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Trade Profile

Foreign Trade in Figures

Nicaragua is open to international trade, which represents 96% of the country's GDP (World Bank, 2016). Member of the WTO since 1995, Nicaragua's trade policy reflects its efforts to integrate into the global economy, as well as to diversify its exports to have access to larger markets. The Government of Nicaragua has recently made reforms to its free zone regime to promote international trade.

The country has few customs duties and non-tariff barriers. The highest tariffs are imposed on certain items, such as tobacco, alcohol and agricultural products (corn and rice). Since 2006, Nicaragua's exports have been stimulated by a free-trade agreement between the United States and Central America (CAFTA). In 2012, after three years of negotiations, the European Union and Central American countries signed a free-trade agreement, notably regarding agricultural products.

Nicaragua's trade balance is structurally negative, a trend that should continue in the coming years. Between 2015 and 2016, both exports and imports declined slightly. The trade deficit increased slightly to USD 2.6 billion at the end of 2016. The deficit is projected to increase in 2017 due to the slight increase in hydrocarbon prices and the increase in imports for domestic consumption. However, exports could benefit from higher agricultural production and better productivity in the textile industry.

Nicaragua mainly exports wires and cables, foodstuffs (coffee, beef, sugar), textiles and gold. The main imported products are fuels, pharmaceuticals and phytosanitary products, vehicles, consumer goods and equipment. Its leading trading partners are the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) countries, the CACM (Central American Common Market) and China.

Foreign Trade Indicators 20122013201420152016
Imports of Goods (million USD) 6,7786,6886,9467,0907,170
Exports of Goods (million USD) 4,6864,7945,1264,8394,782
Imports of Services (million USD) 8511,0249889021,082
Exports of Services (million USD) 1,1571,2371,3021,3421,578
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 72397
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 1246-26
Trade Balance (million USD) -2,290-2,262-2,169-2,545-2,612
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 1151111079896
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 6866625857
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 4745454039

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

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
United States 53.7%
Mexico 11.1%
Venezuela 6.2%
El Salvador 5.6%
Honduras 3.7%
Costa Rica 2.8%
Guatemala 2.4%
Canada 1.3%
United Kingdom 1.2%
Spain 1.2%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
United States 18.0%
China 14.4%
Mexico 10.4%
Costa Rica 8.2%
Guatemala 6.9%
El Salvador 5.2%
Honduras 3.0%
Japan 2.5%
Thailand 2.3%
Brazil 2.2%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data


Main Products

4.7 bn USD of products exported in 2015
Insulated incl. enamelled or anodised wire, cable incl. coaxial cable and other insulated electric conductors, whether or not fitted with connectors; optical fibre cables, made-up of individually sheathed fibres, whether or not assembled with electric conductors or fitted with connectors 12.2%
T-shirts, singlets and other vests, knitted or crocheted 9.1%
Coffee, whether or not roasted or decaffeinated; coffee husks and skins; coffee substitutes containing coffee in any proportion 8.5%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 6.7%
Meat of bovine animals, frozen 6.3%
Crustaceans, fit for human consumption, whether in shell or not, live, fresh, chilled, frozen, dried, salted or in brine, incl. crustaceans in shell cooked beforehand by steaming or by boiling in water; flours, meals and pellets of crustaceans, fit for human consumption 4.8%
Women's or girls' blouses, shirts and shirt-blouses (excl. knitted or crocheted and vests) 3.9%
Meat of bovine animals, fresh or chilled 3.5%
Cigars, cheroots, cigarillos and cigarettes of tobacco or of tobacco substitutes 3.3%
Cane or beet sugar and chemically pure sucrose, in solid form 3.3%
5.9 bn USD of products imported in 2015
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 6.6%
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) 6.2%
Petroleum oils and oils obtained from bituminous minerals, crude 5.1%
Motor vehicles for the transport of goods, incl. chassis with engine and cab 3.0%
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) 2.3%
Electrical apparatus for line telephony or line telegraphy, incl. line telephone sets with cordless handsets and telecommunication apparatus for carrier-current line systems or for digital line systems; videophones; parts thereof 1.8%
Insecticides, rodenticides, fungicides, herbicides, anti-sprouting products and plant-growth regulators, disinfectants and similar products, put up for retail sale or as preparations or articles, e.g. sulphur-treated bands, wicks and candles, and fly-papers 1.7%
Toilet paper and similar paper, cellulose wadding or webs of cellulose fibres, of a kind used for household or sanitary purposes, in rolls of a width <= 36 cm, or cut to size or shape; handkerchiefs, cleansing tissues, towels, tablecloths, serviettes, napkins for babies, tampons, bed sheets and similar household, sanitary or hospital articles, articles of apparel and clothing accessories, of paper pulp, paper, cellulose wadding or webs of cellulose fibres 1.5%
Articles for the conveyance or packaging of goods, of plastics; stoppers, lids, caps and other closures, of plastics 1.5%
Food preparations, n.e.s. 1.3%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data


Main Services

1.5 bn USD of services exported in 2014
Communications services
Government services
Other business services
Insurance services
2.1 bn USD of services imported in 2014
Other business services
Insurance services
Government services
Communications services
Financial services
Cultural and recreational services
Royalties and license fees

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data


Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of World Trade Organisation
Main International Economic Cooperation
Member of Free Trade Area of Americas (FTAA)

Member of Central American Four (CA-4)

Useful Resources
General Directorate of Custom Services (Spanish)
National Organisation of Intellectual Property
The Dirección de Registro de la Propiedad Intelectual (RPI).


Learn more about How to Export to Nicaragua on, the Directory for International Trade Service Providers.

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Last Updates: November 2017