Bolivia - Country Commercial Guide
Market Overview
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Reasons to Consider Bolivia:

Strong historical growth.  

Bolivia has largely recovered from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Due in part to a better external environment, which included the rise in international prices of main export products, Bolivia has seen a reduction of poverty in 2022 and achieved a growth rate of 3.48 percent of GDP.  However, high public debt, the decline in natural gas production, and modest international reserves have limited the government’s efforts to further boost growth and have generated pressure on the exchange market, where a parallel exchange rate has emerged.

Bolivians like American products.  

Made in the USA generally signals quality and innovation to Bolivian consumers.  Bolivians also tend to purchase U.S. products due to the status they confer.  For larger purchases by local governments, U.S. products and services are viewed as reliable options due to stringent customer service standards, warranties, and maintenance plans. 

Bolivia is rich in non-renewable natural resources.  

Raw mining materials, natural gas, and hydrocarbons are some of Bolivia’s largest exports, and there is still room to grow.  In addition to presently mined minerals such as zinc, silver, lead, copper, and tin, Bolivia boasts significant lithium deposits, which remain mostly undeveloped.  However, illegal and sustainable mining practices are common, particularly in the gold sector, so origin and environmental impact should be considered before any purchase arrangement is concluded.

Bolivia’s agricultural sector is the economic bright spot.  

The agricultural sector has grown exponentially in recent years, even after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  But to continue to grow, Bolivian agrobusinesses will need access to new technologies and products to modernize the industry and raise industry standards.  Specific areas of need range from farm equipment to sustainable irrigation systems to combat the effects of climate change and aging infrastructure. 

Market and Trade Statistics

In 2022, most economic sectors showed negative growth rates.  The primary exceptions were oil and gas, though the electricity, construction, transport, and hospitality sectors experienced growth rates above 5 percent.  The Bolivian government is expecting a continued recovery in 2023, with estimated economic growth of 4.9 percent.  According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), inflation for 2022 was 0.7 percent, an increase from .7 percent in 2021 – one of the lowest in the Latin American region.  The INE shows nominal GDP increases from $40.7 billion in 2021 to $44.3 billion in 2022.  Real GDP increased at a slower pace from negative 6.1 percent in 2021, to 3.5 percent in 2022.

Last year, Bolivia had the 126th highest real GDP per capita, according to the World Bank.  Services accounted for over 50 percent of GDP in 2022.  The industrial sector accounted for about 25 percent, and agriculture produced most of the remaining GDP.  The INE shows total exports increased 23 percent in 2022, reaching $13.7 billion.  The top exports were raw materials, such as scrap metal and gold, and fuels, chiefly natural gas.  Other exports include food products, manufactured goods, and vegetable oil.  Bolivia’s top 2022 export markets were India (16.5 percent), Brazil (13.9 percent), Argentina (12.8. percent), Colombia (7.6 percent), Japan (7.1 percent), Peru (6.2 percent), and China (5.7 percent).

From 2021 to 2022, Bolivian imports increased by 36 percent to $13.01 billion.  Thirty percent of Bolivia’s total imports were industrial supplies and inputs, such as replacement parts, chemicals, and other production items.  Other major imports include fuel, capital goods, consumable goods, transport equipment and parts, and food.  Top import products within these categories include oil refining products and nuclear fuel, chemical products, machinery, mechanical appliances, vehicles and tow trucks, common metals, food, and plastics.  Bolivia also imports significant quantities of steel as well as electrical machinery equipment and parts.  Bolivia’s top 2022 import markets were China (19.4 percent), Brazil (17.7 percent), Argentina (13.2 percent), Chile (6.6 percent), and the United States (6.0 percent).              

Political Environment

Visit State Department’s website for background on the country’s political and economic environment

The United States established diplomatic relations with Bolivia in 1849 following its independence from Spain.  Beginning in 2008, the Bolivian government’s decisions to expel the U.S. ambassador, U.S. law enforcement, and development cooperation agencies strained the bilateral relationship between the United States and Bolivia.  Despite these challenges, the United States maintains a strong and respectful relationship with the Bolivian people, with whom we work to advance human rights, promote entrepreneurship, and cultural and educational initiatives.  The United States celebrated the democratic success of Bolivia’s October 2020 elections and expressed our best wishes for a productive, mutually respectful relationship with the current administration.  However, the United States remains concerned by the anti-democratic tendencies of the ruling party and the politicization of the legal system.

The United States is an important trading partner for Bolivia, with about $1 billion in bilateral goods trade in 2022.  The United States and Bolivia do not have a free trade agreement.  U.S. exports to Bolivia include mineral oils/fuels, plastic materials, food preparations, halogenated olefins, heavy machinery, automobiles, and pharmaceuticals.  The United States is Bolivia’s fifth-largest import market and eleventh-largest export market.  U.S. imports from Bolivia include raw tin, tungsten, mineral ores, cereals, and nuts.

Bolivian law generally allows foreign direct investment, though in practice the government has pursued protectionist policies.  An investment promotion law adopted in 2014 guarantees equal treatment for national and foreign firms, but it stipulates that public investment has priority over private investment (both national and foreign).  Under the law, the Bolivian government will determine which sectors require private investment.  Bolivia abrogated its bilateral investment treaties with the United States and multiple other countries in 2012.  From 2008 to 2016, the Bolivian government nationalized numerous companies that had been privatized in the 1990s.  U.S. foreign direct investment in Bolivia is about $430 million, mainly in the oil, gas, and manufacturing sectors.  Weak judicial recourse, corruption, and unclear investment incentives make investment in Bolivia challenging.  The U.S.-Bolivia Air Transport Agreement from 1947 remains in force with multiple amendments.  Throughout the last decade, Bolivia has experienced positive economic growth, but it remains one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.