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More information about El Salvador is available on the El Salvador Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.

U.S.-EL SALVADOR RELATIONS

The United States established diplomatic relations with El Salvador in 1863, following El Salvador’s independence from Spain and the later dissolution of a federation of Central American states.  Post-independence, the country saw a mix of revolutions, democracy, and a 1980-1992 civil war.  After the signing of peace accords in 1992, the Salvadorans consolidated their fragile democracy through a series of democratically elected governments.  The United States is proud to partner, when possible, with El Salvador to promote democratic institutions and rule of law, which in turn promotes inclusive economic development.  The United States is also home to more than three million people of Salvadoran ancestry.

Endemic crime and corruption have undermined the legitimacy of state institutions and impeded economic growth for decades.  This is due primarily to the threats posed by violent gangs.  El Salvador seeks to reduce the significant influence of gangs but is doing so in part through a long-standing “state of exception” that curtails civil rights protections under the laws of El Salvador and raises concerns about human rights and the rule of law.  The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated these challenges, driving irregular migration as well as forced displacement.

U.S. Migration Policy Towards El Salvador and the Region

The U.S. Strategy to Address the Root Causes of Migration (RCS) and the U.S. Collaborative Migration Management Strategy (CMMS) guide U.S. diplomatic efforts and foreign assistance in El Salvador and across Central America.  These strategies support El Salvador in addressing the challenges the country faces with internal displacement and as a source of northward migration.  The United States and El Salvador are also member states to the Regional Conference on Migration (RCM) which El Salvador chaired in 2022.  RCM member countries commit to addressing issues of international migration in a multilateral context that respects orderly movements and human rights.

The RCS focuses on a coordinated, place-based approach to improve the underlying causes that push Central Americans, including many Salvadorans, to migrate.  This strategy lays out a framework to use the policy, resources, and diplomacy of the United States, and to leverage the expertise and resources of a broad group of public and private stakeholders, to build hope for citizens in El Salvador that the life they desire can be found at home.  The strategy contains five pillars:

  • Pillar I:  Addressing economic insecurity and inequality;
  • Pillar II:  Combating corruption, strengthening democratic governance, and advancing the rule of law;
  • Pillar III:  Promoting respect for human rights, labor rights, and a free press;
  • Pillar IV:  Countering and preventing violence, extortion, and other crimes perpetrated by criminal gangs, trafficking networks, and other organized criminal organizations; and
  • Pillar V:  Combating sexual, gender-based, and domestic violence.

The CMMS works together with the RCS and is the first U.S. whole-of-government effort focused on reducing irregular migration to the U.S. border by promoting safe, orderly, and humane migration; improving access to protection for those fleeing persecution and torture; and strengthening migration cooperation and responsibility sharing throughout North and Central America.  In El Salvador, the CMMS aims to meet urgent humanitarian needs, enhance international protection and protection within El Salvador, promote temporary labor programs, strengthen lawful pathways for those who choose to migrate or are forcibly displaced from their homes, and foster humane border management practices.

The CMMS includes eight distinct lines of action across North and Central America, including El Salvador:

  1. Stabilize populations with acute needs;
  2. Expand access to international protection;
  3. Expand access to protection in countries of origin;
  4. Expand third country labor migration programs with worker protections;
  5. Assist and reintegrate returned persons;
  6. Foster secure and humane management of borders;
  7. Strengthen regional public messaging on migration; and
  8. Expand access to lawful pathways for protection and opportunity in the United States.

U.S. Assistance to El Salvador

USAID addresses the drivers of irregular migration by working with the government and people of El Salvador for a country that is more prosperous, safe, and well governed so Salvadorans believe they can thrive at home.  Security activities help create safe spaces within targeted communities, reduce crime and violence, and strengthen the justice system so that criminals are brought to justice.  Through education, job training, and partnerships with the private sector, USAID is increasing opportunities for youth to obtain jobs and income in El Salvador.  Furthermore, USAID assistance helps improve the investment and business climate to stimulate trade, small business growth and employment.  For sustainability, USAID helps the Salvadoran government to improve tax collection and resource utilization so that more money is available to increase security, promote economic growth, provide social services, and mitigate other factors leading to irregular migration.  USAID assistance helps improve government transparency and accountability and promotes citizen oversight and monitoring of public resources to reduce opportunities for corruption.  All these activities help Salvadorans envision a brighter future in El Salvador.  USAID actively builds public-private alliances with civil society, community organizations and the private business sector to sustain program efforts.

Bilateral Economic Relations

The United States and El Salvador are parties to the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which aims to facilitate trade and investment and enhance regional integration by eliminating tariffs, opening markets, reducing barriers to services, and promoting transparency.  CAFTA-DR contains a chapter on investment with commitments similar to those found in investment treaties the United States typically negotiates on a bilateral basis.  More than 190 U.S. companies have established a permanent commercial presence in El Salvador or work through representative offices in the country.  Total (two-way) goods trade between the United States and El Salvador was $6.7 billion in 2021.  U.S. exports to El Salvador consist primarily of fuel products, computer and electronics, and chemicals.  U.S. imports from El Salvador include apparel and agricultural products.  Remittances from Salvadorans working in the United States totaled $7.1 billion in 2021, representing 24.7 percent of El Salvador’s GDP ($28.7 billion).  The United States has a trade surplus with El Salvador, with exports to El Salvador in 2021 exceeding imports by $1.5 billion.  The Salvadoran economy grew 10.3 percent in 2021 (after declining 8.7 percent in 2020), and the Central Bank estimates 2.6 percent growth for 2022.

El Salvador’s Membership in International Organizations

The United States and El Salvador are parties to the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), which aims to facilitate trade and investment and enhance regional integration by eliminating tariffs, opening markets, reducing barriers to services, and promoting transparency. CAFTA-DR contains a chapter on investment with commitments similar to those found in investment treaties the United States typically negotiates on a bilateral basis. More than 200 U.S. companies have established either a permanent commercial presence in El Salvador or work through representative offices in the country. U.S. exports to El Salvador consist primarily of fuel products, equipment and machinery, cereals (yellow and white corn), plastics, and cotton. U.S. imports from El Salvador include apparel (71 percent) and agricultural products (coffee, tea, and sugars). Trade in total (two-way) goods between the United States and El Salvador was $4.5 billion in 2020, and the United States had a goods trade surplus with El Salvador in North and Central America of $660.9 million in 2020. Remittances from Salvadorans working in the United States totaled $5.9 billion in 2020, representing 24 percent of El Salvador’s GDP. The economy contracted by nearly 9 percent in 2020 and the country is projected to reach 4.2 percent growth in 2021, in line with the regional average.

Bilateral Representation

Principal U.S. embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.

El Salvador maintains an embassy in the United States at 1400 16th Street NW, Washington, DC, 20036 (tel: 202-595-7500).

More information about El Salvador is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

CIA World Factbook El Salvador Page 
U.S. Embassy
USAID El Salvador Page 
History of U.S. Relations With El Salvador
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Countries Page 
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics 
Export.gov International Offices Page 
Millennium Challenge Corporation: El Salvador 
Library of Congress Country Studies 
Travel Information

U.S. Department of State

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