Advances in Guatemala – El Salvador customs union

Foreign Trade and Integration Deputy Ministers Enrique Lacs, of Guatemala, and Luz Estrella Rodríguez, of El Salvador, met from 7 to 11 November 2016 in the fourth round of negotiations to discuss regulations on integrated controls and procedures for border posts between the two countries (Central America Data). Negotiation teams discussed customs, migration, security and health measures (El Economista). The Guatemala-El Salvador customs union represents part of a plan that came out of a June 2016 meeting of the Sistema de la Integración Centroamericana to move towards a regional customs union for Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Belize and Panama (El Economista).

Over 400 Brazilian firms refuse to export to Venezuela

According to a study published by Folha de S.Paulo on 6 November 2016, at least 449 Brazilian firms have refused to export their products to Venezuela due to the growing difficulty in receiving payments for their exports. The study, based on data from the government and the business community, reported that exports from Brazil to Venezuela have fallen by 61 percent since January 2016 (Globovisión). In October 2016, exports from Brazil to Venezuela reached US$980 million, their lowest level since 2003, compared to highs of US$5 billion in annual exports between 2008 and 2010. Folha de S.Paulo also noted Venezuela fell from the seventh-largest recipient of Brazilian exports to the 37th-largest recipient (El Nacional). 

Colombian Commerce Minister to visit Panama to address tariff dispute

Colombia’s Commerce, Industrial and Tourism Minister María Claudia Lacouture will visit Panama on 22 November 2016 to negotiate with the Panamanian government over Colombia's plans to reduce tariffs on products imported from the Colón Free Trade Zone (ZLC) (La Prensa, 3 November 2016). The tariffs, which previously failed to comply with World Trade Organization (WTO) standards, were reduced as part of two separate decrees, including one to combat contraband (Publimetro). Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela announced he will address the tariff crisis with Colombia during a Cabinet meeting on 8 November (La Prensa). In 2012, Colombia applied a 10 percent tariff on footwear and textiles from the ZLC, leading to a lawsuit from Panama, in which the WTO ruled in Panama's favor (Publimetro).