Discusses key economic indicators and trade statistics, which countries are dominant in the market, the U.S. market share, the political situation if relevant, the top reasons why U.S. companies should consider exporting to this country, and other issues that affect trade, e.g., terrorism, currency devaluations, trade agreements.
Last Published: 7/23/2019

Belize covers 8,867 square miles and has an estimated population of 398,050 inhabitants (July 2018 estimate).  The country has an open, private sector led economy based primarily on tourism, agriculture, and services.

Tourism remains the nation’s largest foreign exchange earner.  Arrivals for 2018 registered one of the largest increases for the last decade amounting to 1,697,398 tourists.  Overnight tourist stays grew to 489,261, a 14.6 % increase over the previous year.  Cruise ship arrivals grew to 1,208,137 visitors, 19.9% more than the previous year.  Estimates of annual tourist expenditures is US $244.85 million and accounts for 38.1% of GDP.  The sector is expected to increase further over the next several years with additional airline routes and further investments in hotels like the Hilton Curio, Autograph Collection Marrriott, Four Seasons, Wyndham, and Leonardo Di Caprio’s Blackadore Caye.

Despite significant decreases in earnings across all major commodities for 2018, the agriculture and agro-productive sectors rank second most important in economic performance.  In 2018, this sector continued to face challenges including diseases that reduced production of citrus fruits and shrimp as well as diminished prices for sugar in the European market.  Belize’s gross exports for 2018 amounted to $200 million, down 10.5% from $222.8 million in 2017.  The main exports were sugar and molasses (30%), bananas (18.5%), citrus (15.7%), marine products (10.7%), and crude petroleum (6.3%).   
As a consumer country that relies heavily on imports, Belize’s trade imbalance continues to grow.  Belize’s gross imports for 2018 totaled $957.7 million, up from 2017’s $913.2 million.  Together machinery & transportation equipment, fuels and lubricants, manufactured goods, food and chemicals account for roughly 60% of all imports into Belize.

For 2018, the United States remained Belize’s lead trading partner.  The United States remained the Belize’s largest importing partner, accounting for 42.5% of overall imports.  On the other hand, it is Belize’s second largest export destination after the United Kingdom, with 23% of exports or $45.3 million. Other major trading partners for imports included China, Central America, and Mexico; other major trading partners for exports included the United Kingdom, other European Union countries, and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). For more information visit www.sib.org.

U.S companies should consider exporting to Belize, as it is an open economy that is very much dependent on U.S. imports.  It is also in close proximity to the United States, which makes it accessible via air, terrestrial, and shipping routes.  It is the only English speaking country in Central America, has a relatively skilled labor force, and a higher cost of living than neighboring Central American countries with a strong appetite for American consumer products.

Belize continues to have peaceful, democratic elections.  On November 4, 2015, the United Democratic Party led by Prime Minister Dean Barrow became the first party since Belize’s independence in 1981 to win three consecutive terms in office.  Barrow’s party won 19 of the 31 electoral divisions with overall voter turnout of approximately 73%.  The next national election is scheduled for late 2020.

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting http://export.gov/usoffices.

Belize Trade Development and Promotion