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TRADE POLICY REVIEWS: FIRST PRESS RELEASE, SECRETARIAT AND GOVERNMENT SUMMARIES

PRESS RELEASE
PRESS/TPRB/184
18 January 2002
Guatemala: January 2002

The WTO Secretariat report, along with the policy statement by the Government of Guatemala, will serve as a basis for the first Trade Policy Review (TPR) of Guatemala by the Trade Policy Review Body of the WTO on 16 and 18 of January 2002.

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See also:

Second press release
Chairperson’s concluding remarks


Guatemala's strategy of liberalization has contributed to promoting growth and must be kept up   Back to top

Guatemala's multi-pronged strategy aimed at achieving sustainable economic growth through economic liberalization and public-sector modernization has contributed to promoting growth, which, however, needs to be sped up to improve living conditions, according to a WTO Secretariat report on the trade policies and practices of Guatemala.

The report says that in recent years, trade has played an important role in promoting growth in Guatemala. Increases in exports have outpaced GDP each year since 1996. There has been considerable progress in reducing tariff and non-tariff trade barriers, although protection remains significant in a few areas.

The report adds that economic growth in Guatemala has been steady but will need to be stepped up to effect a significant improvement in living standards. This will require in particular a consolidation of, and further forward movement in, Guatemala's liberalization efforts. In trade-related areas, further initiatives may be required to achieve greater efficiency in the domestic market, including by continuing with the privatization programme and strengthening pro-competitive policies and regulations.

Guatemala has Central America's largest economy, with a population of 11.4 million and a per capita GDP of close to US$1,700. Between 1995 and 1998 real GDP grew at an average annual rate of about 4.4%; subsequently, stagnant private consumption and reduced investment spending led to a slowdown in 1999 and 2000, with GDP growth rates of 3.6% and 3.3% respectively. Despite this relatively solid growth performance, due to Guatemala's strong population growth, per capita GDP has expanded too slowly to improve living standards significantly; poverty thus continues to be a serious problem.

The United States is Guatemala's most important trading partner, being the market for 36% of Guatemalan exports and the source of 40% of its imports. Other important trading partners are other members of the Central American Common Market, the European Union, and Mexico. Between 1995 and 2000, the U.S. dollar value of Guatemalan imports grew at an average rate of 8.2% annually, well above the 6.9% growth rate of exports, reflecting in great part unfavourable terms of trade.

Agricultural goods (WTO definition) account for about 60% of Guatemalan exports and generate about 23% of the country's GDP. Despite their declining shares in total exports, coffee, sugar, and bananas continue to be Guatemala's strongest export products. Over the past years, tourism and exports of apparel and non-traditional agricultural products have increased in importance. Intermediate and capital goods dominate Guatemala's imports. The reports notes, however, that Guatemala's official commodity trade statistics do not include flows from free trade zones and maquila enterprises.

The report also notes that Guatemala grants at least MFN treatment to all its trading partners. Tariffs are Guatemala's main instrument of border protection; the average applied MFN rate is 7.0%. Agricultural imports (WTO definition) are levied an average tariff of 10.2%, while non-agricultural products excluding petroleum are levied a 6.4% tariff on average. Alcoholic beverages and spirits face the highest tariffs with an average rate of 24.8%. Guatemala maintains import tariff quotas for a number of agricultural products under its Uruguay Round minimum access commitments.

In the Uruguay Round, Guatemala bound all its tariffs. While non-agricultural products were bound at a ceiling rate of 45%, Guatemala's final bound rates for agricultural products range from 10% to 257%. Closing the wide margin between applied and bound rates would further increase the predictability of market access conditions.

Tariff reductions under preferential agreements have contributed to improved access to the Guatemalan market for partners. Duty-free access is offered to most imports from the Central American Common Market. Preferential tariffs are also offered to Mexico under a bilateral free-trade agreement, and to Colombia, Cuba, Panama, and Venezuela. However, the number and scope of Guatemala's preferential initiatives combined with its institutional weakness, raise concerns.

Irrespective of their origin and in accordance with the national treatment principle, imports are subject to domestic taxes, most notably a 12% value-added tax, applicable on the c.i.f. value of imported goods. In addition, various goods, such as alcoholic beverages, cement, and vehicles, are subject to specific consumption taxes.

In order to strengthen customs procedures, Guatemala obtained a delay until November 2001 on the application of the WTO Agreement on Customs Valuation. Minimum import prices for customs valuation purposes are in place for rice, used clothes, and second-hand vehicles. A new customs law is expected to be enacted in 2002.

The use of non-tariff trade barriers appears limited. Guatemala maintains various import restrictions and prohibitions, which apply equally to all trading partners, for reasons of security, health, and environmental protection. Guatemala has not taken recourse to contingency measures, with the exception of one anti-dumping case, which was withdrawn by the authorities after a panel was established to examine its WTO consistency.

The industrial sector, including manufacturing, construction, mining, electricity and water, accounts for 20% of GDP. Manufacturing, which accounts for some 13% of GDP, is largely concentrated in the processing of agricultural products, geared to the domestic, Central American and U.S. markets. Other important manufacturing subsectors are footwear, textiles, metals, and chemical products.

The services sector contributes some 57% to GDP, with commerce being the dominant subsector. Pursuant to the Foreign Investment Law, market access to most services sectors on a non-discriminatory basis is guaranteed to foreign investors. Despite the significant improvement made in upgrading the Guatemala's infrastructure, problems remain in certain sectors, such as financial services and port facilities.

Market access to financial services is regulated by specific sectoral legislation. Subject to approval of the regulatory authorities, insurance companies and banks may incorporate a Guatemalan enterprise. State-owned enterprises continue to operate in financial services, maritime transports and telecommunications; however, they represent only a minor share of the respective sector's output. Minimum local capital requirements are in place only in the transport sector. The enactment of a new Telecommunications Law in 1996, together with the privatization of the state-owned telecommunications company, prepared the ground for the rapid growth observed in this sector in recent years. Tourism has developed into an important source of foreign exchange, generating more than US$500 million annually.

  
Note to Editors

Trade Policy Reviews are an exercise, mandated in the WTO agreements, in which member countries’ trade and related policies are examined and evaluated at regular intervals. Significant developments which may have an impact on the global trading system are also monitored. For each review, two documents are prepared: a policy statement by the government of the member under review, and a detailed report written independently by the WTO Secretariat. These two documents are then discussed by the WTO’s full membership in the Trade Policy Review Body (TPRB). These documents and the proceedings of the TPRB’s meetings are published shortly afterwards. Since 1995, when the WTO came into force, services and trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights have also been covered.

For this review, the WTO’s Secretariat report, together with a policy statement prepared by the Government of Guatemala, will be discussed by the Trade Policy Review Body on 16 and 18 January 2002. The Secretariat report covers the development of all aspects of Guatemala trade policies since the previous review, including domestic laws and regulations, the institutional framework, trade policies by measure, and developments in selected sectors.

Attached to this press release are the Summary Observations of the Secretariat report and parts of the government policy statement. The Secretariat and the government reports are available under the country name in the full list of trade policy reviews. These two documents and the minutes of the TPRB’s discussion and the Chairman’s summing up, will be published in hardback in due course and will be available from the Secretariat, Centre William Rappard, 154 rue de Lausanne, 1211 Geneva 21.

Since December 1989, the following reports have been completed: Argentina (1992 and 1999), Australia (1989, 1994 and 1998), Austria (1992), Bahrain (2000) Bangladesh (1992 and 2000), Benin (1997), Bolivia (1993 and 1999), Botswana (1998), Brazil (1992, 1996 and 2000), Brunei Darussalam (2001), Burkina Faso (1998), Cameroon (1995 and 2001), Canada (1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998 and 2000), Chile (1991 and 1997), Colombia (1990 and 1996), Costa Rica (1995 and 2001), Côte d’Ivoire (1995), Cyprus (1997), the Czech Republic (1996 and 2001), the Dominican Republic (1996), Egypt (1992 and 1999), El Salvador (1996), the European Communities (1991, 1993, 1995, 1997 and 2000), Fiji (1997), Finland (1992), Gabon (2001), Ghana (1992 and 2001), Guinea (1999), Hong Kong (1990, 1994 and 1998), Hungary (1991 and 1998), Iceland (1994 and 2000), India (1993 and 1998), Indonesia (1991, 1994 and 1998), Israel (1994 and 1999), Jamaica (1998), Japan (1990, 1992, 1995,1998 and 2000), Kenya (1993 and 2000), Korea, Rep. of (1992, 1996 and 2001), Lesotho (1998), Macao (1994 and 2001), Madagascar (2001), Malaysia (1993, 1997 and 2001), Mali (1998), Mauritius (1995 and 2001), Mexico (1993 and 1997), Morocco (1989 and 1996), Mozambique (2001), New Zealand (1990 and 1996), Namibia (1998), Nicaragua (1999), Nigeria (1991 and 1998), Norway (1991, 1996 and 2000), OECS (2001), Pakistan (1995), Papua New Guinea (1999), Paraguay (1997), Peru (1994 and 2000), the Philippines (1993 and 1999), Poland (1993 and 2000), Romania (1992 and 1999), Senegal (1994), Singapore (1992, 1996 and 2000), Slovak Republic (1995 and 2001), the Solomon Islands (1998), South Africa (1993 and 1998), Sri Lanka (1995), Swaziland (1998), Sweden (1990 and 1994), Switzerland (1991, 1996 and 2000 (jointly with Liechtenstein)), Tanzania (2000), Thailand (1991, 1995 and 1999), Togo (1999), Trinidad and Tobago (1998), Tunisia (1994), Turkey (1994 and 1998), the United States (1989, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1999 and 2001), Uganda (1995 and 2001), Uruguay (1992 and 1998), Venezuela (1996), Zambia (1996) and Zimbabwe (1994).

  
  
The Secretariat’s report: summary  Back to top

TRADE POLICY REVIEW BODY: GUATEMALA
Report by the Secretariat — Summary Observations

In recent years, trade has played an important role in promoting growth and development in Guatemala. Increases in exports have outpaced GDP each year since 1996. There has been considerable progress in reducing tariff and non-tariff trade barriers, although protection remains significant in a few areas. Most restrictions to foreign investment have also been eliminated, and a wide-ranging privatization programme has led to reduced state involvement in production activities and increased efficiency in key activities. Moreover, legislation to improve government procurement regulations and the protection of intellectual property rights has been adopted. These efforts have been part of a multi-pronged strategy that encompasses unilateral, regional, and multilateral initiatives aimed at achieving sustainable economic growth through economic liberalization and public-sector modernization.

Economic growth in Guatemala has been steady but will need to be stepped up to effect a significant improvement in living standards. This will require in particular a consolidation of, and further forward movement in, Guatemala's liberalization efforts. In trade-related areas, further initiatives may be required to achieve greater efficiency in the domestic market, including by continuing with the privatization programme and strengthening pro-competitive policies and regulations. Non-distortionary sectoral policies will need to be favoured, bearing in mind that export-promotion programmes often result in discrimination against domestically oriented activities. Consolidation of Guatemala's liberalization efforts would also be aided through specific capacity-building programmes. Ultimately the success of these efforts is contingent upon securing lasting institutional stability. In all these areas the international community can continue to play an important role.

Guatemala has Central America's largest economy, with a population of 11.4 million and a per capita GDP of close to US$1,700. Since the signing of the Peace Accords in December 1996, which ended 36 years of internal armed conflict, one of the main objectives of the authorities has been to achieve stable and sustainable economic growth. Between 1995 and 1998 real GDP grew at an average annual rate of about 4.4%; subsequently, stagnant private consumption and reduced investment spending led to a slowdown in 1999 and 2000, with GDP growth rates of 3.6% and 3.3% respectively. Despite this relatively solid growth performance, due to Guatemala's strong population growth, per capita GDP has expanded too slowly to improve living standards significantly; poverty thus continues to be a serious problem.

In order to meet an agreed Peace Accords target to fund social programmes, efforts are being made to expand tax revenue; for this purpose, the value-added tax was increased to 12% in mid 2001. The Government has also undertaken efforts to strengthen the tax administration and broaden the tax base, although tariffs and value-added tax on imports still account for a large part of state income. The fiscal deficit has ranged between 0.1% and 2.8% since 1995.

Guatemala maintains a flexible exchange rate system; the Central Bank intervenes in the market only to moderate exchange rate fluctuations. A law passed in late 2000 allows the free circulation of machinery and transport equipment, food products, fuels, and chemicals. The upward trend in the share of fuels in total merchandise imports reflects the increases in world prices of foreign currency, with a view to increasing confidence in the banking system. Disciplined financial policy has contributed to a reduction in inflation from double-digit rates at the beginning of the 1990s to 5% in 2000, and has played a role in keeping the exchange rate to the U.S. dollar relatively stable since 1999. Real interest rates have shown a rising trend in recent years and reached almost 15% in 2000.

Guatemala's current account has registered important deficits in recent years, due mainly to persistent and growing trade deficits. The deficit has been financed largely by remittances and privatization income. Returning capital and privatization inflows increased international reserves to nearly US$1.9 billion in 2000, equivalent to five months of total imports.

The United States is Guatemala's most important trading partner, being the market for 36% of Guatemalan exports and the source of 40% of its imports. Other important trading partners are other members of the Central American Common Market, the European Union, and Mexico. Between 1995 and 2000, the U.S. dollar value of Guatemalan imports grew at an average rate of 8.2% annually, well above the 6.9% growth rate of exports, reflecting in great part unfavourable terms of trade.

Agricultural goods (WTO definition) account for about 60% of Guatemalan exports. Despite their declining shares in total exports, coffee, sugar, and bananas continue to be Guatemala's strongest export products. Over the past years, tourism and exports of apparel and non-traditional agricultural products have increased in importance. Intermediate and capital goods dominate Guatemala's imports.

Guatemala is in the process of consolidating its legal and institutional framework; the strengthening of governance is a priority and a necessary condition for Guatemala to achieve its ambitious development objectives. The Ministry of Economy is the lead agency for all issues related to foreign trade. Guatemala joined the GATT in 1991 and became a WTO Member in July 1995. As an international treaty, the WTO Agreements take precedence in Guatemala over domestic legislation. Guatemala has been active in the multilateral trading system, taking part in the negotiations on telecommunications services, and making use of the dispute settlement mechanism on a few occasions. Guatemala has also participated in the mandated negotiations on services and, as a member of the Cairns Group, on agriculture.

Guatemala has increasingly participated in preferential trade arrangements; the Central American Common Market is at the centre of its regional trade relations. Guatemala has a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Mexico, now supported by new initiatives for closer physical integration between the two and with other countries in the region. Negotiations for FTAs with Canada, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Panama have been initiated or concluded; the Agreement with the Dominican Republic was expected to enter into force in late 2001. Further negotiations with El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua on the formation of a customs union, and an agreement on trade in services and investment are under way. Guatemala also has Partial Scope Agreements with Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela, and participates in the negotiating groups of the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

The number and scope of these preferential initiatives, each imposing its own negotiating and implementation demands, combined with Guatemala’s institutional weaknesses, raises questions about its capacity to participate effectively in all such initiatives. New FTAs are compounding trade policy implementation difficulties by, inter alia, requiring the administration of different tariff-reduction programmes and rules of origin. Incompatibilities between agreements may also emerge, for example with respect to customs valuation or safeguard measures; provisions in some of Guatemala’s FTAs take precedence over multilateral rules.

Between 1996 and 1998, Guatemala implemented an ambitious privatization programme; however, the programme has since slowed considerably and a number of enterprises, mostly in the services sector, remain state-owned. The privatization programme was accompanied by the enactment of new telecommunications and electricity laws that ended state monopolies in these sectors and opened them to private-sector participation. The Foreign Investment Law of 1998 grants national treatment to all foreigners with only few sectoral exceptions, notably transport.

Guatemala grants at least MFN treatment to all its trading partners. Tariffs are Guatemala's main instrument of border protection; the average applied MFN rate is 7.0%. Agricultural imports (WTO definition) are levied an average tariff of 10.2%, while non-agricultural products excluding petroleum are levied a 6.4% tariff on average. Alcoholic beverages and spirits face the highest tariffs with an average rate of 24.8%. Guatemala maintains import tariff quotas for a number of agricultural products under its Uruguay Round minimum access commitments.

In the Uruguay Round, Guatemala bound all its tariffs. While non-agricultural products were bound at a ceiling rate of 45%, Guatemala's final bound rates for agricultural products range from 10% to 257%. Closing the wide margin between applied and bound rates would further increase the predictability of market access conditions.

Tariff reductions under preferential agreements have contributed to improved access to the Guatemalan market for partners. Duty-free access is offered to most imports from the Central American Common Market. Preferential tariffs are also offered to Mexico under a bilateral free-trade agreement, and to Colombia, Cuba, Panama, and Venezuela.

Irrespective of their origin and in accordance with the national treatment principle, imports are subject to domestic taxes, most notably a 12% value-added tax, applicable on the c.i.f. value of imported goods. In addition, various goods, such as alcoholic beverages, cement, and vehicles, are subject to specific consumption taxes.

In order to strengthen customs procedures, Guatemala obtained a delay until November 2001 on the application of the WTO Agreement on Customs Valuation. Minimum import prices for customs valuation purposes are in place for rice, used clothes, and second-hand vehicles. A new customs law is expected to be enacted in 2002.

The use of non-tariff trade barriers appears limited. Guatemala maintains various import restrictions and prohibitions, which apply equally to all trading partners, for reasons of security, health, and environmental protection. Guatemala has not taken recourse to contingency measures, with the exception of one anti-dumping case, which was withdrawn by the authorities after a panel was established to examine its WTO consistency.

Legislation on free-trade zones and maquila enterprises constitute Guatemala's main instruments for export promotion. Pursuant to these arrangements, exporting enterprises may, under certain conditions, benefit from exemptions from import duties and various internal taxes. Guatemala does not make use of official export credits or insurance programmes to promote exports.

Guatemala benefits from various GSP schemes and the unilateral U.S. Caribbean Basin Initiative. Guatemalan raw cane sugar exports to the United States benefit from preferential tariff quotas. Guatemala's textiles and clothing exports to the United States are also subject to quotas. Export quotas are in place for products covered by the WTO Agreement on Textiles and Clothing. Guatemala maintains export taxes only for the coffee sector.

Government procurement is regulated by the Government Contracts Law of 1992, which accords national treatment to foreign suppliers of goods and services. Guatemala does not have a comprehensive legal framework for competition policy but the authorities are preparing such a framework. Although there are sector-specific regulations to ensure that domestic markets remain competitive, the information available suggests that competition is restricted in some key sectors, such as financial services.

The WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) became part of Guatemala's legislation through its ratification of the Marrakesh Agreement. Subsequently, Guatemala has undertaken legal and administrative reforms to facilitate the protection of intellectual property rights, such as the enactment of new copyright and industrial property laws. Annual registrations of intellectual property rights have increased substantially since 1995.

Agriculture generates about 23% of Guatemala's GDP. Despite its decreasing share in GDP, agriculture remains a central sector of the Guatemalan economy due to its contribution to employment and export earnings. However, Guatemala's two main agricultural exports, coffee and sugar, have come under considerable pressure in recent years due to adverse international market conditions.

The industrial sector, including manufacturing, construction, mining, electricity and water, accounts for 20% of GDP. Manufacturing, which accounts for some 13% of GDP, is largely concentrated in the processing of agricultural products, geared to the domestic, Central American and U.S. markets. Other important manufacturing subsectors are footwear, textiles, metals, and chemical products.

Guatemala's special fiscal arrangements for free trade zones and maquila enterprises appear to have favoured particularly the production of various non-traditional goods, although no precise estimates exist. These goods comprise agricultural products such as cut flowers and specialty vegetables, fishery products such as shrimps, and manufactures, in particular textiles and apparel. As foreign trade under these special arrangements is not recorded, actual exports in these sectors as well as imports of necessary inputs may be underestimated in official trade statistics.

The services sector contributes some 57% to GDP, with commerce being the dominant subsector. Pursuant to the Foreign Investment Law, market access to most services sectors on a non-discriminatory basis is guaranteed to foreign investors. Market access to financial services is regulated by specific sectoral legislation. Subject to approval of the regulatory authorities, insurance companies and banks may incorporate a Guatemalan enterprise; foreign banks may also establish branches or subsidiaries.

Guatemala's commitments under the GATS are relatively limited, covering only five service categories, as they bound the policy framework in place before the beginning of Guatemala's privatisation programme and the enactment of the Foreign Investment Law.

State-owned enterprises continue to operate in financial services, maritime transports and telecommunications; however, they represent only a minor share of the respective sector's output. Minimum local capital requirements are in place only in the transport sector. The enactment of a new Telecommunications Law in 1996, together with the privatization of the state-owned telecommunications company, prepared the ground for the rapid growth observed in this sector in recent years. Tourism has developed into an important source of foreign exchange, generating more than US$500 million annually. Despite the significant improvement made in upgrading the Guatemala's infrastructure, problems remain in certain sectors, such as financial services and port facilities.

  
  
Government report Back to top

TRADE POLICY REVIEW BODY: GUATEMALA
Report by the Government — Part II

Changes in the economic environment

A series of stabilization and structural adjustment measures were introduced in Guatemala from 1991 onwards with the aim of increasing economic efficiency through the implementation of measures to control inflation, strengthen the balance-of-payments and seek to create suitable conditions for sustainable economic growth. This involved a series of structural reforms in the areas of trade, finance, public administration, monetary policy and fiscal policy, etc. Thus, economic performance in the period 1991-2000 was marked by the effects of the application of these measures, as well as by the efforts to adapt the domestic economy to the demands of the economic globalization process and to non-economic factors.

The period in question was marked by general price stability as a result of the efforts of the monetary authority to match the levels of liquidity to the requirements of the economy and thus bring about a gradual reduction in inflation. Accordingly, the variation in domestic prices showed a downward trend, with an average rate during the period of 9 per cent. It should be added that in the last four years inflation has averaged 6.1 per cent.

In recent years the basic objective of monetary, exchange and credit policy has been to promote general price stability based on the conviction that that this is the best contribution that this policy can make to achieving sustainable growth in production and employment and, consequently, to the orderly development of the domestic economy. Accordingly, in 2000 the strategy underlying the monetary, exchange and credit policy was directed to restoring confidence in the currency and strengthening the domestic financial system. This strategic objective called for the disciplined application of policy measures aimed at ensuring: (a) a disciplined monetary policy; (b) the strengthening of the domestic financial system through modernization of the regulatory framework; and (c) fiscal discipline.

In response to the challenges arising from the worldwide globalization process, at the end of 1989 the monetary authority decided to introduce greater flexibility into the foreign exchange market. Accordingly, from 1994 onwards the exchange rate and the exchange allocation in that market were allowed to find their own levels. In addition, in 1996 the electronic system for foreign currency transactions (SINEDI) came into operation, on the principle of bringing certainty and transparency to operations carried out in the market by guaranteeing freedom in foreign exchange operations to economic agents.

The balance-of-payments current account deficit as a percentage of the GDP exceeded 5 per cent in some years during the last decade. It should be pointed out that in those years the current account deficit was financed, inter alia, by a net inflow of foreign capital which led to an increase in the International Currency Reserves.

In 2000 the balance-of-payments current account balance as a percentage of GDP fell as compared with the previous year, going from 5.5 per cent in 1999 to 4.8 per cent in 2000. This result was helped by the performance of services and transfers, which recorded surpluses higher than in the previous year. In addition, in 1998 direct foreign investment amounted to US$673 million as a result of strong privatization activity.

During the last decade economic policy measures have also been introduced with a view to the economic modernization of the country, encouraging a greater opening up of the domestic economy and a better allocation of resources. Consequently, during the period 1991-2000 the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at an annual rate of 4.1 per cent, leading to a relative improvement in the per capita income of the population. It should be added that in recent years the country's economic growth has been affected by various factors, in particular the external shocks that have led to a deterioration in the terms of trade, the damage caused by hurricane Mitch and the global economic slowdown.

At the beginning of the decade the central government found itself in a critical situation with a fiscal deficit of around 2 per cent. That meant raising funds to cover current expenditure and left no room for any increase in investment. As a result, it became imperative to revise the fiscal policy with a view to eliminating the above-mentioned deficit and avoiding an increase in the foreign debt. By the end of 2000 the fiscal deficit as a percentage of GDP amounted to 1.8 per cent and the tax burden stood at 10.1 per cent.

The total trade in goods, that is to say exports together with imports, increased between 1991 and 2000 at an annual cumulative rate of 10.5 per cent. Exports grew at an annual cumulative rate of 9.2 per cent, reaching an f.o.b. value of US$2,708.5 million in 2000, while imports increased at an annual cumulative rate of 11.4 per cent, standing in 2000 at a c.i.f. value of US$4,885.3 million.

In the growth in the value of exports it is important to draw attention to the increase recorded in exports of coffee and bananas, as well as of other products, to the rest of the world and to Central America. With regard to imports there were considerable increases recorded in consumer goods, capital goods, raw materials, and fuel and lubricants.

A fundamental objective of the country's economic policy in recent years has been to reduce the role of the State in the economy and promote greater private sector participation. Accordingly, from 1996 onwards as part of the economic policy measures directed towards the economic modernization of the country the government initiated a process of disposing of State assets through the sale of 80 per cent of the shares of the Empresa Eléctrica de Guatemala (EEGSA), 95 per cent of the shares of the Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Guatemala, S.A. (TELGUA) and of the telephone-band operating concession, the sale of two distribution companies of the Instituto Nacional de Electrificación (INDE), the usufruct of the railway company of Guatemala (FEGUA) and the administration and operation of the postal services.

Another aspect of fundamental importance is the progress achieved in modernizing the financial system under the auspices of the Modernization Programme for the National Financial System. In this connection, steps have been taken to strengthen the country's financial legislation, so as to improve the competitiveness of the institutions on the one hand and, on the other, protect the interests of depositors, as well as safeguarding the liquidity, solvency and stability of the national financial system as a whole.

Within the framework of the programme to strengthen the national financial system the following draft laws are now under discussion and await approval by the relevant authorities: the Law on Banks and Financial Groups, the Law on Financial Supervision, the Organic Law of the Bank of Guatemala, the Currency Law, and the Law on Insurance Activities. The legal reforms proposed are intended to strengthen the national financial system and ensure greater supervision, by providing a general legal framework that will bring greater legal certainty and help to make the financial institutions more efficient, solid, transparent and competitive, on the basis of a preventative approach, and thereby contributing to the development of the domestic economy and strengthening public trust in saving and investment.