Trade Profile

flag El Salvador El Salvador: Trade Profile

Foreign Trade in Figures

El Salvador is open to international trade, which represented 84% of GDP in 2021. Trade has been supported by the privatisation of most sectors, as well as by the promotion of the country's textile production, tourism and international port services. However, El Salvador relies on the U.S. for foreign trade, making their situation somewhat volatile. The country's main exports include various clothing articles (21.6%), articles for the conveyance or packaging of goods (4.1%), electrical capacitors (3.8%), cane or beet sugar (3.5%), and toilet paper (3.4%). Main imports include petroleum oils (9.5%), petroleum gas (2.8%), medicaments (2.8%), automatic data-processing machines (2.5%), and telephone sets (2.4%). According to IMF Foreign Trade Forecasts, the volume of exports of goods and services increased by an estimated 8.4% in 2022 and is expected to increase by 4.9% in 2023, while the volume of imports of goods and services increased by an estimated 3.9% in 2022 and is expected to increase by 2% in 2023.

The country's main trade partners are the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, China, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. El Salvador has very few trade barriers affecting the export of products manufactured in the country, but there are some barriers in services. The Government actively promotes exports from the country's small and medium-sized enterprises. Finally, a master plan between El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua for the Fonseca Gulf was presented in 2019; it includes ferries between key cities as well as implementation of a logistics park, a free trade zone and a sustainable tourism hub. El Salvador is a CACM member, and has trade agreements with the EU, Mexico, Colombia, Taiwan, Panama, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.

The country has a structurally negative trade balance, which reached USD 8.2 billion in 2021 - a trend that is expected to continue during the next decade. In 2021, El Salvador exported USD 6,6 billion worth of goods, while imports reached USD 15 billion. Concerning the trade of services, imports amounted to USD 2.1 billion in 2021, while exports totalled USD 3,1 billion.

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20182019202020212022
Imports of Goods (million USD) 11,46411,6029,88814,61717,108
Exports of Goods (million USD) 5,9055,9054,8056,3957,115
Imports of Services (million USD) 1,9472,0121,4532,2992,778
Exports of Services (million USD) 2,8293,3092,1543,1794,406
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 34-15291
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 28-252910
Trade Balance (million USD) -5,640-5,709-5,025-8,009-9,569
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 7676668187
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 4746425256
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 2930242831

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - Latest available data.

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Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2022
United States 39.2%
Guatemala 17.1%
Honduras 16.7%
Nicaragua 7.0%
Costa Rica 4.3%
See More Countries 15.8%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2022
United States 29.8%
China 16.6%
Guatemala 9.9%
Mexico 8.2%
Honduras 5.6%
See More Countries 29.8%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

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Main Products

7.1 bn USD of products exported in 2022
T-shirts, singlets and other vests, knitted or...T-shirts, singlets and other vests, knitted or crocheted 11.5%
Jerseys, pullovers, cardigans, waistcoats and...Jerseys, pullovers, cardigans, waistcoats and similar articles, knitted or crocheted (excl. wadded waistcoats) 7.4%
Articles for the conveyance or packaging of goods,...Articles for the conveyance or packaging of goods, of plastics; stoppers, lids, caps and other closures, of plastics 4.4%
Electrical capacitors, fixed, variable or...Electrical capacitors, fixed, variable or adjustable "pre-set"; parts thereof 3.7%
Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in...Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in solid form 3.2%
See More Products 69.7%
17.1 bn USD of products imported in 2022
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous...Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (excl. crude); preparations containing >= 70% by weight of petroleum oils or of oils obtained from bituminous minerals, these oils being the basic constituents of the preparations, n.e.s.; waste oils containing mainly petroleum or bituminous minerals 12.4%
Petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbonsPetroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons 3.1%
Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed...Medicaments consisting of mixed or unmixed products for therapeutic or prophylactic uses, put up in measured doses "incl. those in the form of transdermal administration" or in forms or packings for retail sale (excl. goods of heading 3002, 3005 or 3006) 2.8%
Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular...Telephone sets, incl. telephones for cellular networks or for other wireless networks; other apparatus for the transmission or reception of voice, images or other data, incl. apparatus for communication in a wired or wireless network [such as a local or wide area network]; parts thereof (excl. than transmission or reception apparatus of heading 8443, 8525, 8527 or 8528) 2.2%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 1.9%
See More Products 77.6%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 

To go further, check out our service Import Export Flows

 
 

Main Services

3.4 bn USD of services exported in 2022
54.73%
17.61%
8.45%
7.41%
5.03%
3.14%
1.99%
1.47%
0.18%
n/a%
2.5 bn USD of services imported in 2022
45.62%
22.76%
9.97%
6.86%
4.88%
4.58%
3.00%
1.22%
0.66%
0.29%
0.17%

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

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Commercial Policy

International Economic Cooperation
Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
Member of Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTTA)

Signatory of CAFTA-DR Trade Agreement

Member of Central American Common Market (CACM)

Member of Central America Four (CA-4)

Assessment of Commercial Policy
Country’s commercial policy
Barriers to exchanges
Average Customs Duty (Excluding Agricultural Products)
5.85%
 
 

Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
International Economic Cooperation
Member of Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTTA)

Signatory of CAFTA-DR Trade Agreement

Member of Central American Common Market (CACM)

Member of Central America Four (CA-4)

Useful Resources
Directorate General of Customs
 
 
 

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Latest Update: November 2023