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: 2020-07-28

The political situation in Guatemala is marked by continuing corruption scandals and widespread calls for reform. The 2020 World Bank Ease of Doing Business survey ranks Guatemala 96 out of 190 countries – 176th in terms of enforcing contracts. Despite the January 2020 inauguration of a new president who campaigned on tackling high levels of corruption, we have not yet seen any evidence to contradict the rationale supporting those rankings.

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 & 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. 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.