items, involving more extensive documentation, a customs bond, and potentially additional permits or licences, ensuring adherence to all import regulations and standards.

Key documents include:

  • Commercial invoices: This essential document provides a comprehensive overview of the transaction, detailing the total value, quantity, and description of the goods being shipped. For US customs, the invoice must be in English and include specific information, such as the buyer and seller, terms of the sale, and a detailed description of the merchandise.
  • Air waybill (AWB): A crucial contract of air carriage that details shipment specifics, including consignee and shipper info, goods' description, and terms. Essential for tracking, confirming receipt, and smooth, secure international transport.
  • Certificate of origin: A vital document certifying the country in which the goods were produced. 

For specific goods, the US may require additional permits or certifications to comply with health, safety, or other regulatory standards. For instance, agricultural products may require a phytosanitary certificate, ensuring they meet USDA regulations. 

Failure to provide complete, accurate, and prompt documentation can lead to significant customs delays, fines, or even confiscation of goods.

4. Packaging and labelling 

Proper packaging and labelling are vital in the shipping process, serving not only to protect the product during transit but also to provide clear information required by customs and consumers. Goods must be packed using methods that preserve their integrity and quality through the rigours of international transport. For instance, clothing requires specific packing techniques to ensure its condition and appearance are maintained. Labels, meanwhile, should comply with US standards, clearly specifying the contents, country of origin, safety warnings, and any other pertinent information.

The pivotal role of shipping and logistics

Effective logistics is the backbone of successful exporting. Dependability in delivery, transparent pricing and proficient handling of goods are just some of the factors businesses must consider when searching for a courier company when shipping overseas. 

Here, DHL Express emerges as a strategic ally. With its vast global network, timely deliveries, and customs clearance expertise, DHL Express is instrumental in bridging Pakistani products with the American market. They navigate the logistical intricacies, allowing businesses to focus on core operations while ensuring their products reach the US market efficiently. 

Opening a business account with us allows you to access dependable delivery services and streamlined processing of international shipping paperwork. Plus, with MyDHL+, DHL Express’ shipment management platform, you can check shipping costs and manage your shipments effectively.

Create a DHL Express business account now.