Digital Platforms in Central America

MULTILATERAL PROJECTS TEAM

From the Multilateral Projects unit, we have successfully concluded the management of the contract: “Technical Assistance Services in Customs Matters.” We initiated our Technical Assistance in August 2019, formally concluding in January 2023, with these additional months allocated to administrative and financial closure.

Our activities have been encompassed within the INTEC project – Central American Regional Economic Integration – which began in March 2017 and has been primarily funded by the European Union, with an allocated amount of 22.5 million Euros. This project demonstrates the commitment of the countries and the European Union to Central American economic integration, being one of the flagship programs for the European Union in the region.

The INTEC project has aimed to strengthen economic integration in Central America, maximizing the benefits of the Association Agreement with Europe and contributing to reducing regional obstacles related to competitiveness and diversification. All of this facilitates trade and increases the capacity to market goods and services.

Our direct counterpart has been SIECA – the Secretariat for Central American Economic Integration – a technical and administrative body that serves as a link for actions by other Secretariats of the Economic Subsystem and supports and accompanies all countries in Central America.

THE INTEC PROJECT

The activities of the INTEC project have been aligned with the Central American Strategy for Trade and Competitiveness Facilitation, the Roadmap for the Central American Customs Union, and the WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement.

Three key components were established:

  1. Modernization and convergence of the regional regulatory framework, roadmap for the Central American customs union, implementation of the commitments of the association agreement between Central America and the European Union, and opportunities through the internationalization process of companies with export potential.
  2. Regional technological infrastructure for the facilitation of Central American trade.
  3. Strengthening Central American capacity for the trade of goods and services to take advantage of the benefits of the association agreement.

The scope has covered Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama, with the program’s target group being SIECA, the public sector, and the private sector of the region.

Throughout these years, our technical assistance has supported the process by carrying out numerous activities, such as developing computer tools and electronic transmission of the Central American Single Declaration (DUCA); supporting the update of the Central American Computerized Tariff; strengthening the implementation of digital platforms in customs matters; computer assistant to provide responses to DUCA-T users (“Chatbot”); updating and improving the website for the administration of regional import and export quotas under the Association Agreement between the European Union and Central America; strengthening the statistical information structure and creating websites at SIECA; designing proposals for regional monitoring of comprehensive risk management; analyzing administrative and operational procedures at Trade Facilitation Centers and peripheral customs, etc.

CHALLENGES FACED

Various challenges and obstacles have been faced in the implementation phase, sometimes exacerbated by particularly difficult moments and conditions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. By joining efforts with management units and countries, obstacles have been overcome, resulting in technical contributions that can be quantified by the relevance of the covered areas, their strategic importance for the development of Central American economic integration, and their multidisciplinary and cross-cutting scope.

The support and contribution of technical activities have directly enhanced the effective and efficient use of information and communication technologies through the development of digital platforms. Likewise, instruments for analysis and diagnosis in regulatory matters have been provided, allowing the review and update of administrative procedures in customs and foreign trade. Common activity harmonization and better management of available resources for the involved countries have been achieved.

Thanks to the Central American digital trade platform, trade is facilitated, customs procedures are accelerated, and regional integration is deepened. Similarly, promoting digital trade facilitates entrepreneurs’ transition to digitization and selling without intermediaries. Technical assistance for export is crucial to capitalize on markets opened by the association agreement.

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