El Salvador - Country Commercial Guide
Trade Barriers
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There are some trade barriers affecting the import of goods and services to El Salvador. For services, notaries must be Salvadoran, and architects must be licensed locally.

Rice is subject to import quota systems and 40% duties. Rice millers are required to buy rice locally but when there is insufficient local supply, the Ministry of Agriculture allows imports under the quota without duties, and after the import quota has been exhausted, rough or milled rice can be imported subject to a 40% duty. Tariffs for rice will be eliminated at the 18-year mark (2024), except in Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.

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 no chemical treatment is practical and effective against this plant pathogen, USDA cannot issue these certificates. El Salvador failed to notify the WTO 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 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 its seed giveaway program to comply with CAFTA-DR and the Terms of Reference for purchasing 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. Currently, MAG continues to draft technical specifications only met by local seeds and continues to purchase from local providers.

In 2018, the Ministry of Agriculture began accepting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Seafood Inspection Program (SIP) certificates for grown and raised U.S. seafood. However, the Ministry of Agriculture continues to refuse acceptance of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Seafood Inspection Program certificates for products sourced from foreign locations. 

On August 17, 2021, the Legislative Assembly passed amendments to the Credit History Law. The amendments maintain data localization requirements mandating credit bureaus and economic agents that report on credit history to store data and its backup exclusively in El Salvador and grant unrestricted access to the Central Bank and the Superintendence of the Financial System.

On October 26, 2021, El Salvador’s legislature enacted the Creation Law of the Energy, Hydrocarbons, and Mines General Directorate (DGEHM); which started operating in November 2022. The General Directorate is responsible for dictating the national energy policy and proposing amendments to energy legislation and by-laws, as well as implementing the energy policy. To date, the President of the state-owned power company (CEL) serves as the Director General of the new entity. Industry stakeholders are concerned about the potential conflict of interest that would result from CEL making energy policy and participating in the sector as state owned enterprise.