Latvia is a member of the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the World Trade Organization, the Council of the Baltic Sea States and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It has contributed to NATO peacekeeping missions and is taking part at the present time in the international missions to Afghanistan and Irak.
Non Tariff Barriers
In accordance with its European Union membership since May, 1st of 2004, Latvia applies the European Union trade policy such as antidumping or anti-subsidy measures. The European Union import regime applies to Latvia especially in the textile products sector. If Latvia adopted the main part of EU regulations on May, 1st of 2004, a transitory period has been granted to the country regarding some EU rules like the freedom of movement for workers or sabotage inside some countries. For further information about each candidate country’s compliance with the rules, please consult the guide to the enlargement of the EU published by the European Commission.
The European Union has a liberal foreign trade policy, few products need import licenses. However, you should make sure that importing a particular produce does not require an import license. There are some restrictions, especially on farm products, following the implementation of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy): the application of compensations on import and export of farm products, aimed at favoring the development of agriculture within the EU, implies a certain number of control and regulation systems for the goods entering the EU territory.
When being introduced into Latvia, some products must be "CE" marked in respect of the European Directives adopted on the basis of the New Approach, since 1 May 2004.
Customs Duties and Taxes on Imports
No Customs duty is payable for almost all types of non-agricultural goods moving between Latvia and the member countries of FTA, EU, EFTA and Ukraine, if the goods are certified as originating from one of these countries. There is a list of more than 20 types of goods exempt from Customs duty (for example, humanitarian aid, specific donations, etc.).
Since its accession to the European Union on May, 1st of 2004, Latvia has adopted the EU Common External Tariff. Consequently, trade with Latvia is totally free from Customs duties for industrial and agricultural products , provided that the country of origin of the goods is one of the other 24 EU Member States. Only VAT must be paid in the country where the product is consumed. When goods from inside the community are brought into Latvia, the exporter must obligatorily fill in a Declaration of Exchange of Goods (DEB) or an Intrastat Declaration at the end of the month. The Customs declaration (SAD) remains in force for trade between Latvia and third countries. When the country of origin of the goods exported to Latvia is not part of the European Union, Customs duties are in accordance with the Common Customs Tariff (CCT) for all the countries in the Union.
The TARIC code (composed of 10 figures) defines the Customs duty rate and the community regulations applicable to products whose origin is in a country outside Europe.
As part of the "SAFE" standards advocated by the World Customs Organization (WCO), the European Union has set up a new system of import controls, the "Import Control System" (ICS), which aims to secure the flow of goods at the time of their entry into the customs territory of the EU. This control system, part of the Community Program eCustomer, has been in effect since January 1, 2011. Since then, operators are required to pass an Entry Summary Declaration (ENS) to the customs of the country of entry, prior to the introduction of goods into the customs territory of the European Union.
Commercial samples and other goods imported during interim periods are usually exempt from Customs duties. Requests for exemption should be addressed to the Latvian Customs Department by the exporter himself.
For Latvian consumers the first criterion when choosing a product is its price, which goes with its quality, and then they value the stores themselves. For more well off consumers, the brand name is a priority; they are prepared to pay a high price to have a product of their favorite brand.
Consumer Profile and Purchasing Power
Apparently real purchasing power is quite a bit higher than official purchasing power, and a large part of expenses usually affected to expenses which cannot be reduced corresponds in fact to purchases of second necessity. Latvian consumers are progressively adopting behavior resembling that of Western consumers. They are becoming more pragmatic and more demanding concerning quality, price and service and now have associations to defend their rights.
PIAA, Association for consumer protection (website in Latvian).
The Latvian market is largely dominated by supermarkets and hypermarkets (45% of market share), while markets and local shops represent respectively 30% and 25% of market share. These figures are evolving constantly. Mass distribution had a period of sustained growth between 2000-2002.
The strategic geographical situation of Latvia allows the country to trade both with the CIS countries and with Europe. The ports of Ventspils and Liepaja are not frozen during the winter so there can be freer movement of goods than in the other Baltic countries.
40% of Latvia is covered in forests. With time, activities have been diversified, but the timber industry today covers a wide spectrum from raw materials to finished products, via intermediate productions. There are more than 1 000 companies operating in relation with the timber industry in Latvia (industries, businesses, services).
Other important sectors are metallurgy (24% of market shares), plastic and chemical products (7% of market shares) and textile (6% of market shares).