El Salvador – Country Profile

El Salvador – Country Profile

General Information


Official Name El Salvador
Capital San Salvador
Total Area 21,041 sq km
Population 6.4 million
Currency 1 CAD = 0.91 USD (U.S. dollar)
National Holiday September 15 (Independence Day)
Language(s) Spanish (official), Nahuatl (among some indigenous groups)
Source: DFATD Foreign Relations; Bank of Canada Daily Currency Converter 05/05/2016

Political Information

Type of State Republic
Head of State President Salvador Sánchez Cerén
Elections Next Presidential: 2019
Source: DFATD Foreign Relations

Economic Information

El Salvador Canada
GDP (PPP) $68 billion $2.191 trillion
GDP per capita $3,989 $60 489
GDP annual growth rate 1.6%


GDP – composition by sector Agriculture: 10.7%

Industry: 25.5%

Services: 63.8%

Agriculture: 1.6%

Industry: 27.7%

Services: 70.7%

Inflation rate -0.9% (est.) 1.06%
Main industries Food processing, beverages, petroleum, chemicals, fertilizer, textiles, furniture, light metals. Transportation equipment, chemicals, processed and unprocessed minerals, food products, wood and paper products, fish products, petroleum and natural gas.
Note: 2015 data in Canadian dollars ($CAD)
Source: CIA World Factbook, DFATD Foreign Relations; Canadian Trade Commissioner Service Country Info

Political and Economic Stability

Since the end of the civil war in 1992, El Salvador has made significant progress towards consolidating peace and democracy. There was democratic transition from the dominant political party, the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) to the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) in the 2009 general elections. Although the FMLN maintained power in the 2014 elections, the ARENA won the majority seat in the National Assembly elections in 2015. The country’s political transformation has led to major structural reforms and macroeconomic policies that have resulted in strong economic performance.

El Salvador may be the smallest country in Central America by geographic area, but it boasts the third largest economy in the region. The country’s economic growth rate reached 2.4% in 2015. El Salvador was successful in cutting the rate of extreme poverty by half during the 1990s, but hard hit by the 2008 financial crisis, which resulted in higher levels of unemployment and rising food and energy prices. Following a USD $600 million Anti-Crisis Plan introduced by the government in 2009, El Salvador’s economy has begun to recover at a slow but steady pace. The economic growth rate in 2015 stood at 2.5%. Major social protection investments have helped to reduce poverty rates in recent years, which fell from 38.8 % in 2000 to 31.8 % in 2014, according to official statistics. El Salvador’s unemployment and debt projections for 2012-2017 fall below the Latin American average and its inflation rate is the lowest in Central America.

The Salvadorian government continues to promote an open environment for international trade and investment, with significant shifts towards privatization in sectors including telecommunications, electricity distribution, banking, and pension funds. With an export-led growth strategy, El Salvador has negotiated trade agreements with the Dominican Republic, Chile, Mexico, Panama, Taiwan, Colombia and the United States. It is also a member of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). The country’s exports grew 5% between 2014 and 2015 with coffee production and maquila industries experiencing a strong recovery. However, key risks to El Salvador’s economy include its heavy dependence on the United States and fluctuations in commodity prices for the country’s two primary exports of sugar and coffee.

The government has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in education, public services, enterprise development, and transportation infrastructure to stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty, particularly in northern areas that were most affected by the civil war (1979-1992).


In terms of security, Global Affairs Canada (GAC) recommends that Canadians exercise a high degree of caution when traveling in El Salvador due to the high crime rate and the Zika virus outbreaks in the region.  For detailed and up-to-date information on travel security, please refer to the GAC Travel Report for El Salvador.

Trade Information

Trade Partners & Direction 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Ave. Yearly Growth
El Salvador Exports to the World  $5,245 M $5,336 M $5,653 M $5,819 M $6,999 M 6
El Salvador Exports to United States $2,418 M $2,488 M $2,592 M $2,705 M $3,293 M 6
El Salvador Exports to Canada $130 M $97 M $110 M $88 M $109 M -3
Canadian Exports to El Salvador $36,206 M $34,694 M $42,819 M $50,180 M $59,829 M 11
Note: data in Canadian dollars ($CAD)
Source: Industry Canada Trade Data Online, International Trade Centre Trade Map (Currency Conversion 14/02/2017).
Excluding mineral products (HS2 Codes 26-27 and 71-80)
Source: International Trade Centre Trade Map
Excluding mineral products (HS2 Codes 26-27 and 71-80)
Source: Industry Canada Trade Data Online

Business Climate

The World Bank’s annual Doing Business report ranks 189 economies from 1 to 189 (with 1 being the best) on their ease of doing business. In the 2016 report, El Salvador ranked 86, moving up from 97 in 2015. However, the country ranked 46 in 2016 from 38 in 2015 for Trading Across Borders, which measure the ease with which a standardized shipment of goods can be imported or exported across its borders. The average time to ship goods out of El Salvador is approximately 38 days with an average estimated cost of CAD$ 209.46 per 20-foot container, both figures are below the regional average for Latin America & the Caribbean. To complete the export process, nine forms of documentation are required: Bill of lading, Certificate of origin, Commercial invoice, Customs export declaration, Non-intrusive scanner payment receipt, Packing list, Road transport document, Terminal handling, and Transit document. Although El Salvador moved up by 11 on the ease of doing business, it dropped by 8 on trading across its borders.

Although there are many reputable exporters in El Salvador, Canadian importers should be aware that corruption could be an issue when doing business in the country. El Salvador ranked 72nd out of 168 in Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index where 1st place indicates least corrupt. Canadian companies are advised to exercise strict due diligence before working with a company from El Salvador to ensure that it is a bona fide and reputable entity. It is suggested that Canadian importers commission a report by a credit information provider to verify the financial strength of the partner.

Trade Opportunities

Double Brace: Top El Salvador Product Opportunities: - Cane or Beet Sugar - Coffee - Clothing, Textiles, Linens - Electrical equipment & mechanical parts El Salvador remains heavily dependent on the United States, which is the country’s number one investor and destination for half of its exports. Although Canadian bilateral trade with El Salvador is modest compared to other Latin American countries, imports grew at 11.5% between 2014 and 2015, a trend that is expected to continue in the future. El Salvador offers a number of products of interest to Canadian consumers, particularly in clothing/apparel, sugar, coffee and electrical equipment.

Agriculture & Textile Industry

The Salvadoran government has recently pursued economic diversification focused on increasing textile production, tourism and free trade zones. The benefits of this program have been most evident in the textile and apparel industry, which directly provides more than 80,000 jobs in the country and currently leads in the country’s total exports. El Salvador is Canada’s third largest source of knitted clothing and apparel from Latin America, with products ranging from T-shirts, to stockings, to jerseys and pyjamas.

The country’s highest growth area lies in exports of sugars and sugar confectionary, which increased at the rate of 59% between 2014 and 2015. Sugar is Canada’s number one import from El Salvador, making it the third largest source to Canada from Latin America. El Salvador offers a range of products in this area, including raw sugar cane, cane molasses and glucose and lactose syrups.

El Salvador is becoming an important exporter of coffee, which represents Canada’s third largest import from the country. While exports of coffee to Canada have dropped slightly following a spike in 2011, El Salvador remains Canada’s fifth largest source of coffee from Latin America.

Another potential area of growth is plastics. Plastics is the country’s second largest export to the world but the seventh export to Canada, representing only 0.5% in 2015.


Services, including retail and financial services, have also seen strong employment growth, now employing approximately 60% of the total labour force in El Salvador. Canadian direct investment in the country has increased in the last five years in the banking sector as well as aerospace, as El Salvador is becoming an important hub for aircraft maintenance in Central America.

TFO Canada Export Offers

TFO Canada provides an information service for Canadian importers interested in sourcing products from developing and emerging economies such as El Salvador. This includes practical advice on sourcing from developing country exporters, a customized news bulletin including new leads from the El Salvador as they come in, and a searchable database for sourcing new products and suppliers. The chart below provides an approximate idea of the number of El Salvador supplier profiles, available online with contact information through TFO Canada’s searchable Supplier Database.

Industry Group No. of Suppliers in TFO Database
Food Products and Beverages (including Seafood) 1
Building Materials, Hardware and Hand tools 1
Furniture (Indoor and Outdoor) 1
Fashion Accessories 1

Upcoming Trade Shows

Health & Beauty Expo
Location: San Salvador
Date: November, annually
Venue: Centro International de Ferias y Convenciones (CIFCO)
Industries: Health, Beauty, Medical

Location: San Salvador
Date: October, annually
Venue: Centro International de Ferias y Convenciones (CIFCO)
Industries: Textiles, Clothing, Accessories, Artisans, Jewellery

Contact Information

Embassy of El Salvador in Canada
209 Kent Street, Ottawa, ON, Canada, K2P 1Z8
Phone: +1-613-238-2939

Useful Links

Agencia de Promoción de Exportaciones e Inversiones de El Salvador (Export Promotion Agency of El Salvador) www.proesa.gob.sv (Spanish only)
Asociación de Distribuidores de El Salvador (ADES) (Association of Distributors from El Salvador)


www.ades.org.sv/ad (Spanish only)


Camara de Comercio e Industria de El Salvador (El Salvador Chamber of Commerce and Industry) http://www.mmrree.gob.ec/eng (Spanish only)

Links to Cited Documents

Bank of Canada – Daily Currency Convertor http://www.bankofcanada.ca/rates/exchange/daily-converter/
Canadian Trade Commissioner Service – Country Info http://www.tradecommissioner.gc.ca/eng/trade-offices.jsp
CIA World Factbook https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/
Global Affairs Canada – Foreign Relations http://www.international.gc.ca/cip-pic/geo.aspx
Global Affairs Canada – Travel Reports http://travel.gc.ca/travelling/advisories
EDC (Export Development Canada) – Country Profiles http://www.edc.ca/EN/Country-Info/Pages/default.aspx
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada – Trade Data Online https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/tdo-dcd.nsf/eng/Home
International Trade Centre – Trade Map http://www.trademap.org/
Transparency International – Corruption Perception Index http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2013/results/
World Bank – Doing Business Report http://www.doingbusiness.org/rankings
World Bank – Open Data http://data.worldbank.org/country