Exporting to Chile | A Trade and Export Guide

LAC Team


Updated: April 29, 2021

The Latin American world has been bustling with international commerce for decades, and South American countries like Chile are no exception to the rule. While plenty of excellent business opportunities await here, exporting to Chile should not be done without the proper information on local trade & regulations as well as exploring the best shipping options. There are plenty of different factors to keep in mind while obtaining help from freight forwarders and shippers to facilitate trade to and within Chile, and we will explore all of the details right here.

Challenges to Consider when Exporting to Chile

Chile has worked tirelessly on reducing the trade barriers for foreign imports into the country across a variety of sectors and industries. While this process has been made easier by the efforts of the local government in the past two decades, there are still certain limitations to consider:

  • Food import licensing. Chile’s food and agriculture regulations don’t contain a blanket approval procedure when it comes to identical products manufactured by different foreign companies. All imported food items require an import permit. The application to obtain such a permit must be done at the Health Service Office located at the port of entry where the importation will be taking place.
  • Product labeling discrepancies. Chile requires all food product labels to be in Spanish, regardless of their country of origin.
  • In-country Presence. Most companies exporting goods to Chile have a closely tied in-country partner or a direct presence. Operating without a direct market presence is difficult due to regulatory and language barriers.
  • High Competition. Chile’s tax import policies have led to an abundance of import activity on a relatively small (less than 20 million people) market. This means a lot of competition in most product niches and industries.

Business Opportunities to Consider when Exporting to Chile

Chile is an active member country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as well as in the Pacific Alliance. The country has managed to sustain a robust financial market, with plenty of investment opportunities and dependable economic institutions.

The local economy is ripe for foreign imports, as the Chilean peso has experienced a steady stream of inflation in the past three years. Also, only a third of the workforce is employed in manufacturing and production, with most employees working in service industries.

There is a variety of business opportunities for foreign investors, including:

  • Infrastructure – Chile outsources the development of its water supply, transportation networks, highways, and ports to the private sector through various concessions.
  • Public sector – There are significant private investments in prison development, local health care, retirement funds, and education.
  • Regional development – Chile is an excellent hub for foreign companies looking to expand their presence in the region; Chilean businesses have a significant investment presence in Brazil, and plenty of Chilean retailers and agricultural and mining companies operate in neighboring Peru.
  • Environmental technologies – Chile is slowly but surely working on its eco-standards, meaning a number of emerging niches such as recycling and waste management.
  • Mechanization – The country imports a number of mechanized goods, such as telecommunications equipment, agricultural mechanization, automotive parts, machinery for construction works, etc.
  • Food Imports – Mid-range food products are mostly locally produced, but Chile imports quite a lot of high-value products in this sector.

Top Exports to Chile

According to the last available data from the WTO, Chile imported USD 75.03 billion worth of goods in 2018. The most popular importations to Chile rank as follows (with the percentage of total dollar value indicated):

  1. Mineral fuels including oil (16.9% of total imports)
  2. Machinery including computers (13.2%)
  3. Vehicles: $7.2 billion (11.2%)
  4. Electrical machinery, equipment (9.3%)
  5. Plastics, plastic articles (3.5%)
  6. Pharmaceuticals (2.6%)
  7. Meat (2.4%)
  8. Iron, steel (2.3%)
  9. Articles of iron or steel (2.2%)
  10. Optical, technical, medical apparatus (2.1%)

Import Restrictions and Prohibitions

Chile’s regulations are extremely well-adapted to a liberal import policy — there are no restricted or prohibited imports, save for the limitations on food and agricultural products that we’ve mentioned above.

Customs Clearance


Chilean customs operatives primarily seek to prevent and limit the entry of illegal materials and items into the country — meaning the seizure of illegal explosives, ammunition, weapons, and narcotics.

Special certificates, permissions, and approval documentation are needed for the import of agricultural and processed food products, as well as hazardous materials for industrial use.

Exports Clearance:

Customs clearance for the export of Chilean products must be preceded by the submission of an export declaration to the customs office. In the case of goods whose value is above USD 1,000, a Documento Unico Salida (DUS) must be submitted by the exporting entity.

There are certain goods whose export is subject to the regulations dictated by international agreements, requiring a special export license. There are also goods that are specially controlled by the Chilean government in terms of exports, such as:

  • Psychotropic medication
  • Narcotics
  • Firearms

All agricultural product exports require a phytosanitary permit upon reaching customs.

Classification of Goods and Licenses:

Chile subscribes to the Harmonized Customs System.

Customs Duties when Exporting to Chile

Chilean customs duties on imported commodities are calculated on the Ad valorem principle. The basic value for the calculation is the CIF value. For the past 17 years, there has been a generic tariff duty of 6% for a majority of imported products.

Imports Requirements and Documentations

Local importers must use the following commercial forms:

  • Packing lists
  • Freight insurance
  • Bills of lading
  • Certificates of origin
  • Commercial invoices

Barring the (rare) direct presence of a foreign company in Chile, business partners with local knowledge are essential to a swift and efficient import procedure. Having the help of a reliable freight forwarder with first-hand knowledge of the local regulations and language is a good idea.

Agricultural products require phytosanitary and sanitary certificates before import into the country, as well as other special permissions. The Chilean Agricultural Inspection has more concrete information on the permits required for individual products.

Merchandise Quality Control

The following organizations perform the quality control of imported goods in Chile:

Modes of Transportation to and within Chile

When it comes to Chilean imports and their modes of transportation, most arrive into the country via seaports. Once inside the country, the movement of goods is performed almost entirely by road — cargo air traffic and local rail are not that well developed.

The most important ports being used are Valparaiso, San Antonio, San Vicente, Coronel, Lirquen and Iquique.

Final Thoughts

Chile trade & export is a complex topic with plenty of things you need to be aware of, so working with a reliable Freight Forwarder will certainly pay off.

Apart from transporting commercial goods, if you need to relocate to Chile, the best way to do so is with the help of reliable professionals. That way, you will save plenty of time and nerves that you would have otherwise wasted while preparing your moving. So, you should become acquainted with all the steps that finding the adequate service when moving overseas to Chile entails.



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