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Guatemala: Doning business and staying in touch

Doing Business in Guatemala

Guatemalan businesspeople tend to be rather formal and conservative. Normal courtesies should be observed and appointments should be made. Punctuality is appreciated and business cards can be useful.

Office Hours

Mon-Fri 0800-1800, Sat 0800-1200.

Economy

Guatemala boasts the largest economy in Central America. Agriculture, prinicipally coffee, sugar cane and bananas, accounts for over 13% of GDP and 38% of the labour force. The main agricultural exports are coffee, sugar, bananas, and vegetables including non-traditional products such as cut flowers, fruit and winter vegetables.

Light manufacturing and food processing, principally aimed at the domestic, US and Central American markets, also play an important role in the economy. Additionally, the government has identified tourism as a major growth sector.

Guatemala's main trading partner is the USA. The two countries ratified the US-Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) in 2005. The agreement came into force in July 2006 and while it has helped improve investment, concerns over security, a lack of skilled workers and poor infrastructure still deter foreign investment in the country.

Economic growth has been steady in the past few years, with annual growth reaching 3% in 2012, with an inflation rate of 3.8%. The unemployment rate was estimated as 4.1% in 2011, although more than half the country is below the national poverty line (13% of which are classified as being of extreme poverty).

Guatemala has the facilities and hotel infrastructure for conventions, conferences and business meetings. The Centro Cultural Miguel Angel Asturias and other modern conference centres are available for such events, often quite close, or accessible to Guatemala's beauty spots.

GDP

$79.97 billion (2012).

Main exports

Coffee, sugar, crude oil, clothing, fruit and vegetables.

Main imports

Fuel, machinery and transport equipment, grain, fertilisers and mineral and chemical products.

Main trading partners

USA, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and the EU.

Keeping in Touch in Guatemala

Telephone

Most public phone booths accept phone cards, and internet cafes are offer the best value international calls. There are no area codes in Guatemala.

Mobile Phone

Roaming agreements exist with some international mobile phone companies. It is possible to buy cheap pay-as-you-go phones from local companies. The main ones are Tigo and Claro.

Internet

The internet is widely available and Wi-Fi is common in tourist areas. Internet cafes can be found in even the smallest towns. Connection speeds to vary but in the main cities is usually fast and reliable.

Media

Guatemala has a free press and journalists openly criticise government policies. However, they may face intimidation because of their reporting, such as anonymous threats. Media is dominated by privately-run outlets. Four of the country's national TV channels share the same owner and have been accused of being pro-government. The main press publications include Diario Centroamérica, La Hora, El Periódico, Prensa Libre, Siglo Veintiuno and La Cronica. Central America Report is an English-language publication. Canal 3 Radio-TV Guatemala, Teleonce, Televisiete and Trecevisión are Guatemala’s main commercial television channels. La Voz de Guatemala is a government-owned radio station while Emisoras Unidas de Guatemala, Radio Continental, Radio Nuevo Mundo and Radio Panamericana are commercial stations.

Post

Regular airmail to Europe takes 10-14 days, and 7 days to the United States. Courier companies such as FedEx and DHL can be found in most cities.

Post Office hours

These vary but in major cities are generally between 0800 and 1700.