Authorities of the Government of Guatemala presented the country as an investment destination for Spanish companies and also analyzed the possibilities of cooperation in third markets during a bilateral business meeting, opened by the Guatemalan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pedro Brolo, and closed by the Secretary of State of Commerce, Xiana Méndez, and the Minister of Economy of the Central American country, Antonio Malouf. The president of CEOE, Antonio Garamendi; his counterpart from the Coordinating Committee of Agricultural, Commercial, Industrial and Financial Associations-CACIF (Guatemalan business organization); the president of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, José Luis Bonet; and the Director of Financing and Investor Relations of ICEX-Invest in Spain, Alberto Sanz.
In the virtual meeting, organized by the Secretary of State for Commerce, CEOE and the Chamber of Commerce of Spain, in collaboration with the Government of Guatemala, the importance of the Central American country as a destination for investment and opportunities was highlighted and the strategic business relationships and public-private collaboration as a link. To address this last question, the director of the National Competitiveness Program of Guatemala, Rolando Paíz; the president of Cox Energy, Enrique Riquelme; and the partner and director of Business Development in Europe at Finotex and CEO at ENDI, Diego Ricardo Martínez.
CEOE president, Antonio Garamendi, highlighted the investment opportunities and projects developed by Spanish companies in key sectors, such as telecommunications, energy and agribusiness and highlighted the commitment to long-term permanence in development. The institutional and regulatory framework, resulting from the excellent relations between the European Union and Spain with Central America and Guatemala, has also contributed in a very positive way, he stressed. In this sense, he assured that the Economic Association Agreement between the European Union and Central America deserves special attention, which came into force in 2013 and which has allowed, among other aspects, to boost trade between Spain and Guatemala above 40% in the last six years.
Garamendi stressed that these commercial exchanges had received renewed momentum since the inauguration of President Giammattei and his government team. And is that, in recent months, he reported, Spanish businessmen have witnessed the progress that has been made in improving the institutional and regulatory framework to boost investment; governance and transparency; of security; and digitization, through modernization and innovation processes in the Public Administration. Finally, he conveyed the CEOE's full willingness to strengthen bilateral business relations, in collaboration with the institutions of both countries and with CACIF, an organization with which there is a strong relationship in the International Organization of Employers (OIE) and within the of the Ibero-American Business Council-CEIB, "which we put at the service of Guatemala to collaborate in regional integration and turn this country into the engine of the Central American economy," he said.
The president of CACIF, Nils Leporowski, highlighted the important role that Spain plays within Europe in relations with the old continent, and a clear example of this is relations with Guatemala, whose exports to our country amount to 158 million dollars in 2019, while Spanish imports to the Central American country reached 264 million in the same period. Leporowski also highlighted the Agreement for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments between both countries that entered into force in 2004, as well as the Inter-institutional Collaboration Agreement with ICEX since 2015.
"We are strengthening relations and not only in economic matters, but also in the cultural sphere, where there is a wide presence of Spanish cooperation, whose programs have helped the development of the country," he explained. In this sense, he stressed that it has been a very tough year due to the pandemic, but he hopes to overcome this situation with the strength that characterizes entrepreneurs. For this reason, he reported that the Organization has worked on an Economic Reactivation Plan to promote growth in the next ten years. "It is time to give a boost to investment, among many other axes that are part of this Plan," he added. Spain, he continued, has been a great investor in key sectors of the country, and he hopes that it will continue to maintain its interest in the opportunities that exist there.
According to the president of the Spanish Chamber, José Luis Bonet, relations between Spain and Guatemala are excellent, also in economic and commercial matters. “Spain is positioned as the main European investor and exporter to Guatemala, and we believe that this privileged condition of partners has been reinforced by instruments such as the European Union-Central America Association Agreement, which entered into force in 2013, and which should boost trade between both regions, favoring greater economic integration and opening our markets to new companies, particularly SMEs, ”he said.
Finally, José Luis Bonet also referred to the health crisis that is being experienced today in all countries and stated that “we are aware of the difficulty that we are facing at the moment, Spain and Guatemala share the concern about the effects of this crisis and because of the importance of a decisive response from the public powers that requires not only short-term responses, but also a long-term vision and in this response, public-private collaboration is essential ”.
The director of CEOE Internacional and permanent secretary of CEIB, Narciso Casado, acted as moderator throughout the bilateral meeting and introduced the various speakers of the day. For his part, he stressed the importance of public-private collaboration, especially at a time like the present, and recalled as an example the promotion of the Business Meeting that was held within the framework of the Ibero-American Summit of Heads of State and Government in Antigua, Guatemala. At that time, the representatives of the country's ministries, in coordination with CACIF, CEIB and SEGIB, undertook an intense promotional roadshow in Latin America, which made the business meeting a success, since it had the participation of more than 800 entrepreneurs from all over the Region.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, Pedro Brolo, stressed that this type of meeting constitutes a symbol of rapprochement and good harmony between both countries and will lay the basis for increasing trade and bilateral investment, which at this time the economies demand so much . This year 2020 has been a challenge for many sectors, but the Central American country continues to be, without a doubt, a destination of great opportunities, since "Guatemala does not stop", he declared. The Government, he explained, is committed to development, innovation and the construction of solid bases so that the world knows the advantages that this destination can offer.
Spain, he said, is a priority and strategic partner, with a bilateral trade that exceeds 472 million dollars. "Guatemala has a lot to offer, with a very valuable exportable offer in terms of quality and competitiveness," he said. Spain, he continued, is a supplier partner of large value chains, of unique products such as machinery, cosmetics, electrical appliances, textiles, pharmaceutical products ”. In the last decade, the manufacturing industry and the vehicle trade, logistics, telecommunications, infrastructures, renewable energies and construction, are some of the key sectors that present important opportunities in the Region, and that are intended to be further promoted through of the National Competitiveness Plan 2018-2032, where the creation and development of 11 clusters in all the country. In addition, it has a strategic location and represents a point of reference with markets such as the United States, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, with outlets to the Atlantic and the Pacific, and where human talent and productive competitiveness abound, he stated.
Expert Panel: Strategic business relationships and public-private collaboration as a connecting link
The director of the National Competitiveness Program of Guatemala, Rolando Páiz, explained that this program aims to help students who go out to the labor market in search of a formal job, ensure that local companies reinvest in the country and attract foreign investment. The main objective, he pointed out, is to bet on more development and less poverty. To do this, they have focused on four basic pillars that revolve around Guatemala as an investment destination. It is intended to help companies that arrive to take off, accompanying them, advising them on legal aspects to validate their business model and, once established, follow up to ensure that the reality they live corresponds to their expectations.
The Director of Financing and Investor Relations of ICEX-Invest in Spain, Alberto Sanz, sent an optimistic message when observing how Guatemala has continued to bet, despite the pandemic, to maintain a stable environment and a favorable regulatory framework for investors, despite the fact that investment has retracted globally and a 40% drop is expected this year. In his opinion, it is only a turning point until the outlook improves, as investments and projects remain in place but are temporarily on hold due to current mobility issues. Sanz explained that, from ICEX, multiple actions are also carried out to attract investment projects and projects greenfield, assist SMEs and startups in investment issues, position themselves in global business indices, research programs and others to attract foreign entrepreneurs.
The president of Cox Energy, Enrique Riquelme, highlighted that the company developed a business project that was committed to sustainable development within renewable energy and has come a long way, since they created a solar park in Guatemala and where the first photovoltaic project, with an investment of more than 120 million dollars. “The environment has changed, the situation discourages investors a bit, as they remain prudent; even so, it is not a bad time to invest in a great country and in a great project, as it is a stable destination, and where foreign investors are strongly supported ”, he considered.
The partner and director of Business Development in Europe at Finotex and CEO at ENDI, Diego Ricardo Martínez, explained that the company is dedicated to technology projects and startups and, four years ago, it moved to Spain, through Invest in Spain, by sharing the legal legal framework to support investments. Spain, he assured, is an access platform not only for Europe, but also for the Latin American market, and tax aid and initiatives on entrepreneurship and startups are the best option to initiate business relationships. Guatemala, on the other hand, he continued, represents an excellent gateway to the north, to countries like Mexico, and to the south, accessing the rest of Latin America. In his opinion, the key sectors in Spain that can be transferred to Guatemala are energy, textiles, start-ups, food processing and the tourism sector.
The Minister of Economy, Antonio Malouf, stressed that under the presidency of Alejandro Giammattei steps are being taken in the right direction to ensure the prosperity of investments. To this end, he reported, they are working in a coordinated and joint way to guide the country's Economic Recovery Plan, which considers the attraction of foreign investment as one of the central axes. In this sense, he added, a series of actions are being carried out to create a favorable legal framework for investment and improve the business climate. "Continue betting on Guatemala, since the country offers a privileged strategic location, a capable and trained young bond, a stable macroeconomy, and the will to continue being strategic allies for the mutual benefit of both countries," he concluded.
The meeting was closed by the Secretary of State for Commerce, Xiana Méndez, who addressed in her speech the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the economy and commercial exchanges. He also highlighted the measures implemented by the Spanish Government to face the economic effects of this pandemic. Regarding the recovery, the Secretary of State stated that "the strength of the foreign sector will be an engine of economic growth and employment as it was in the previous crisis."
During his speech, Xiana Méndez pointed out the good moment of bilateral trade relations: "Guatemala is for Spain a fundamental strategic partner in Central America, both from the institutional point of view, as well as in the economic and commercial sphere." Spain, he continued, “has positioned itself as one of the main European suppliers in the country where Spanish exports have grown by more than 40% since the entry into the Association Agreement between Central America and the EU. In addition, it is the main European investor in the country, something that fills us with great satisfaction and makes clear our interest in Guatemala. We believe that there is still enormous potential to intensify the flow of investments and we must join forces to make it a reality ”, he concluded.