Trade Promotion and Advertising
Bolivia has many regional trade events and fairs that can be used to promote products or test market interest. The largest of these is Expocruz (https://fexpocruz.com.bo/), an international multi-sector trade show that takes place every year in Santa Cruz. Expocruz organizers report that the U.S. pavilion is one of the most sought-after pavilions for exhibitors. Expocruz provides a good opportunity for U.S. companies to enter the Bolivian market, to contact Bolivian importers and representatives, and to market their products. The 2021 trade fair drew in over 300,000 visitors during its 10-day span, with larger than expected numbers.
Radio, television, and newspapers are the prevalent means for disseminating information. Radio is Bolivia’s most effective promotion medium, with broad coverage throughout the country, including isolated areas where electricity is often unavailable. Radio is particularly effective in reaching rural populations, as many programs are broadcast in Spanish as well as in the two most-used indigenous languages — Aymara and Quechua. The government operates a national and international radio network, Red Patria Nueva. Many stations are available for live streaming. Television is increasingly available in rural areas and can be found in most urban homes. Television stations are privately owned, except for one government and some government university stations. There are several networks that broadcast throughout the country, but only the government station broadcasts to all areas. Some popular local networks are: Red Uno, ATB Bolivia, UNITEL, and Bolivia TV (state-owned). Access to cable television is still limited, but growth is considerable in Bolivia. Companies offer packages of South American feeds from major world networks (CNN, BBC, MTV, ESPN, Disney) and Latin American, European, and U.S. programming (HBO, AXN, Discovery, TNT), with some channels in HD. Newspapers, both in print and online, are a common method of reaching the public on various national, local, and community news. Printed newspapers are widely circulated throughout Bolivia. Online newspapers have a more limited reach, as internet access is not available to all people in all areas. Below are the more prevalent newspapers in print and online in major cities:
La Paz: La Razón https://www.la-razon.com; Página Siete https://www.paginasiete.bo; El Diario https://www.eldiario.net/portal/; and Ahora El Pueblo (state-owned) https://www.ahoraelpueblo.bo.
Santa Cruz: El Deber https://eldeber.com.bo; El Mundo https://elmundo.com.bo; and El Día https://eldia.com.bo.
Cochabamba: Los Tiempos https://www.lostiempos.com and Opinión https://www.opinion.com.bo.
Sucre: Correo del Sur https://correodelsur.com.
Except in limited circumstances, markets determine prices. There is no specific formula used to calculate prices. Some products, such as hydrocarbons, meat, sugar, maize, natural oils, and bread, are regulated by the Bolivian government. The National Authority of Hydrocarbons and the Ministry of Productive Development and Plural Economy regulate the sale and price determination of the above-mentioned products and issue a certificate ensuring sufficient internal supply and a “fair” price of the goods prior to any export. The “fair” price is the government-defined price for any good or service. Municipal governments determine the price of garbage collection services and the price of water. Bolivia does not subsidize agricultural exports. The government in Bolivia has set the price for gasoline at $0.54 per liter and for diesel oil at $0.53 per liter. These prices have remained fixed since 2004.
Under the Bolivian tax system, a value added tax is applied to all transactions of goods and services inside Bolivian territory and on imported goods. The value added tax rate in Bolivia is 14.94 percent (13 percent nominal).
Sales Service/Customer Support
U.S. products often enjoy competitive advantages in terms of quality, reputation, use of innovative technology, and customer support. Customer service and technical and maintenance support often exceed the services provided by Bolivian firms. Any product that requires operator training or needs after-sales technical service should have a qualified local company ready and able to assist the customer. For practical rather than legal reasons, U.S. firms selling high-tech products should provide training and maintenance support to their distributors and agents. This practice would allow companies with a complicated product or service to be more effective with their after-sales services and promotion of their products. All manuals, advertising, and sales materials should be in Spanish since most Bolivians do not speak English.
Local Professional Services
Local legal counsel is highly recommended, particularly when establishing a local subsidiary or registering brand names.
Principal Business Associations
Business chambers in Bolivia are non-political organizations that represent specific interests or groups. Membership in the chambers is usually comprised of varying private companies interested in getting information and guidance related to a specific business sector. It is common for a Bolivian company to be a member of more than one chamber, as chambers differ in goals and focus. Whether chambers are referred to as “Cámara,” “Confederación,” “Federacion,” or “Asociación,” their principles of operation are similar. They all work as associations, giving them more leverage when representing the interests of the sector and when negotiating with the government. The American Chamber of Commerce of Bolivia (AMCHAM) is an established chamber that promotes and encourages trade, investment, and cooperation between the United States and Bolivia. AMCHAM has offices in La Paz, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz. For more information, please refer to their website https://amchambolivia.com/amcham_es/ or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Below is a list of other important chambers in Bolivia:
Confederación de Empresarios Privados de Bolivia (CEPB) https://www.cepb.org.bo
Focus: Private business. Currently the CEPB has 28 affiliated chambers, representing various commercial sectors and private entities.
Cámara Nacional de Comercio (CNC) https://www.cnc.bo
Focus: Bolivian commerce (Importers and Investors).
Cámara Nacional de Exportadores de Bolivia (CANEB)
Focus: Bolivian exporters. The members of this chamber geographically represent areas of Bolivia.
Cámara Nacional de Industrias (CNI) https://www.cnibolivia.com
Focus: Bolivian Exporters. The members of this chamber are divided geographically. CNI is associated with various sector chambers.
Cámara Agropecuaria del Oriente (CAO) https://www.cao.org.bo
Focus: Farm production.
Asociación de Bancos Privados de Bolivia (ASOBAN) https://www.asoban.bo
Asociación de Entidades Financieras Especializadas en Micro Finanzas de Bolivia (Asofin)
Focus: Financial entities specialized in microfinance.
La Asociación de Instituciones Financieras de Desarrollo (FINRURAL) https://www.finrural.org.bo
Focus: Financial services to the rural, urban, and peri-urban population.
Cámara de Hidrocarburos y Energía (CBHE) http://anbsw08.aduana.gob.bo:7601/buaran/search.do
Focus: A representational institution for the energy sector. It covers all companies throughout the production chain.
Limitations on Selling U.S. Products and Services
Foreign and domestic private entities have a legal right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in remunerative activity. However, there are areas where investors feel the special treatment is given to their Bolivian competitors, particularly where private companies compete with state-owned enterprises. Foreign investment is not allowed in matters relating directly to national security, and only the government can own natural resources.