Guatemala - Country Commercial Guide
Market Challenges

Learn about barriers to market entry and local requirements, i.e., things to be aware of when entering the market for this country.

Last published date: 2021-08-10

According to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business survey which covers ten indicators for Guatemala and ranks Guatemala out of 190 economies as follows:

Chart Showing Guatemala business ranking by topic
Guatemala Business Ranking by Topic

The political situation in Guatemala is marked by continuing allegations of corruption and widespread calls for reform. As a  consequence, in Guatemala many commercial successes are hard fought.  We have observed a growing number of complaints from U.S. stakeholders and companies regarding corruption and transparency issues within the country. Cases of unfair treatment against U.S. companies continue to reflect significant negative impact on Guatemala’s investment climate. 

The U.S. government advocates for U.S. companies on the whole and for the use of open, fair, and transparent tenders in government procurement and in accordance with CAFTA-DR obligations allowing open participation by U.S. companies.

Other concerns such as violent crime and weak judicial institutions remain serious challenges. Issues related to the Certificate of Origin and classification of goods continuously represent an obstacle to access preferential tariffs. Additionally, widespread procurement corruption, impunity, labor rights abuses, protection of intellectual property, food insecurity, poor education and infrastructure, and deep socio-economic divisions continue to be challenges for the government.

Communist China has begun to make significant inroads in Central America with respect to investment – and consequently influence – but Guatemala has not yet seen substantial investment from the PRC. Chinese trade with Central America has increased by 70% in the past five years. China has recently emerged as the second largest trading partner for much of Central America. The Chinese now broadening their engagement beyond exports of simple household electronics and motorbikes and is now aggressively pursuing major infrastructure projects in the region such as energy plants, seaports, and telecommunications.

Guatemala imports from China have doubled during the last ten years.   In 2020, imports totaled US$2.25 billion, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade. Main Guatemala imports from China in 2020 were electrical and electronic equipment, machinery, boilers, iron and steel, and organic chemicals among others.