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: 2020-07-28

Although most U.S. imports to Guatemala are not affected by tariff and non-tariff barriers, 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 CAFTA-DR
2)    Sanitary and phytosanitary concerns
3)    Product fortification requirements 
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.  These customs practices make U.S. agricultural products less competitive. If you are aware of the customs classification code under CAFTA-DR it is highly recommendable you share that classification with the Guatemalan importer.  

CAFTA-DR countries are applying the most recent classification up to the 10-digit level. Exporters who are aware of shipments encountering these types of problems should contact the Office of Agricultural Affairs at U.S. Embassy Guatemala at  

Please note that although Guatemala recently updated its policy to allow for multiple corrections to the Certification of Origin, it still does not permit rectifications after the 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 it, the shipment will be stopped automatically, and the pallet will be taken for fumigation, which delays entry and increases costs.  
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 here.  If the plant product is not yet approved for shipping from the United States, the importer much apply to the Ministry of Agriculture (MAGA), providing information on the crop management practices.  MAGA will review the application under the phytosanitary requirements set jointly by Guatemala and Honduras, which have harmonized these regulations.  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 Guatemalan government (GOG). 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 MSPAS, which regulates drugs, medical devices and processed food, allows for samples of these items but generally limits processed food samples to 20 Kg. For larger amounts, the law specifies that all processed food products, including processed ingredients, must be registered before they enter the country. For trade shows, the Foreign Agricultural Service can request special permits for samples of larger amounts, but needs several weeks advanced notice.  

Unfortunately, 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 also does not recognize samples for purposes of customs clearance.  The product sample must have a list value in the invoice, or else the shipment could be stopped until the issue is resolved.  

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 

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.