Guatemala – Country Profile

Guatemala – Country Profile

General Information

Official Name Republic of Guatemala
Capital Guatemala City
Land Area 108,889 sp km
Population 16.2 Million (July 2015 est.)
Currency 1 $CAD = 5.9 GTQ (2017) Guatemalan Quetzal
National Holiday September 15 – Independence Day (1821)
Language(s) Spanish (official), Amerindian languages(including Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna,and Xinca)
Source: Economic Intelligence Unit, Bank of Canada (Daily Currency Converter 02/15/2017)

Political Information

Form of State Unitary Republic
Head of State President Jimmy Morales (since January 2016)
Elections Last – 25 October, 2015. Next – September, 2019.
Source: Economic Intelligence Unit

Economic Information

Guatemala Canada
GDP (PPP) $172,76 billion $2,20 billion
GDP per capita $9,621 $56,894
GDP annual growth rate 3.53% 1.2%
GDP – composition by sector Agriculture: 13.2%Industry: 23.5%Services: 63.3% Agriculture: 1.6%Industry: 27.7%Services: 70.7%
Inflation rate – average consumer prices 4.3% 1.1%
Main industries Sugar, textiles and clothing, furniture, chemicals, petroleum, metals, rubber, and tourism. Transportation equipment, chemicals, processed and unprocessed minerals, food products, wood and paper products, fish products, petroleum and natural gas.
Note: 2016 data estimates in Canadian dollars ($CAD)
Source: IMF World Economic Outlook, World Bank Data, CIA World Factbook, Bank of Canada (Currency Conversion 02/15/2017)

Political and Economic Stability

With a GDP growth rate of 3.0% since 2012, and a significant 5.1% in 2015 and 4.3% in 2016, Guatemala has built a very safe macroeconomics environment. The country is therefore the strongest economy performer in Latin America, and is ranked the 85thlargest export economy in the world. However, despite being the biggest Central American economy, Guatemala has the highest inequality rates. In spite of the fact that the country is stabilizing its economy, the percentage of poverty is still increasing and social inequality remains a major problem in Guatemala. Poverty is particularly widespread in the rural areas and among indigenous communities, such as the region of Quetzaltenango. Illiteracy, infant mortality and malnutrition are among the highest in the region, life expectancy is among the lowest and, like many of its neighbours, organised crime and violent street gangs are prevalent in Guatemala.

The country is a major corridor for smuggling drugs from South America to the United States. Nonetheless, Guatemala’s success in improving economic conditions has led the shift of focus to be placed on long-term problems, such as poverty. Associations such as the International Development Association (IDA) have been helping to reach these goals.

The government, characterized as “pro-business,” has been implementing conservative economic policies, which has helped maintain low public debt. It is also promising to crack down on crime, reform tax collection, increase transparency, and improve social programs. Guatemala is a signatory to the Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) which has encouraged investment and diversification of exports since entering into force in 2006.


There is no nationwide advisory in effect for Guatemala. However, you should exercise a high degree of caution due to the violence, roadblocks, strikes and demonstrations that occur periodically throughout the country.

Trade Information

Trade Partners & Direction 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Ave. Yearly Growth
Guatemala Exports to the World 10,041 10,118 10,361 12,019 13,777 6.5%
Guatemala Exports to United States 4,175 4,153 3,981 4,352 4,926 3.4%
Guatemala Exports to Canada 404 405 378 545 626 9.2%
Canadian Exports to Guatemala 110 114 98 112 121 2.0%
Note: Data in thousands of Canadian dollars ($CAD)
Source: Trade Data Online (Industry Canada), Trade Map (International Trade Centre), World Integrated Trade Solution (World Bank)    
Excluding mineral products (HS2 Codes 26-27 and 71-80)
Source: International Trade Centre Trade Map
Excluding mineral products (HS2 Codes 26-27 and 71-80)
Source: Industry Canada Trade Data Online

Business Climate

The World Bank’s annual Doing Business report ranks economies from 1 to 190 (with 1 being the best) on their ease of doing business. In the 2017 report, Guatemala ranked 63 overall for the ease of doing business and 78 for trading across borders, which measures the ease with which a standardized shipment of goods can be imported or exported across its borders. The average time to ship goods out of Guatemala was 36 hours, with an estimated cost of $CAD 1,777 per 20-foot container. To complete the export process, nine forms of documentation are required. These include a bill of lading, a certificate of origin, a commercial invoice, a customs export declaration, an export license, an inspection report, a packing list, a technical standard/health certificate and a Phytosanitary certificate.

Although there are many reputable exporters in Guatemala, Canadian importers should be aware that corruption could be an issue when doing business in the country. Guatemala ranked 136 out of 176 in Transparency International’s 2016 Corruption Perceptions Index where 1st place indicates least corrupt.  Canadian companies are advised to exercise strict due diligence before working with a company from Guatemala to ensure that it is a bona fide and reputable entity. It is suggested that Canadian importers commission a report by a credit information provider to verify the financial strength of the partner.

Sustainability Initiatives

Funcafe is an organization providing coffee-specific education to high school students. Guatemala suffers from a low educational coverage at high school level, and since the coffee is one of its main income and production, Funcafe has responded to this issue by creating the first High School Center with Coffee Specialization, with equal opportunities for men and women. This initiative’s main goal is to reinforce business management abilities in coffee companies and provide a sustainable and profitable agroindustry competitive to a globalized economy. This sustainable practice within the specialty coffee sector has received the Sustainability Award Project this year 2017.

Trade Opportunities

Double Brace: Top Guatemalan Product Opportunities:- Bananas, Melons and Other Fruits- Coffee, Molasses and Ground-Nuts- Clothing & Apparel- Artisanal Products

Guatemala is the 80th largest exporter in the world, during the past five years the country has increased its exportations at an annualized rate of 5%. It made more than $11.8 B last year thanks to its exportations. The main products exported by the country are for 25% vegetable products, 19% foodstuffs and 14% textiles. The United States is its main importer, Canada being the 5th most important. Therefore, significant opportunities exist in a range of other sectors for Canadian importers who wish to explore business opportunities in Guatemala.

1. Agri-Food Sector

Vegetable Products

The two most important agro products exported by Guatemala are Bananas including Plantains, by 8.6%, and Coffee, Coffee Husks and Skins and Coffee Substitutes, by 6.4%, followed by vegetables such as melons, watermelons, papayas, nutmeg, mace and other several legumes and fruits. 58% of the exportations to Canada include the agro products above with a value of $282M yearly.


19% of the Guatemalan exportation stand for foodstuffs with a yearly income of $2.2B, such as Raw Sugar, Flavoured water, Baked goods, Raw tobacco, Alcohol or Soups. The Guatemalan sugar industry is highly productive; it is known to be one of the most efficient and modernized in the Western Hemisphere, using some of the sugar industry’s latest technologies. Canada imports large quantities of cane sugar as well as refined sugar and cane molasses from the country. Cardamom and rum are also exported to Canada. 7.6% of the Guatemalan exportations of foodstuffs to Canada mainly include Cane Sugar and Raw Sugar with an income of $37M per year.

2. Clothing & Apparel
Yearly, the Guatemalan exportations of textiles reach $1.68B. The main products exported are knit, non-knit women’s suits and knitted fabric. 6.6% of the exportations toward Canada come from textiles, with a value of $32.1M per year. What Canada mainly imports are t-shirts, jerseys, men and boy’s clothing and women’s suits. Many renowned brands like Adidas, Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, American Eagle Outfitters, Donna Karan New York (DKNY), Guess, Tommy Hilfiger, Old Navy, Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Hollister; are produced in Guatemala.

3. Artisanal products
This trade sector is not as important as the ones above but still offers a variety of products that can be imported by Canada. Wood carving, ceramics, blown glass, candles, wrought iron products, leather products, and jewelry made of silver and jade all offer excellent opportunities to Canadian importers.

4. Other opportunities
Possible product opportunities in Guatemala can also be found in the rubber, plastic packaging, and palm oil industries.

TFO Canada Export Offers

TFO Canada provides an information service for Canadian importers interested in sourcing products from developing and emerging economies such as Guatemala. This includes practical advice on sourcing from developing country exporters, a customized news bulletin including new leads from Guatemala as they come in, and a searchable database for sourcing new products and suppliers. The chart below provides an approximate number of supplier profiles from Guatemala, available online with contact information through TFO Canada’s searchable Supplier Database.

Industry Group No. of Suppliers in TFO Database
Food Products and Beverages (including Seafood) 9
Clothing (not including Footwear) 1
Housewares and Hardware Furniture (Indoor and Outdoor) 1
Floriculture 1
Fashion Accessories 1
Electronics, Electrical and Telecommunications 1
Building materials, Hardware and Handtools 1
Personal Care – Pharmaceuticals and Natural Health Products 1

Upcoming Trade Shows

Feria Alimentaria 2017
Food and Restaurant exposition
September 2017
Grand Tikal Futura Hotel, Calzada Roosevelt Guatemala City
Organizers: CorpoEventos Eventos Corporativos (Guatemala)
Official Website:

Ferretexpo 2017
Hardware and Construction Materials Show
November 2017
Grand Tikal Futura Hotel, Calzada Roosevelt Guatemala City
Organizers: CorpoEventos Eventos Corporativos (Guatemala)
Official Website:

Apparel Expo
Apparel Industry Show: the trade show that gathers the complete supply chain of the apparel and textile industry.
Organizers: Vestex (Guatemala)
Official Website:

Simposio Iberamericano de VLB 2017
The theme of the trade show is the sector of alcoholic beverages and food.
October 2017
Guatemala City, venue to be announced
Organizers: VLB (Versuchs und Lehranstalt fur Brauerei in Berlin – Germany)
Official Website:

Contact Information

Embassy of the Republic of Guatemala in Canada
130 Albert Street, Suite 1010
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5G4
Tel.: (613) 233-7237; Commercial Section: (613) 233-7188
Official Website:

Guatemalan Development Foundation (FUNDESA)
Tel.: (502) 2331-5133
Official Website:

Useful Links

AGEXPORT – Guatemalan Exporters’ Association – (Spanish only)
Invest in Guatemala
Guatemalan Economics Ministry – (Spanish only)
Guatemalan Chamber of Commerce – (Spanish only)
Guatemalan Chamber of Industry –
VESTEX – Apparel and Textile Industry Association of Guatemala
FECAICA – Federation of Chambers and Associations of Commerce in Central America (Spanish only)
CACIF – Comité Coordinador de Asociaciones Agrícolas, Comerciales, Industriales y Financieras (Spanish only)

Links to Cited Documents

Bank of Canada – Daily Currency Convertor
Canadian Trade Commissioner Service – Country Info
CIA World Factbook
Global Affairs – Country Overview
Global Affairs – Advisories
EDC (Export Development Canada) – Country Profiles
Industry Canada – Trade Data Online
International Trade Centre – Trade Map
Transparency International – Corruption Perception Index
World Bank – Doing Business Report
World Bank – Open Data