Navigating Trade Tensions: How US Brands Can Use Section 321 to Bypass Section 301 Tariffs On Products From China

Brian York
Latin America logistics
3 min readDec 26, 2023

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In the wake of the US-China trade war, American businesses face unprecedented challenges due to the imposition of Section 301 tariffs. These additional duties have significantly increased the cost of importing goods from China, squeezing margins and complicating logistics strategies. However, there’s a beacon of hope for US brands in Section 321, a lesser-known but powerful provision. This article explores how leveraging Section 321, in tandem with strategic warehousing in Mexico, can provide a cost-effective solution for US importers.

Understanding Section 321 and Its Benefits

Section 321, a law under the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is a crucial yet often overlooked provision for businesses engaged in international trade. This law allows for duty and tax-free entry of shipments into the United States, provided they are valued at $800 or less. This de minimis exemption, significantly increased from $200 to $800 in 2016, offers an invaluable loophole for importers, particularly amidst the heightened tariffs under Section 301 on Chinese goods. For small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), Section 321 presents an opportunity not just for substantial savings on import costs, but also for more streamlined and efficient customs processing. By leveraging this CBP provision, businesses can navigate around the additional tariffs, effectively reducing the financial impact of the ongoing trade tensions with China.

Strategic Use of Section 321 for US Brands

To capitalize on Section 321, US brands can adopt strategies like splitting larger shipments into multiple consignments, each valued under the $800 threshold. This approach, while requiring meticulous planning and coordination, enables importers to legally avoid the extra tariffs. E-commerce businesses, in particular, can significantly benefit from this tactic, as their shipments are typically smaller and cater to individual consumers. However, it’s imperative to ensure that the declared shipment values are accurate and compliant with customs regulations.

The Role of Mexican Warehousing in Reducing Logistics Costs

Utilizing a warehouse in Mexico emerges as a strategic complement to leveraging Section 321. By storing goods in Mexico, US companies can manage shipment values more effectively before entering the US market. Mexico’s proximity to the United States, coupled with its robust logistics infrastructure, makes it an ideal location for this strategy. Importers can ship bulk orders to Mexico, store them, and then forward smaller shipments worth less than $800 into the US, thereby enjoying the tariff exemption.

Mexico’s Growing E-commerce Landscape: A Strategic Advantage

In addition to its robust logistics infrastructure, Mexico’s rapidly expanding e-commerce market further bolsters its attractiveness as a strategic location for US brands. The Mexican e-commerce market, valued at USD 25.56 billion in 2023, is projected to almost double, reaching USD 47.65 billion by 2028, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 13.27% (Mordor Intelligence). This growth is a testament to Mexico’s position as a critical player in the Latin American e-commerce scene, offering immense opportunities for online retailers.

Navigating Legal and Logistical Challenges

While this strategy is undoubtedly advantageous, it comes with its share of challenges. It’s crucial for businesses to navigate this landscape with a clear understanding of customs regulations and compliance requirements. Engaging with experienced customs brokers and logistics professionals is highly recommended to ensure smooth operations and legal compliance.

Conclusion

As the trade landscape continues to evolve, US businesses must explore innovative strategies to maintain competitiveness. Utilizing Section 321 in conjunction with Mexican warehousing presents a viable solution to mitigate the impact of Section 301 tariffs. This strategy not only offers a pathway to reduce logistics costs but also encourages a more agile and responsive supply chain model.

Shipping internationally can be challenging, but with Cubbo, you’re not on your own. As a global fulfillment service, Cubbo collaborates with brands worldwide, providing a comprehensive international fulfillment network, affordable shipping options, and top-notch ecommerce fulfillment and delivery services.

this article was originally posted on Cubbo’s blog

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