Exporting guide to Guatemala

Overview

Guatemala is in Central America and has the largest economy in the region. Bordered by Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize, it has good access to North and Central America.

CARIFORUM-UK economic partnership agreement

The UK has signed an association agreement with a number of Central American countries, including Guatemala. Read our latest updates for more information on the status of this agreement and how it may benefit your business.

Free trade zones

There is free trade zones available in the country, with different types of users.

Benefits include exemptions from taxes, customs duties and charges applicable to imports on merchandise that is used in the production of goods and in services.

Close up of fruit stall

Guatemala: at a glance

Economic growth

8%

Actual figure (IMF, 2021)
The UK is 7.4% (IMF, 2021, projected figure)

GDP per capita

$4,317

Actual figure (IMF, 2020)
The UK is $41,127 (IMF, 2020, projected figure)

Currency

Guatemalan Quetzal

Business language

Spanish and sometimes English

You're likely to need a translator

Time zone

GMT -6

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Opportunities for exporters

Potential for UK industries can be found in a broad range of industries as British goods and services are highly regarded within the Guatemalan market.

Check for trade barriers

Trade barriers, such as tariffs or taxes, can raise costs, cause delays, or even stop you from exporting. Check for any issues that may impact your business when exporting.

See current trade barriers

See resolved trade barriers

Check duties and customs

Find information on how to export goods from the UK. View the duties, rules, restrictions, and the documents you need for your products.

See current duties and customs procedures

Doing business in Guatemala

Preparing to export

VAT

VAT is payable on both domestic and imported goods and services. The rate of VAT is 12% applies. Exports are tax exempt. Some exemptions on VAT exist, for example: grants and donations to not-profit organisations; imports under the temporary importation system, and others.

Northern Triangle Customs Union

Since 2017 there has been a customs union between Guatemala and Honduras. El Salvador subsequently joined in 2018. This union means free transit of more than 95% of goods, by accelerating movement of goods at the border with the use of a Central American Invoice and Single Declaration document for electronic transfer and payment of taxes in real time.

Further information is on the website for SIECA (website in Spanish) the technical and administrative body of the Central American Economic Integration Process.

Regulations

Guatemalan laws on tax, labour, environment, health and safety allow foreign companies to operate in the country. Bureaucratic processes to obtain licences and permits do represent a challenge for foreign companies that do not know how the system operates. Obtaining professional help is strongly advised.

Import regulations

If you are working with a local distributor/importer for export of goods, they should have:

  • trade patent
  • registration in tax system (SAT -RTU)
  • Tax Identification Number (NIT)
  • registration in BANCASAT through a local bank
  • registration in the Register of Importers and/or Exporters.

Essential documents:

  • original Invoice
  • packing list
  • original transport document
  • sanitary certificates
  • certificate of origin when applicable

Operating in Guatemala

Language

The national language in Guatemala is Spanish. English is spoken by some people in government and business but is not universally spoken. Business documentation must be completed in Spanish; if original documents are in other language they need to be translated into Spanish.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property (IP) rights are territorial and rights granted in the UK do not provide protection elsewhere. You should consider getting IP protection abroad if you want to trade overseas or sell to overseas customers via the internet.

The Intellectual Property Office provides practical information to help you protect, manage and enforce your IP abroad. Further support for British businesses can be found through a network of IP attachés, based in key UK export markets.

Risks

There are some challenges in doing business in Guatemala. These include:

  • bureaucracy
  • lack of clarity and transparency in the public tendering process
  • slow judicial system
  • business and human rights
  • poor implementation of rule of law

Read the FCDO Overseas Business Risk for Guatemala for more guidance on the challenges of doing business in the country.

Using agents and distributors

You are advised to use a local representative, distributor, or agent with a commercial license. Securing exclusivity for a buying agent can be hard due to the competitive conditions of the market. A local counterpart or direct presence is needed to participate in a government procurement bidding process.

Next steps

DIT can advise you on doing business abroad, and help put you in touch with other people who can help such as lawyers and distributors.