Colombia - Commercial Guide
Trade Barriers

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

Last published date: 2019-10-13

Despite the efforts mentioned above to consolidate and simplify its tariff rate schedule, Colombia's numerous economic integration agreements have fostered overlapping tariff applications. For example, a product may be subject to more than ten different duties depending on whether it comes from a member of the Andean Community, the Latin American Integration Agreement, or the Caribbean Community. Approximately 97 percent of the Colombian Harmonized Tariff Schedule (CHTS) products can be imported without an import license, but import tariffs and VAT still apply. Colombia’s harmonized tariff schedule book lists all applicable import duties. U.S. exporters can obtain a copy of the CHTS through the following firms:


Colombia Harmonized Tariff Schedule (CHTS) Contact Information
Lecomex Ltda. Legis S.A.
Calle 98 # 11B-48 Ave. El Dorado # 81-10
Bogotá D.C., Colombia Bogotá D.C., Colombia
Phone: 571-610-9312 | 571-236-1367 Phone: 571-425-5255 | 571-425-5200
Fax: 571-610-7673 Fax: 571-425-5317

Non-Tariff Barriers
Although the implementation of the Unified Portal for Foreign Trade (VUCE) has significantly streamlined the paperwork process for imports and exports, Colombia’s bureaucracy still constitutes a barrier to trade for both local and foreign companies. Pilferage in customs warehouses and robberies of trucks persists, but cases have decreased dramatically.

Colombian customs can detain shipments indefinitely because of improper tariff schedule classification, incorrect address, or even simple typing errors. When mistakes are made by the exporter or importer, the goods may be refused entry into Colombia and be returned at considerable expense to the exporter or importer. Colombian customs statutes provide for significant fines and penalties for light infringement of procedures and errors in freight forwarding documents by customs agencies (Agencias Aduaneras). U.S. freight forwarders and intermediaries are subject to the same sanctions and penalties as Colombia’s agents and brokers.

Non-Tariff Barriers to Agricultural Trade

Ethanol: The Colombian sugar industry has effectively lobbied the Colombian government to pursue protectionist measures, such as the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) decree that prevents ethanol imports except when it determines domestic production falls short.

Import licenses issued by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MINCIT): Most agricultural product import licenses issued by the Ministry of Commerce are issued automatically and are "free". However, there are a number of agricultural products that need pre-approval before the Ministry of Commerce will issue an import permit. These pre-approvals are regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the Ministry of Health and Social Protection (MHSP) through the issuance of a sanitary or phytosanitary certificate for imports.

Import Operations Observers: A 2004 GOC regulatory measure issued by the Ministries of Finance and Trade allows import operations observers from private industry to participate in inspection processes at ports of entry. The observers are specifically allowed to support inspection officials to address “technical contraband” in identifying and understanding product quantities, weights, customs values, and harmonized codes for agricultural products. Observers representing the Colombian meat and poultry industry associations in particular have hampered U.S. meat and poultry exports, causing delays in product nationalization.

Restrictions on U.S. Rough (or Paddy) Rice: On April 15, 2012, the United States and Colombia reached agreement on U.S. rough rice market access under the FTA. The FTA provides access for U.S. rough rice only into the municipality of Barranquilla pending the completion of a pest risk assessment for rice smut disease, conducted by the Colombian Institute of Agriculture and Livestock (ICA). The United States seeks access to all Colombian ports as well as a revision to the methyl bromide fumigation requirement.

Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures: Colombia has removed all Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) restrictions on live cattle, bovine meat, and meat products. However, there are remaining restrictions for live cattle related to requirements for Bovine Leucosis and Blue tongue virus. Market access for bone-i beef products will require the annulment or modification of two decrees (Decree 3755 and Decree 3752 of October 27, 2006) from the Colombian Ministry of Health restricting market access to de-boned beef only, independent of the BSE status of the country of origin. The GOC committed to work on the annulment/modification of the two decrees, but as of now after multiple meetings and high level engagement, the GOC has yet to resolve this issue.

The MHSP issued resolution 4254 establishing the requirements for labeling foods derived from modern biotechnology and for identifying raw materials that are or may contain biotech events. In addition to the resolution, the GOC is developing a Technical Annex to supplement the resolution. The Annex may impact trade due to the potential for asynchronous approvals between biotech events approved for food and feed in the United States versus a new requirement for testing and approval for domestic use in Colombia.

Product Health Registration
All processed retail food items, including products imported in bulk for repackaging for retail use without further processing, must be registered and approved by INVIMA. According to Decree 3075 of 1997, product registration is NOT required for:

  • Products that are not subject to any transformation, such as grains, fruits, fresh vegetable, honey, etc.
  • Products of animal origin not subject to any transformation process.
  • Products used as raw materials by the food industry or Hotel-Restaurant-Institutional (HRI) sector in food preparation.

The MHSP issued the Resolutions 2674 and 71 establishing the risk classification for food products which determines the validity of the Product Registration (5, 7 or 10 years), but only for the applicant (exporter or importer) and the specified manufacturer. The product registration is valid only for the specifications (e.g., product description and size) mentioned in the registration. If another form or presentation of the same product is to be imported, the registering company needs to inform the MHSP regulatory authority, National Institute for Food and Medicine Vigilance (Invima) in writing of the new product.

The INVIMA registration of processed foods requires: (1) completion of the registration form; (2) obtain a Certificate of Legal Representation; and, (3) obtain a Certificate of Free Sale stating that the products are approved for human consumption in the United States. This certificate needs to be issued by a U.S. government (state, local or federal) public health authority. Although not required, the INVIMA registration can be expedited if a description of the manufacturing process and a list of the ingredients is submitted, including any additives, preservatives, and colorings/dyes.
Importer Registration, Import Registration and Import Licensing
Every Colombian importer must be registered with the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade (MINCIT). U.S. exporters seeking to sell to a Colombian firm should ascertain that the Colombian importer has obtained the legal authority to import agricultural products by completing the MINCIT registration process.

Minimal Descriptions
Products entering Colombia shall comply with the minimal descriptions mentioned in Resolution 57 of 2015, issued by the National Tax and Customs Directorate (DIAN). The information requested in the resolution can be accessed from the product HS code, and must be provided in Spanish. For certain products where translation is not applicable, the product must be registered in the original language.
Sanitary Permit
Products used as raw materials by the food industry or HRI sector in food preparation do not need an INVIMA registration, but they do need a sanitary permit from the ICA and comply with the labeling regulations. ICA is responsible for the issuance of import SPS permits for animal products, fresh vegetables and fruits, grains, pet food and agricultural inputs, including seeds. GM seeds for planting must be approved by the inter-ministerial National Technical Committee. The import permit details the zoosanitary and/or SPS requirements.

The request for the zoosanitary certificate issued by ICA must come with complete information to avoid delays and possible rejections. The ICA authorities specifically request: Port of Departure (e.g. Miami, USA), Destination (complete address and city in Colombia), and Trip (e.g. Miami to Barranquilla, if travel is direct, or Miami to Dominican Republic to Barranquilla).

The Colombian importer must first obtain the import permit from ICA before requesting an import license from the MINCIT. The importer should provide the exporter with the ICA import permit so the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) can reference the permit with bilateral compliance agreements. The USDA then issues a sanitary export certificate referencing the requirements in ICA’s import permit. No shipments should be loaded and transported without the submission of the sanitary permit.

For ICA approval, the product must: 

  • Be free of disease;
  • Be inspected by an ICA veterinarian upon arrival in Colombia. Usually the shipment is inspected at the port by both INVIMA and ICA to verify the compliance with the import regulations and sanitary requirements.
  • Be inspected by USDA prior to its shipment and include the USDA health export certificate; and,
  • Come from a USDA inspected facility that is registered with INVIMA;

Health Certificates
The health certificates must be issued by a competent authority involved in food safety regulation, including federal, state and, in some cases, municipal entities. The health certificate must state that the food products in the shipment are suitable for human consumption. Products referred to as “high risk” in Article 3, Decree 3075 of 1997 need to present the certificate of the: FSIS and/or FDA.
For those groups of foods and raw materials that are not considered “high risk”, INVIMA requires the following documentation/information to be included with the shipment: suitability of the product for human consumption; manufacturer’s name; name of the exporting country; product name; and batch identification. Such information can be obtained through the Certificate of Free Sale issued by the competent authority and supported with a manufacturer’s quality statement and/or analysis certificate that identifies the product names and batch or lot identification.

Export Establishment Registration
Colombia and the United States have an agreement that provides import eligibility of meat and poultry products with a packaging origin from any USDA federally inspected establishment. The GOC will only recognize those establishments that are listed in the USDA FSIS Meat and Poultry Inspection Directory. As well, beef products must also originate from establishments approved under the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Export Verification Program (EV) In order to register with INVIMA, exporting establishments must provide the following information:

  • Address
  • Country of Origin
  • Email address
  • Establishment Name
  • Establishment Number
  • Products that will be exported to Colombia

Additional Sanitary Registration Requirements
U.S. exporters should be aware that sanitary registration must also be obtained for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, household insecticides and similar products. The registration with INVIMA must be obtained before exporting the products to Colombia and the procedure takes between three to six months. Colombia requires sanitary registration for both locally manufactured and imported products. For more information contact:

National Institute for Food and Medicine Vigilance (Invima)
Deputy Directorate for Licenses and Registry
Carrera 68D # 17-21 Bogotá DC, Colombia
Phone: 571-294-8700
Fax: 571-294-8700 ext. 3930

For more information and help with trade barriers please contact:
International Trade Administration
Enforcement and Compliance
Phone: 202-482-0063