Most U.S. imports to Guatemala are not plagued by tariff and non-tariff barriers, but there are still issues encountered by some importers of U.S. agricultural and food products. These issues include: 1) Customs practices related to the implementation of the Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA-DR); 2) Sanitary and phytosanitary concerns; 3) Product fortification requirements; and 4) Product samples.
Customs Implementation of CAFTA-DR
Importers of U.S. food, agricultural products, equipment, and goods have increasingly encountered issues resulting from the denial of preferential treatment for U.S. origin goods, as well as accusations from Customs of under-declaring the value of products. Customs manages a 3-month price reference database to calculate revaluation of products, which causes delays and results in additional value-added taxes (VAT).
Customs allows for an expedited 48-hours on-bond release when the merchandise is flagged for valuation; valuation analysis will be done after the importation. Guatemala has updated product classification under CAFTA-DR up to the 10-digit level. Exporters of agricultural products who encounter problems when exporting to Guatemala should contact the Office of Agricultural Affairs at U.S. Embassy Guatemala at AGGuatemala@usda.gov. Please note that although Guatemala allows for multiple corrections to the Certification of Origin, these can only be done during importation.
Sanitary and Phytosanitary Concerns
A common reason that shipments are detained at port in Guatemala is when the wood pallets do not have the ISPM-15 stamp. The Ministry of Agriculture’s Phytosanitary Quarantine Service –OIRSA- will always inspect containers to check that wood pallets have the mark. If one wood pallet is found without the mark, the shipment will be stopped automatically, and the pallet will be taken for fumigation. If a pallet or pallets need to be fumigated, the cargo will be on hold for 72 hours, while the pallet is treated.
All plant products, including fruits and vegetables, must be approved for market access. A list of products that currently have market access in Guatemala can be found in Ministry of Agriculture’s website. If the plant product is not yet approved for shipping from the United States, the importer must apply to the Ministry of Agriculture (MAGA) for evaluation; this process takes at least 6 months.
Product Fortification Requirements
Requirements for product fortification have been in place for many years. The requirements are part of the nutritional efforts carried out by the Government of Guatemala. The Central American and Panama Nutrition Institute (INCAP) oversees fortification standards for the region, and evaluates ingredients intended for fortification. Examples of typically fortified products are corn and wheat flours (minerals), sugar (vitamin A), salt (iodine), and milk including baby formulas.
The Ministry of Health, which regulates drugs, medical devices, and processed food, allows for samples of foods and beverages, but limits samples to 20 Kg. For larger amounts, the importer in Guatemala needs to submit a letter to get authorization for more than 20 Kg samples. For trade shows, the Foreign Agricultural Service can request special permits for samples of larger amounts but needs several weeks of advanced notice.
MAGA, which regulates all meat and dairy, whether processed or not, plus all plants, fruits, and vegetables, does not allow samples. Therefore, if a U.S. exporter would like to send a sample of these types of products to a customer, the product will have to come as a commercial shipment with its corresponding paperwork, including U.S. certification.
Customs does not recognize samples for purposes of customs clearance; therefore, samples must be listed with the commercial value of the product.
Exporters should refrain from sending any extra products that are not listed on the invoice to fill the shipment, or it could cause delays at the port.
EU Geographical Indications
The Association Agreement (AA) with the European Union (EU) came into effect for Guatemala on December 1, 2013. The EU requested registration of 114 geographical indications (GIs) for various cheeses and liquors under the AA.
Guatemalan administrative authorities issued rulings on applications to register GI names that appear to be reasonable replacements for compound GI names. According to 2014 rulings on single-name GIs, there are prohibitions to commercialize gorgonzola or fontina, as they are protected due to lack of record of use in country. The following common name cheeses, among others, can be commercialized without restrictions: parmesan, provolone, mozzarella, brie, camembert, and Emmental. This is considered public information; U.S. firms can find specifics for any other indications by contacting the Foreign Agricultural Service or the IP Registry Office at the Ministry of Economy.
SPS and TBT Commitments
Sanitary and Phytosanitary