Guatemala - Country Commercial Guide
Trade Barriers

Includes the barriers (tariff and non-tariff) that U.S. companies face when exporting to this country.

Last published date: 2021-08-10

Most U.S. imports to Guatemala are not impacted 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

Since 2009, 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. These problems have been characterized by the denial of preferential treatment which results in a higher tariff rate, re-classifying or sub-classifying goods that are given a higher tariff rate, and revaluation of products which causes delays and results in additional value-added taxes (VAT). 

If the product is revalued, the product can be held at the port or airport for to 2-4 weeks while information is reviewed. Customs will be implementing a new process starting the second half of 2021 to allow for an expedited 48-hours on-bond release; 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 US Department of Agriculture’s Office at U.S. Embassy Guatemala at mailto:AGGuatemala@usda.gov.  Please note that although Guatemala allows for multiple corrections to the Certification of Origin, rectifications are only permitted 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 Inspection 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, displacing the cargo.

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 the document titles “Requisitos Fitosanitarios Para Estadoe Unidos de Norte America. Union Aduenara Guatemala Honduras.” If the plant product is not yet approved for shipping from the United States, the importer must submit an application 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.

Product Samples

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.

Sanitary and Phytosanitary

Regarding SPS obligations, Guatemala has made significant efforts to meet U.S. trading requirements.  Guatemala granted the U.S. meat inspection system equivalency, as part of CAFTA-DR.  Guatemala accepts the FSIS export certificate as the sole valid document for microbiological, free sale, and sanitary certificates.  Equivalence was strictly negotiated for U.S. meat and meat products, but U.S. eggs do not currently have access to the Guatemalan market.    In 2012, Guatemala approved the MOU between FGIS/GIPSA/USDA and FDA, accepting the U.S. “Export Certificate of Grains” as valid compliance with Guatemalan food safety regulations.

The Ministry of Agriculture removed the requirement for on-site inspections of fisheries and seafood products, and a NOAA export certificate is now enough to export to Guatemala.

Phytosanitary requirements for fresh produce were significantly reduced, and as of June 5, 2018 state specific attestations have been eliminated.  The International Regional Organization of Plant and Animal Health (OIRSA) is responsible for quarantine measures at ports of entry and is mandated to act only when the identified pest appears on the official quarantine pest list which was published in 2015.