Guidance

Trade with Central America from 1 January 2021

How you import from and export to the Central American countries will change from 1 January 2021.

New rules for January 2021

The UK has left the EU, and the transition period after Brexit comes to an end this year.

This page tells you what you'll need to do from 1 January 2021. It will be updated if anything changes.

You can also read about the transition period.

UK-Central America association agreement

The UK has signed an association agreement with 6 Central American countries.

The Central American countries covered by this agreement are:

  • Costa Rica
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama

This guidance provides information on aspects of trade that will change as soon as the UK-Central America association agreement takes effect. It is for UK businesses trading with the Central American countries.

What the agreement includes

This association agreement includes provisions on:

  • trade in goods - including provisions on preferential tariffs, tariff rate quotas, rules of origin and sanitary and phytosanitary measures
  • trade in services
  • intellectual property, including geographical indications
  • government procurement

It replicates wider elements of the EU-Central America agreement such as provisions on political dialogue and other forms of cooperation, including on human rights.

Import tariff rates on goods

Tariff rates for bilateral trade in goods between the UK and the Central American countries will continue to apply as soon as the agreement takes effect. However, in some cases, the non-preferential applied rates may in fact be lower because of changes in the UK’s Most Favoured Nation tariff schedule.

You can use online tools trade with the UK and check how to export goods to check product-specific and country-specific information on tariffs and regulations that currently apply to UK trade in goods. These tools are regularly updated to reflect any changes.

Import tariff rate quotas

Tariff rate quotas in the agreement have been tailored specifically to the UK.

To find out the new tariff rate quotas, see tables 3 and 4 of the parliamentary report.

Rules of Origin

Claiming preferential rates for your exports from the UK

Unless you are permitted to provide an invoice declaration, you will need to fill in a certificate of origin to claim preferential treatment.

Updated certificates of origin will be available as soon as the agreement takes effect from your usual provider, for example chambers of commerce. Certificates will look very similar to those currently in use. They will show the UK as the place of origin rather than the EU.

If you currently use an EUR1 form, you will continue to do so.

Using EU materials and processing in your exports to the Central American countries

You can continue to use EU materials or processing in your exports to the Central American countries. The UK and Central American countries must have fulfilled the necessary requirement set out in the Rules of Origin Protocol. You must also ensure the working or processing you do in the UK goes beyond the minimal operations listed in the agreement and the other relevant conditions are met.

For example, you will not be able to simply package or label a product from the EU and export it to the Central American countries as a good originating in the UK.

The ability to consider materials from, or processing carried out in, another country as originating when incorporated into your product is called cumulation.

Using materials from other countries in your exports to the Central American countries

It will also be possible to use materials from the other countries and territories referenced in Article 3 of the Rules of Origin Protocol. Again, you must ensure that the working or processing you do in the UK goes beyond the minimal operations listed in the agreement and the other relevant conditions are fulfilled.

Sending your goods to the Central American countries through the EU and other countries

Goods transited through the EU will not be subject to the same restrictions as those in transit through other third countries.

For example, you will be able to split a consignment in the EU when exporting goods to the Central American countries, provided the goods comprising the consignment have not been entered into free circulation in the EU.

Transit through any other third country is possible provided your goods remain under customs surveillance and do not undergo operations other than unloading, reloading or any operation designed to preserve them in good condition.

Origin quotas

Origin quotas in the agreement have been tailored specifically to the UK.

Please see table 5 listed in the agreement Parliamentary Report, which details the new origin quotas.

Goods in transit and retrospective certificates of origin

If you expect goods to be in transit when the EU-Central America association agreement ceases to apply to the UK, you can obtain a retrospective certificate of origin. This will show that the goods originated in the UK and are eligible for preferential terms if your goods arrive on, or within four months after, the UK-Central America association agreement starts to apply.

You can get retrospective certificates of origin from your usual provider as soon as the agreement takes effect.

Geographical indications

Geographical indications (GIs) protect the geographical names of food, drink and agricultural products.

Both the UK and the Central American countries existing GIs remain covered by this agreement.

The following UK GIs, including ‘transborder GIs’ that relate to the territory of both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, are protected in this agreement:

  • Scotch whisky
  • Irish whisky/Irish whiskey/Uisce Beatha Eireannach
  • Irish Cream

When the agreement will take effect

The agreement is intended to take effect from 1 January 2021 (or as soon as possible thereafter).

Further information

Find further guidance on exporting to Central American countries from 1 January 2021.

From 1 January 2021, the Northern Ireland Protocol will come into effect. Find out how the Northern Ireland Protocol could affect your business.

Freight forwarding may save you time and money if you’re exporting large volumes of goods or high value items by sea or air freight. Find out more about freight forwarders.

This guidance is for information only. You should consult your legal advisers if you wish to ensure you understand the legal implications of trading from 1 January 2021 for your business.

Contact

If you have queries about trade from 1 January 2021 contact the Department for International Trade (DIT).

Should you wish to speak to someone face to face, we have local trade offices based around the UK. Within each office you can contact an international trade advisor. Find your local trade office.

Published 8 August 2019
Last updated 4 November 2020 + show all updates
  1. Page updated to provide detailed guidance on how to trade with Central America from 1 January 2021. This includes information on import tariff rates and rules of origin.

  2. First published.