Nicaragua - Country Commercial Guide
Market Opportunities

Overview of best prospect sectors, major infrastructure projects, significant government procurements and business opportunities.

Last published date: 2021-09-26

A democratic Nicaragua committed to transparency and rule of law would be well positioned to deliver sustainable economic growth.  A responsible government could draw foreign investment and unlock both public and private funding.  Nicaragua enjoys significant economic resources:  an ecologically diverse geography, making it a desirable tourist destination; a well-developed export industry that produces valuable commodities, including coffee, beef, sugar, and peanuts; reserves of gold and other valuable minerals; ready access to major shipping lanes in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; and a young labor force that supports the manufacturing and services sectors.  Nicaragua similarly has a highly organized and sophisticated private sector committed to a free-market economy that can fully leverage these resources, if supported by a responsible government. 

Sectors poised for considerable growth following a democratic transition include tourism, agro-industrial processing, and auto-parts manufacturing.  Nicaraguan agricultural exporters appear to have successfully weathered the slowdown of 2020.  According to data from the Nicaraguan export regulator (CETREX), the agriculture sector experienced 25 percent growth in exports to the United States from June 2020 to June 2021.  While two years of sharply reduced international travel due to COVID-19 has hit the tourism industry hard, the natural beauty and inexpensive amenities that previously drew visitors continue to hold enormous potential. 

Though Nicaragua’s continued participation in the Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) is jeopardized by the undemocratic actions of the Ortega regime, the agreement presents a key opportunity for U.S. businesses.  Under CAFTA-DR, most products originating in the United States theoretically enter Nicaragua tariff-free, and vice versa, expanding and enhancing market opportunities for both U.S. and Nicaraguan exporters.