Increased efficiency in trade within the region remains a distant goal.
The European Union says it will enter into an association agreement with Central America, only if the region’s countries first have a customs union, which unifies import duties. Without a customs union, European exporters have to deal with six sets of tariffs - an expensive arrangement, given the small size of each individual market.
The association agreement would give Central America increased access to the European market, as well as to several economic and technical support programs.
But progress in creating a customs union has been slow. “It's hard to set deadlines because it's a process that involves political decisions and evaluations, that nobody knows when they are going to begin and when they're going to end”, said Ernesto Torres, who heads the Central American System for Economic Integration. Torres should know. SIECA has been working on this and other issues since 1960. More than half a century later, the goal of greater economic integration is still remote.