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.
Top five UK goods exported to Guatemala, in the four quarters to the end of Q4 2022
|Miscellaneous electrical goods (intermediate)||4.6|
ONS Trade in goods: country-by-commodity exports
Last updated: April 2023
Download the latest trade and investment factsheet for Guatemala.
Total import value (into the UK from Guatemala) and export value (from the UK into Guatemala) over time
|Year||Imports (£million)||Exports (£million)||Total trade (£million)|
ONS UK total trade: all countries, seasonally adjusted
Last updated: April 2023
Total trade is the sum of all exports and imports over the same time period.
Download the latest trade and investment factsheet for Guatemala.
Guatemala: at a glance
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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.
One of Guatemala’s top imports from the UK, British automotive brands have steadily maintained themselves in the top 3 exports to Guatemala since 2011, amounting £6.6 million in 2021 (ONS, 2022).
Demand for UK goods
The demand for UK automotive goods has persisted over the years, with British automotive brands viewed as good quality, luxury brands that most Guatemalans aspire to buy (Secretary for Central American Economic Integration SIECA 2020).
Demand for new technologies
There is a demand for electric cars and electric-fuelled transportation. Ambitious public projects include a fleet of 30 electric buses and government vehicles for Guatemala City. 4 electric vehicle charging stations have been set up around Guatemala City for public use and an association in support of electric mobility in Guatemala has been launched.
Investment in ambitious infrastructure and mobility projects is one of the priorities of the government. This includes motorways, a railway that connects with Mexico, Economic Development Zones and ports.
Reform of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) law
Guatemala is in the process of reforming its PPP law. This was created in 2010, but only one project has been approved (2021). The reforms introduced to Congress in 2020 aim to create a better environment for the development of these type projects and include other sectors such as services, water management and education.
Demand for UK services
UK companies who can offer expertise in feasibility studies, planning, design, operations, and structuring in the mobility, energy and services sectors are wanted. Financial expertise to develop projects through Public-Private Partnerships is also welcomed.
Guatemala exports agriculture products to the rest of the world, its main exports products include bananas, sugar, coffee, and greens. Due to climate change and a growing demand for exports, Guatemala needs better agricultural technology to meet these new demands.
Need for technology to increase exports capabilities
Guatemala is primarily an agricultural exporting country, and it requires a boost in exports to be able to promote economic growth. To achieve this, the country requires more efficient agricultural processes, aided by technology.
High purchasing power
In 2020, agriculture made up 10.2% of Guatemala’s GDP (World Bank), the third highest productive sector in the country. This sector is highly organised and supported by chambers of commerce, government, and international institutions, as it is an important source of jobs for a large group of the population. The importance of agriculture in the country has given companies the necessary purchasing power to invest in production, technology, and insurance.
Education in the English language is in high demand due to increasing development of contact centres and the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry in Guatemala.
Growing business process outsourcing and contact centres sector
The contact centres and BPOs industry is identified as one of the industries with the greatest employment generation potential for Guatemala, due to the growth of outsourcing services worldwide, the potential that the country has due to its geographic and demographic characteristics, and growth capacity of the companies that operate in this sector. Exports for the sector has grown 34% between 2020, USD 874 million, and 2021 to USD 1.2 billion. This sector represented almost 1% of country’s GDP in 2020 (Agexport 2021).
Demand for English Language skills
Contact centres and BPO’s sector employs 105,000 indirect jobs and around 42,000 agents and 67% of this force must be bilingual (Agexport 2019). The government and private sector are looking for solutions to improve English skills in the labour force to open more job opportunities. UK expertise on English Language training would be welcomed.
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.
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.
Doing business in Guatemala
Preparing to export
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.
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.
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.
- original Invoice
- packing list
- original transport document
- sanitary certificates
- certificate of origin when applicable
Operating in Guatemala
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 (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.
There are some challenges in doing business in Guatemala. These include:
- 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.
Get ready to do business abroad
Step-by-step lessons to accelerate your exporting ability.Read more
Contact an international trade advisor
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