Belize - Country Commercial Guide
Market Overview

Discusses key economic indicators and trade statistics, and which countries are dominant in the market.

Last published date: 2022-08-01

Belize’s open, private sector-led economy is based primarily on tourism, agriculture, and other services. In 2021, gross domestic product (GDP) grew 9.8 percent to US $1.3 billion, as it continued to rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. Belize covers 8,867 square miles and has an estimated population of 441,471 inhabitants (July 2022 estimate).

The primary sector, which includes agriculture and seafood exports, increased by 11.2 percent in 2021. Sugarcane and banana yields recovered from weather-related damage and cattle exports surged with the removal of trade barriers, which drove growth. Domestic export receipts increased to US $219 million as revenues rose from all major commodities except citrus.

The secondary sector, which includes manufacturing and industry, fell by 1.2 percent in 2021. Electricity and water generation costs weighed down value-added gains from the limited food manufacturing and construction activities.

The services sector, which includes tourism, reversed the devastating downturn of 2020, and grew by 10.1 percent in 2021. The easing of COVID-19 restrictions drove a strong rebound in the service industries, including tourism and wholesale and retail trade, that overshadowed the cuts in government services. Stay-over tourism arrivals increased by 59 percent to 212,568 in 2021, which positively impacted the broader tourism and travel-related sub-sectors. Cruise lines resumed operations to Belize in July 2021 and delivered over 190,000 cruise passengers. Increased domestic spending boosted trade in the wholesale and retail distribution sectors.

Belize made significant steps towards debt sustainability in 2021 by completing its Superbond debt restructuring, a novel financial Blue Bond deal with The Nature Conservancy, which reduced public debt by 12 percent of GDP and significantly expanded marine environment protections. The U.S. Development Finance Corporation (DFC) provided critical political risk insurance that enabled the deal.

The United States remained Belize’s lead trading partner for 2021 and was Belize’s largest importer, accounting for $376.5 million or 35.5 percent of overall imports for the year. The United States is Belize’s third largest export destination after Mexico and the United Kingdom, with $48.2 million or 13.1 percent of exports in 2021. Other major trading partners for imports included the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Panama, Costa Rica, and other Central American countries, while other major trading partners for exports included the European Union and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). For more statistical data, visit www.sib.org

Belize is an attractive market for U.S. exports. Its proximity to the United States makes it easily accessible via air, land, and sea routes for both passengers and cargo. Belize is the only predominantly English-speaking country in Central America. Compared to its Central American neighbors, Belize’s labor force is relatively highly skilled and higher wages drive demand for American consumer products.

Belize has a history of stable democratic government, characterized by peaceful, free, and fair elections and smooth transitions of power between administrations. Belize has maintained a strong tradition of civilian control of its relatively small military force since gaining independence on September 21, 1981. The political parties are center-left and center-right, but often hold similar views regarding trade, economics, and development. The People’s United Party (PUP) gained an overwhelming majority in the November 2020 general elections.