Importer Update: Generalized System of Preferences (GSP)

Importer Update: Generalized System of Preferences (GSP)

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What is the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) trade program? What is the current status of the program? What countries are involved? What are some examples of GSP eligible products? Read below for answers to these common importer questions and more. 

History of GSP 

The Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) was instituted in 1976 as a result of the Trade Act of 1974. It is United States largest and oldest trade preference program, eliminating duties on over 4,000 products imported from 120 countries and territories that have been designated as GSP eligible. The program was created to encourage economic growth in the developing world while benefiting the importer with free or reduced duty rates.

Current Status

Currently, the GSP program is expired (as of 12/31/17) but its renewal was passed by the House of Representatives on February 13 by a 400 – 2 vote. Action is now pending in the Senate, and the GSP renewal and Miscellaneous Tariff Bill package are expected to come to a vote soon.

The GSP renewal is expected to extend the provision through the end of 2020 and allow for retroactive GSP duty refunds on any entry eligible for GSP from Jan 1, 2018 until time of renewal.


GSP encourages trade between the United States and various designated beneficiary countries (BDC) such as Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Uzbekistan and includes many least-developed beneficiary developing countries like Cambodia, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia. The full list can be found in the Harmonized Tariff Schedule under the General Notes.

Designating GSP on Import Entries

If the harmonized tariff is eligible for full GSP treatment, regardless of the GSP country, it will be symbolized with an “A” in the Special sub column of the HTS.

But if the harmonized tariff has limitations designated by the President, there will be an “A*” symbol next to the Harmonized Tariff which indicates that certain beneficiary developing countries are not eligible for preferential treatment on that particular classification.

An “A+” designation provides for preferential treatment eligibility for all least-developed beneficiary countries.

Qualification for GSP

For an import to qualify for duty free treatment under GSP, it must meet certain criteria.

  1. The item must be included in the list of GSP-eligible articles
  2. It must be imported directly from a BDC
  3. The BDC must be on the GSP eligible list
  4. The item must be the growth, product or be manufactured in the BDC, meeting the value-added requirement
  5. The importer (or their broker) must request duty free treatment under GSP by correctly indicating the GSP Special Program Indicator before the HTSUS number that applies

Examples of GSP Eligible Items 

  • Garden Umbrellas
    • Duty Free from GSP eligible countries (savings of 6.5%) (A)
  • Travertine, cut into blocks or slabs
    • Duty free from GSP eligible countries, EXCEPT Turkey (A*)
  • Lard
    • Duty free for Least Developed Countries (savings of $.03 @ Kg) (A+)

Ineligible Items

Certain items are automatically ineligible for GSP treatment, including most textiles and apparel, watches, footwear, work gloves and leather apparel. Also import-sensitive steel, glass and electronic articles are not eligible for GSP.

The President can limit a certain product’s eligibility for GSP as well, based on petitions from interested parties on specific products or based on the country of origin of that product.

There are times when a country’s GSP eligibility will be reviewed and the country will “Graduate” from the GSP eligible list. When it is determined that the beneficiary country is a “high-income country” or it has advanced in economic development and trade competitiveness, it will most likely graduate from the list.

GSP in Other Countries

The United States is not the only country that has a GSP program. There are more than 25 industrialized nations that manage their own GSP program and each program varies for each country.

Other Tips for Importers

All importers are encouraged to look into the GSP program and determine if their products are eligible and if there are countries on the designated beneficiary country list from which they currently import or from where they potentially could import.

Do you have questions regarding the GSP program or importing in general? Contact our International Freight Forwarding team by clicking here.


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