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Statement by Deputy Chief of Mission Christopher Wilson at the WTO Trade Policy Review of Guatemala
November 16, 2016
*For the Record*
Thank you, Chair. The United States is pleased to welcome the entire delegation of Guatemala to Geneva. There have been many developments since Guatemala’s last review in 2009, as the government has continued to place a high priority on trade liberalization as the core of its national development strategy. Guatemala’s report provided us with valuable background information, a useful perspective and framework to understand the government’s trade policy regime and practices. We look forward to learning more about Guatemala’s trade policies and its engagement through this TPR. Thank you to everyone for the work put into this review.
The United States and Guatemala continue to enjoy a strong trade and economic relationship. The United States is Guatemala’s leading partner in both exports and imports. Our bilateral trade in goods was $9.9 billion in total (two-way) goods trade in 2015. Trade and economic integration between the United States and Guatemala is an important element in our overall bilateral relations and generates important benefits for both countries and for the region.
The United States and Guatemala are partners under a regional free trade agreement, the Dominican Republic – Central America – United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), among the Dominican Republic, the United States, and five Central American countries (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua). Over the last ten years, since implementation of the CAFTA-DR, our trade relationship with Guatemala has transitioned to one based on reciprocal free trade.
The United States commends Guatemala on its path towards trade liberalization, including the adoption of unilateral, regional and multilateral measures aimed at achieving this objective. Both of the reports from Guatemala and the Secretariat indicate that Guatemala is pursuing a strategy of trade liberalization in various contexts. Unilaterally, Guatemala has pursued economic reforms, such as eliminating export performance requirements for production under the free trade zone and maquila regimes. The United States encourages Guatemala to develop and consult clear and transparent regulations in this area.
On the multilateral front, we appreciate Guatemala’s active engagement in the WTO, particularly in the negotiation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA). The United States encourages Guatemala to join its neighbors, including Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, Nicaragua, and Belize, in ratifying the TFA, and, as Guatemala has stated, “redouble its efforts” to complete its domestic process and accept the TFA by the end of this calendar year. We hope Guatemala can help us move to that number that is tantalizingly close for entry into force.
The United States commends Guatemala for work to date and progress in customs modernization and trade facilitation. With technical assistance from the United States and other countries, Guatemala and its Central American neighbors continue to focus on reform initiatives to promote free movement of goods and trade facilitation; regulatory modernization and convergence; and institutional development. Strengthening intra-regional trade and safely streamlining customs procedures is key to furthering the economic development of Guatemala and other countries in the Central American region.
It is clear that Guatemala’s trade with its neighbors has also been an important area of development in terms of trade liberalization and economic integration, including the Central American Common Market, which grew in 2013 with the addition of Panama. Several other agreements concluded between 2009 and 2016 have entered into force, including the agreements: between Central America and Panama (2009); between the European Union and Central America (2013); between Chile and Central America (2010); and between the United Mexican States and the Republics of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras (2013).
Negotiations on a Customs Union with Honduras are also addressing movement of goods and natural persons. The United States would appreciate further explanation about the Customs Union approach, any plans for expanding it to the rest of Central America and how Guatemala’s’ Customs Union approach differs from its other regional trade agreements.
In intellectual property (IP) rights, the United States applauds Guatemalan reforms during this review period to strengthen its legal framework. The Secretariat’s report recognizes broad efforts to build capacity to protect and enforce IP rights. The Secretariat further notes the enactment in 2014 of a law to protect plant varieties and its subsequent withdrawal. The United States would appreciate more details on the status of legislation to provide these protections in Guatemala, specific plans for accession to the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), and if Guatemala is in compliance with UPOV 1991.
In closing, we would like to reiterate our appreciation for Guatemala’s active participation in the work of the WTO and its commitment to prioritizing the commitments under the TFA including accepting that Agreement by the end of this year. We would also like to emphasize that we continue to value our close work with the Guatemalan government and our WTO partners to strengthen and build on the WTO’s rules-based and cooperative foundation.
We thank the delegation of Guatemala for its willingness to consider these points and our questions, and express our thanks again for the work in preparing for this review. We welcome the opportunity to engage with Guatemala and other delegations in a discussion of Guatemala’s trade policy regime.