When your business expands, you may consider importing and exporting goods as the next step. Bolivia is a resource rich country, benefitting from its geographical location within the Andean Community. Its gross domestic product (GDP) was US$39 billion in 2019 according to the World Bank. Before expanding, understanding import and export regulations in Bolivia is necessary to ensure legal compliance and positive economic returns.
Bolivia’s economy has been growing in the last few years, mainly due to its exports of commodities such as natural gas, silver, zinc and soy. Another important sector is the manufacturing industry which corresponds to 14-15% of Bolivia’s gross domestic product annually.
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Imports and exports in Bolivia
Bolivia has signed regional, sub-regional and bilateral trade agreements with the goal of opening the country to foreign investors. These agreements create new and favourable regional import and export regulations for Bolivia, making it more investor friendly.
This legal framework sparks the interest of new investors to Bolivia, a country with manageable risk levels. According to the World Integrated Trade Solution, Bolivia’s openness to foreign trade generates export volumes that represent 26% of its GDP and imports representing 31.1% of its GDP.
Major Bolivian exports are petroleum gas and other gaseous hydrocarbons (US$2.59 billion); zinc ores and concentrates (US$1.34 billion); gold, including gold plated with platinum, in bulk, semi-manufactured or in powdered form (US$1.04 billion); precious metal ores and concentrates (US$521 million); and soybean oil-cake and solid residues (US$444 million).
Furthermore, some of its main imports are passenger cars (US$534 millions); petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals (US$413 million); road transport vehicles (US$405 million); motor vehicles for the transport of ten or more persons, including the driver (US$266 million); and insecticides, fungicides, rodenticides and more (US$238 million).
The main destinations of Bolivia’s exports are Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, India and the United States. Its imports mainly come from China, Brazil, Chile, United States and Argentina.
Legal framework regarding importing and exporting in Bolivia
Business activities in different countries must have a legal framework to ensure smooth operations. Bolivia has three important laws:
The Code of Commerce (1977) regulates the legal relations derived from commercial activities. It thus establishes the legal forms that must be considered by all the companies in the country. It describes the acts and operations related to foreign trade which include the purchase of goods or movable property intended for sale in same conditions or after some transformation, and the purchase or sale of a business enterprise, among others. Apart from that, it includes some prohibitions and penalties. This is closely related to Law N°843 and Law N°2492.
Foreign investment law
This is based on Law N°1182 which promotes national and foreign investment aimed at improving social and economic development. This law gives foreign and national investors the same rights.
Intellectual and industrial property rights
According to the Political Constitution of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, the government will register and protect the intellectual property rights of an individual or collective over the works and discoveries of authors, artists, composers, inventors and scientists, under the conditions laid down by law.
Each of these legal frameworks impose their own laws that must be taken into account when importing and exporting in Bolivia.
Exporting from Bolivia
Exportation refers to the legal shipment of domestic goods for consumption or use abroad.
To carry out export activities from Bolivia, the exporter must first request authorization before the Operator Service Unit of National Customs (USO – Unidad de Servicio a Operadores de la Aduana Nacional) and present the following documents:
- Certificate of the Tax Identification Number (TIN) issued by the National Tax Service
- Registration before Fundempresa which issues the business a registration number (Matrícula de Comercio). This allows you to perform commercial activity according to the Code of Commerce.
- Registration before SENAVEX (Servicio Nacional de Verificación de Exportaciones) to obtain the Single Record for the Exporter (RUEX – Registro Único del Exportador)
- Copy of the articles of incorporation
- Certificate of Origin (if applicable)
- Compliance with corresponding prior authorizations and certifications. For example, the exporter must meet the requirements of the SENASAG (Servicio Nacional de Sanidad Agropecuaria e Inocuidad Alimentaria), SENAVEX, ABT (Autoridad de Fiscalización y Control Social de Bosques y Tierra), among others.
- Transportation and insurance documents. The company hired issues the transportation document. This may be called a Bill of Lading, Waybill, consignment letter (Truck or Railway), among other names. The name will depend on the kind of export activity performed.
For customs clearance, the carrier must also present the required documents, such as the Commercial invoice, packing list, Single Export Declaration (SED) and Transport documents. Customs will then proceed to verify the information presented and decide which control channel applies (green, yellow or red).
Finally, you will receive the Certificate of Departure (two originals). The warehouse operator issues the certificate, which must then be signed and stamped by the customs officer. One for you and the other one for customs.
Importing into Bolivia
Importation means legally shipping goods in from a foreign country in compliance with all the requirements.
Just as for an exporter, the importer also needs to register in the Operator Service Unit of National Customs (USO – Unidad de Servicio a Operadores de la Aduana Nacional) as a ‘usual’ or ‘unusual’ importer. Take note of the following regulations surrounding importing in Bolivia:
- Complete and present the Importer Registration Form N° 170, available on the customs website.
- Comply with the corresponding authorizations and certifications prior to the shipment of goods. The importer must meet the requirements of the SENASAG (Servicio Nacional de Sanidad Agropecuaria e Inocuidad Alimentaria), Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior, and the Ministry of Economy and Public Finance, among others.
- At the dispatch step, you can contract a Customs Clearance Agency or do it by yourself. This process involves presenting the required documents such as the Commercial invoice, an original or copy of the transport document, air cargo manifest, maritime cargo manifest, etc. After collecting the documents, prepare the Single Import Declaration (DUI – Declaración Única de Importación) through the ASYCUDA (SIDUNEA in Spanish) computer system.
- After the DUI is accepted, the importer has to pay the customs duties within three working days. Some of these include VAT on imports, Verification (1% of the FOB value).
- The Bolivian National Customs assigns a control channel (red, yellow or green) after verifying all the documents and their legality.
Foreign trade in Bolivia
The Bolivian Foreign Trade Institute (IBCE – Instituto Boliviano de Comercio Exterior) was established to promote the economic and social development of Bolivia. It focuses on bringing awareness to foreign trade and Bolivian culture.
IBCE also helps improve production, investment and business opportunities. Additionally, it promotes efficiency, competitiveness, productivity and business quality by creating statistical reports, consultancies and market research.
IBCE supports new importers and exporters. The association reviews of all requirements and documents needed to operate. However, it is important to get expert and legal advice to efficiently lead your business to success.
Get support navigating trade regulations in Bolivia
Bolivia is a promising country for business. However, it can be very challenging to navigate all importing and exporting regulations in Bolivia. Finding support for doing business in a foreign culture and language is very beneficial. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to seek professional guidance and assistance.
Biz Latin Hub has vast experience in doing business in Latin America. Our multilingual team of local lawyers and trade experts provide a wide range of market entry and back-office services. We ensure high-quality work by supporting your business with tailor-made solutions. Take advantage of advice from our trade law specialists and other legal providers, hiring and recruitment services, taxation and accounting, visa procedure assistance, payroll management, and other professionals.
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