The negotiations on the Partial Scope Agreement (PSA), between the Government of Belize and the Government of the Republic of Guatemala, were launched on November 22, 2004. Both countries signed the agreement on 26th June, 2006. In 2009, Belize deposited its Instrument of Ratification to the CARICOM Secretariat and obtained CARICOM’s approval of the Agreement and completed its internal process of ratification that year. Guatemala completed its ratification in March of 2010. With the exchange of information notifying the completion of the internal process in each country, the PSA took effect on 4th April, 2010, thirty days after Guatemala completed its internal process of ratification.

This is Belize’s first negotiated bilateral trade agreement and one which takes into account the obligations to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). This agreement has been seen as an opportunity to enhance trade and commercial relations for both countries.

Currently, Belize has completed the three phases of tariff reductions as outlined in the Tariff Schedules of the Agreement. The main products benefiting from this agreement are: citrus, tilapia, cattle, yellow corn, black beans, red beans, poultry and pepper sauce. This market is expected to offer premium prices relative to world prices. The PSA covers 150 goods, including certain goods under the headings of: animal products; prepared foodstuffs; products of the chemical or allied industries; plastics and articles thereof: rubber and articles thereof; wood and article of wood, wood charcoal; paper and paperboard, articles of paper pulp, of paper or of paperboard; textiles and textiles articles; footwear, gaiter and the like; parts of such articles; glass and glassware; base metals and articles of base metal; and other items.

Investment is another area for Belizeans to potentially benefit from in this agreement. Structurally constrained in achieving economies of scale, Belizean investors will now be able to process and create value-added goods in Guatemala to qualify for preferential treatment in Central America and in like manner Guatemalan investors can, through joint ventures or otherwise, operate in Belize and tap into the preferential markets of CARICOM and the EU.

The Directorate of Foreign Trade (DFT) has taken ongoing steps to facilitate full implementation of the agreement. The inaugural meeting of the Belize-Guatemala Administrative Commission was convened Friday 28th February, 2014 at the George Price Centre in Belmopan, between a high level trade delegation and other officials representing the Government of Belize, and its counterparts from the Republic of Guatemala.

In accordance with the Agreement, an important function of the Administrative Commission will be to supervise the administration and compliance with obligations of the Agreement by both Parties and to recommend suitable measures and mechanisms to mitigate existing barriers to trade. The meeting addressed the approval and adoption of the Administrative Rules and Procedures for effective operation of the Commission and activated the two Technical Committees of the Commission: the Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Measures (SPS) and the Rules of Origin. Both Parties also exchanged information on Points of Contact and Heads of the Technical committees. These include the Committee on Rules of Origin, Committee on Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Measures, Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade, and the Committee on Land Transportation. A proposal was for the establishment of a new technical body to assist the Commission in the implementation of the Agreement was also tabled. The Terms of Reference of this Technical body will be developed for future discussion by The Commission.

The Belize delegation used the opportunity to inform their trading counterpart of some of the current cross border issues between the two countries. Technical presentations were made by Customs and Excise Department and the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) which addressed existing trading issues for exporters, including currency exchange, application of Customs procedures, and the application of outdated tariff codes, mutual recognition of food and health safety measures and procedures for the registration of agricultural products.

Both Parties were committed to addressing issues of concern and advancing trade relations between the two countries, and to take the necessary steps towards implementation to the Belize/Guatemala Partial Scope Agreement.