Canada - Guatemala Relations

Guatemala is an important partner for Canada in Central America and is a key country in Canada's Engagement in the Americas. With an estimated population of 15.87 million and a GDP of $66.73 billion in 2014, Guatemala is the largest country and economy in Central America. Canada and Guatemala maintain strong diplomatic ties and growing trade relations.

Canada is actively engaged with Guatemala on a wide range of issues, including food security and nutrition, sustainable economic growth, improvement of citizen security and access to justice, combating organized crime, transitional justice and promotion of human rights, growing trade and investment and development of corporate social responsibility.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the establishment of the Canadian Initiative for Security in Central America (CISCA) on April 15, 2012, during the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. Managed by DFATD, CISCA builds on Canada’s existing security programming in Central America by disbursing $25 million over five years, a large percentage of which is focused on Guatemala.

At the seventh Summit of the Americas (April 10 to 11, 2015) in Panama City, Panama, Prime Minister Harper announced new projects aimed at strengthening health, security and democratic governance, and border management across Latin America and the Caribbean.  For more information see: New Canadian Initiatives in the Americas and the Economic Initiatives in the Americas.

These projects focus on police training, border security, enhancing regional dialogue, strengthening justice and security institutions, promoting human rights, supporting conflict resolution and reconciliation processes, and prevention of and intervention in cases of violence against vulnerable groups, such as women and youth. Projects are being delivered by the ACCBP and START programs at DFATD, which have been working in these areas in Guatemala since 2009. In addition, Canada’s development cooperation supports the ongoing work of CICIG.

Trade and Investment

Guatemala and Canada have maintained a stable commercial relationship over the years, however there is considerable room to grow. Guatemala is Canada’s second largest trading partner in the Central America region. Despite the 2008 world financial crisis, bilateral merchandise trade has increased, reaching $656 million in 2014.

Canadian exports to Guatemala consist mostly of machinery, potatoes, fertilizers and electronic devices, while Canadian imports from Guatemala consist of sugar, textiles, nuts, vegetables and fruits. Recently, there has been interest in diversification of trade especially towards new products, such as green and sustainable products and technologies.

Guatemala is an important investment market for Canadian companies in several different sectors. Canadian companies are active in several diverse areas including agriculture, forestry, mining, energy, telecommunications and financial services, all in which they offer unique capabilities.

Both Canada and Guatemala are open to continuing negotiations of a bilateral free trade agreement and parallel agreements on labor and the environment.

Specific details on trade and investment by sector can be found in the factsheet.

Corporate Social Responsibility

In Guatemala corporate social responsibility, or sustainability, as a preferred term in Guatemala, is a developing concept which is being driven by the private sector with local partners and stakeholders. While the Government of Guatemala has no official policy on CSR, individual companies, business associations and chambers of commerce are trying to develop a culture of responsible and sustainable development.

Canadian companies in Guatemala are a part of these efforts. Major investors in all sectors of the economy as well as local representatives of Canadian companies and distributors of Canadian products have programs which reflect CSR principles. Generally such programs benefit not only employees and their family but the surrounding communities where they operate.  Examples of programs include daycare and family education centers, local or regional healthcare centers, school buildings and equipment, contributions to capacity building and rural economic development.

On numerous occasions, the Canadian Embassy and its employees have contributed to and participated in activities and events organized by Canadian companies which reflect the Canadian spirit of collaboration and community.

In keeping with Canada’s CSR recently updated strategy the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala works with local partners to promote open and honest dialogue on issues related to corporate social responsibility. For example the Embassy hosted a workshop which brought together stakeholders – community representatives, government officials, members of local and international NGOs and private enterprise – to discuss their own definitions of CSR and to begin to break down the barriers that limit communications between these groups. The Embassy also encourages the sharing of best practices in open forum discussions throughout the private sector. More recently, the Canadian Embassy in Guatemala has been promoting the Business and Human Rights Guiding Principles through participation in international meetings and organization of meetings with national stakeholders to disseminate and prompt dialogue on this matter.

People to People Links

Canadians are engaged in Guatemala and are working in areas of key importance, including security, human rights and nutrition.  Many Canadians have personal links to Guatemala through volunteer opportunities, tourism, commercial ventures and educational exchanges.

There are approximately 3000 Canadian citizens living in Guatemala and 50,000 visitors from Canada in Guatemala every year. In addition, Canadian volunteer organizations are active in many locations throughout the country.

When disaster strikes Canadians respond with great solidarity due to historic ties between our two countries.  In 2009 - 2011, Canada provided more than $1,640,000 in emergency funding to respond to natural disasters in Guatemala such as Tropical Storm Agatha and Tropical Depression 12E. In 2014 an additional $250,000 was provided to respond to drought conditions and the coffee rust plague. These humanitarian assistance funds were delivered by national and international organizations with presence and expertise in the country.

Temporary Foreign Workers

Each year there is a movement of seasonal agricultural workers from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. More than 5000 temporary work permits were issued in 2011, the vast majority of which were issued to seasonal agricultural workers. Approximately 75% of these applications are processed from April to July. Applications from the region under the temporary foreign worker program grew by over 15% from 2010 to 2011, and will likely continue to grow, as more employers in more parts of Canada are now recruiting workers from Central America.

For the individual temporary agricultural worker, the money earned in Canada has contributed to economic growth in villages in Guatemala and other countries in the region, as the workers invest their earnings in education, land, housing, and other major life improvements.

Official Representation

Guatemala is represented in Canada by an Embassy in Ottawa and consulates in the cities of Montréal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Canada is represented in Guatemala by an Embassy in Guatemala City.

June 2015

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