Textiles, interior textiles and carpets: international trade regulations

Regulations for importing or exporting textiles or carpets - including special rules on textile labelling - and where to get help and advice.


This guide explains how the textiles sector is made up, what the key drivers are, and provides statistics for textile imports and exports. You will find information on export licences and how to research an export country, as well as how to classify your goods and find the tariffs, quotas and licences required for importing textiles. In addition to regulations governing exports and imports of textiles, the guide provides access to a database of domestic regulations.

Find commodity codes and other measures applying to imports and exports by accessing the online UK Trade Tariff tool.

See the guide on classifying textile apparel for help and advice.

Export regulations in the textiles sector

Regulations, charges or other restrictions may apply to textiles exports as they leave the UK and when they arrive at their destination country. It is important that you research both sides of the transaction.

For more information, see the guides on exporting your goods from the European Union (EU) to a third country and dispatching your goods within the EU.

First, you need to classify your goods. Use of standardised classification codes makes it easier to check if any restrictions or charges apply. You can use the Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom to classify your goods. For more information, see the guide on classification of goods.

Find commodity codes and other measures applying to imports and exports by accessing the online UK Trade Tariff tool.

Remember that in general it is much simpler to trade with other EU countries than with those outside it. This is because the goods are in free circulation. The EU is a single market and the UK is in a customs union, so you can export to other EU countries without restriction (although some local charges may still apply).

Authorised Economic Operator status

In response to increased security requirements, HMRC has introduced a new status for businesses - Authorised Economic Operator (AEO). While the scheme is not compulsory, companies that meet the requirements of the scheme will be registered as AEOs and can take advantage of simplified customs procedures that relate to the security and safety of their goods in transit.

See the guide on Authorised Economic Operators.

Export licensing and certification

An export licence is required in order to export specified goods with potential military uses. The list of goods requiring a licence does not include any textiles products, although you may require an export licence for goods with a potential military use, eg clothing or textiles with signature suppression capabilities. You should initially consult the UK Strategic Export Control List to find out if you need a licence for your goods.

Read about strategic export controls in the guide to the Export Control Organisation. This includes further guidance about how to determine if your goods require an export licence issued by the ECO as well as guidance on types of licences available and other licensing considerations, such as end-use concerns.

For information on export licences, see the guide on Do you need an export licence.

You will need an export licence to dispatch or export from the UK any article of clothing or any article manufactured from textiles and textiles in the length or piece - excluding any carpet or tapestry (“tapestry” for the purposes of export licensing means a fabric with a non-repetitive pattern woven in during making) - that is over 50 years old and valued at £12,000 or more. The Export Licensing Unit at the Arts Council handles these applications. Read guidance on export licensing on the Arts Council website.

Download guidance on the type of licence you need to export antique textiles from the Arts Council website (PDF, 195KB).

Exporting goods for processing

You may be able to obtain relief from customs duties when you re-import European Community (EC) goods that have previously been exported from the EC for processing. Outward Processing Relief (OPR) enables you to claim relief from customs duty if you can show that the exported goods were used in the products or are incorporated into the products being imported.

Before you can claim duty relief under OPR, however, you must be authorised to use the arrangements. Read notice 235 on OPR on the HMRC website and see the guide on OPR.

Researching your export destination in the textiles sector

You should thoroughly research your export destination country when planning to export.

There are a number of issues that you ought to consider. As a starting point you may wish to seek advice from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). Find your local international trade team on the UKTI website.

There are also various ways that you can research a potential export destination. These include trade associations.

You can use the UK Trade Tariff to check:

  • special conditions such as prohibitions on your products
  • licensing restrictions and requirements
  • rates of duty payable when your goods enter your export market

Find commodity codes and other measures applying to imports and exports by accessing the online UK Trade Tariff tool.

You should also consider product safety and other technical standards in your export market. Your goods may need to be adapted to comply with these. Rules in your export market may be less or more strict than in the UK.

You can ask for information about your export destination country from a range of organisations, including:

  • your local UKTI trade team
  • your UKTI team within the commercial section of the UK embassy in your destination country
  • textiles and carpet sector trade associations
  • the Chambers of Commerce in your destination country

UKTI is a government organisation that supports UK businesses trading internationally and overseas enterprises seeking to set up or expand in the UK. UKTI has an impartial global presence in countries throughout the world and helps businesses realise their international potential through knowledge transfer and ongoing partnership support.

You should also be aware of any sanctions and embargoes which apply to your intended export destination. For more information see the guide on sanctions, embargoes and restrictions. For restrictions in specific countries, see the guide on current arms embargoes and other restrictions.

Tariffs and duties in the textiles sector

There is a range of import-specific regulations that must be complied with by all businesses in this sector. The key issues relate to the Tariff, duties, Intrastat and intellectual property.

Using the Integrated Tariff

A common customs tariff is charged by all EU countries on goods imported from outside the EU. You can find details of specific tariffs in the Integrated Tariff of the United Kingdom.

Find commodity codes and other measures applying to imports and exports by accessing the online UK Trade Tariff tool

Government sources of help and information

In addition to UKTI, other government bodies that provide business support in the textiles sector include:

Textiles sector trade associations and other bodies

Find trade associations for the textile industry on the Trade Association Forum website.

Further information

HMRC Tariff Classification Email Advice Service

You can email for advice on non-legally binding tariff classification commodity codes. You should include the information detailed in the annex of the Customs Information Paper 27 (2015).

UK Trade & Investment Enquiry Line

020 7215 8000

International trade team search on the UKTI website

Download cultural goods export guidance from the Arts Council website (PDF, 195KB)

Trade data access information on the uktradeinfo website

Export restriction checker on the BIS Goods Checker website (registration required)

Textiles sector details on the UKTI website

Export licensing information on the Arts Council website

Guidance note to the Textile Products (Labelling and Fibre Composition) Regulations 2012 on the BIS website (PDF, 192KB

Trade association search on the Trade Association Forum website

Published 1 August 2012
Last updated 13 June 2013 + show all updates
  1. Fixing references to specialist guides
  2. First published.