Guidance

Trade with Central America

How you import from and export to the Central American countries.

UK-Central America association agreement

The UK has signed an association agreement with 6 Central American countries, which is in effect.

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 covered by the UK-Central America association agreement. 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 human rights.

Tariff rates on goods

Tariff rates for bilateral trade in goods between the UK and the Central American countries continue to apply as set out in the agreement. 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.

Tariff rate quotas

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

To find out the 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 origin declaration, you will need to fill in a certificate of origin to claim preferential treatment.

The UK continues to use the EUR1 format for movement certificates with trade partners that have mutual FTAs with the EU, including the Central American countries. These movement certificates are identical to those previously in use, but the place of origin on the certificate is now marked as the United Kingdom instead of the European Community. EUR1 certificates of origin that have been updated to show the UK are now available from your usual provider, such as the chambers of commerce.

If you previously used the EUR1 form with a mutual EU trading partner, you can use the new EUR1 form that shows the UK as the place of origin.

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

You can 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 that the other relevant conditions are met.

For example, you cannot 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 is also 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 are not subject to the same restrictions as those in transit through other third countries.

For example, you can 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 origin quotas.

Goods in transit and retrospective certificates of origin

If your goods were in transit when the EU-Central America association agreement ceased to apply to the UK, you can obtain a retrospective certificate of origin. This shows that the goods originated in the UK and are eligible for preferential terms if your goods arrived on, or within four months after, the UK-Central America association agreement started to apply.

You can get retrospective certificates of origin from your usual provider.

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

Further information

Find further guidance on exporting.

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 for your business.

Contact

If you have queries about trade, contact the Department for International Trade (DIT).

Should you wish to speak to someone directly, 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 10 February 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated following a content review.

  2. 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.

  3. First published.