El Salvador - Country Commercial Guide
Import Tariffs

Includes information on average tariff rates and types that U.S. firms should be aware of when exporting to the market.

Last published date: 2021-11-05


There are few trade barriers that affect the imports of manufactured goods, but El Salvador does maintain some barriers to services.  For example, notaries must be Salvadoran and certain professionals, such as architects, must be licensed locally.

El Salvador’s customs processes do not promote expeditious movement of goods across borders: clearance procedures are non-transparent (generally unavailable online), its advance-ruling system is unpredictable (waits of 180-240 days), and there is no appeals process in case of valuation disputes.

Rice and pork are both subject to import quota systems and 40% duties.  Rice millers are required to buy rice locally.  When there is insufficient local supply, the Ministry of Agriculture allows imports under the quota, and after the import quota has been exhausted, if there is still a need for imported rice, rough or milled rice can be freely imported, subject to a 40% duty.  Pork importers face a similar arrangement, to first buy locally, then resort to imports, subject to a 40% duty.   Under CAFTA-DR, El Salvador committed to a 15-year phase-out of all tariffs on pork, except for bacon and most offal, which gained immediate duty-free access.

Only a fixed part of the tariff-rate quota (TRQ) will remain subject to a performance requirement, which will be eliminated in 15 years (2021).  Tariffs for rice will be eliminated in 18 years (2024), except in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

El Salvador has used sanitary standards to prevent import of raw poultry and eggs.  In 2009, the CAFTA-DR poultry quota was expanded to El Salvador and U.S. poultry is now imported into the country.  After long discussions with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture (MAG), USDA/FAS managed to have U.S. lamb and veal accepted under the CAFTA-DR sanitary inspection system equivalence granted to U.S. pork, beef, and poultry, thus avoiding the plant-by-plant inspection requirement. USDA/FAS has also received approval from MAG to accept the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) export certificates for products containing small quantities of egg. In the first quarter of 2021, USDA/FAS, in collaboration with the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), negotiated approval for U.S. table eggs.  The FSIS export requirements for El Salvador have been updated accordingly and now reflect the new import protocol for these products.

The Salvadoran Government requires that rice shipments be fumigated at importers’ cost unless they are accompanied by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certificate stating that the rice is free of Tilletia Barclayana.  However, since there is no chemical treatment that is both practical and effective against this plant pathogen, USDA cannot issue these certificates.  El Salvador failed to notify the WTO, as required under CAFTA-DR, on the application of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures when it imposed this requirement.  The CAFTA-DR chapter on SPS measures further states that the signatory countries accept each other’s mechanisms for inspection.

In 2013 and again in 2014, the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly passed decrees allowing the government to purchase local maize and bean seeds without adhering to the Salvadoran Public Procurement Law (LACAP) and CAFTA-DR Chapter 9 government procurement commitments. In 2015, the Ministry of Agriculture reviewed their seed giveaway program to comply with CAFTA-DR. The Terms of Reference for the purchase of maize seeds were updated to accommodate non-local providers.  According to the “Special and Transitory Disposals to Promote the Production of Basic Grains” decree, a committee will review all tenders and make recommendations to the Ministry of Agriculture (MAG) responsible for the final resolution.  For the 2018 program, the committee reviewed all tenders and made purchase recommendations to MAG which selected only local providers. Currently MAG continues to draft technical specifications that are only met by local seeds and continues to purchase from local providers.

Since the year 2013 the Ministry of Agriculture requires plant’by’plant inspections to be able to import seafood from the United States and any part of the world. In order to conduct plant inspections, the Salvadoran government requires an official invitation from the government of the country where the plant is operating. Since the U.S. Government does not issue official invitations to do plant-by-plant inspections, U.S. seafood companies have had great difficulties exporting seafood to El Salvador. However, bilateral efforts made by USDA/FAS and DOC/NOAA to allow the importation of U.S. seafood were successfully conducted and in the first quarter of 2019 Salvadoran health authorities decided to grant admissibility to U.S. born and raised seafood.  USDA/FAS and DOC/NOAA will continue negotiating with the GOES to gain access for all seafood exported form the U.S., including third country sourced product.


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Alternative Dispute Resolution

Each Party shall, to the maximum extent possible, encourage and facilitate the use of arbitration and other means of alternative dispute resolution for the settlement of international commercial disputes between private parties in the free trade area; to this end, each Party shall provide appropriate procedures to ensure observance of agreements to arbitrate and for the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards in such disputes.

The Commission may establish an Advisory Committee on Private Commercial Disputes comprising persons with expertise or experience in the resolution of private international commercial disputes.