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Making It Easier to Clear Customs in Latin America

April 10, 2014

Diana Alvarez recently completed an internship in the International Trade Administration’s Office of South America.The Look South campaign is encouraging companies to seek export opportunities in Latin America.

More than 40 percent of current U.S. exports go to Mexico, Central America, and South America. Both its geographic proximity and the presence of 11 free trade agreements in the region make these markets attractive for U.S. businesses.

As the U.S. government continues to support businesses expanding in Latin America through the Look South Initiative, one key aspect being addressed is working through potential barriers to trade.

Issues like long customs-clearance times, inconsistent interpretation of customs regulations, and subjectivity of customs inspectors can add to the time and cost of the exporting process. These costs can especially affect small business exporters.

To address these problems, the International Trade Administration is working alongside U.S. Customs and Border Protection, governments across Latin America, and other public and private sector partners on the Customs Modernization and Border Management Reform Program.

This program brings business and government together to discuss the challenges faced at the border and to develop solutions that will make clearing customs easier, faster, and more efficient.

The program began in Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Honduras and has already helped create a simpler and more efficient border-crossing process:

  • Honduras extended its operating hours at many border posts and harmonized them across the many different border agencies.
  • El Salvador eliminated several administrative requirements for express shipments, saving companies time and money.
  • Costa Rica recently launched its one-stop web portal that will allow companies and government agencies to submit and review all customs-related documents in one place.

As part of a second phase of the program, training workshops and dialogues were held in Peru and the Dominican Republic in March, with events in Guatemala and Uruguay scheduled to take place soon.

We’re excited to see more businesses expand to Latin America under the Look South Initiative, and we look forward to being a part of a smoother trade process under the Customs Modernization and Border Management program.

If you’re ready to increase your business’s presence in Latin America, contact your nearest Export Assistance Center or visit export.gov/looksouth.

2 comments

  1. Neighborhood or reginal economic is just the trend.


  2. I would like to see an increased presence of natural dietary supplement makers in these programs. Often, exports tend to be of non-consumable products; however, the increasing globalization dictates that we are going to see (and require) more attention to consumables. People all over the globe want to do basically the same things in life, become healthier, lose weight, upgrade their overall lifestyle, and relate to one another. The Internet is like this for information, now it is good to see that trade is catching up!



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