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: 4/5/2018
Belize has a total area of 8,867 square miles and an estimated population of 370,000 inhabitants (estimates of September 2016). Belize has an open, private sector led economy based primarily on agriculture, tourism, and services.

Tourism remains the nation’s largest foreign exchange earner. Tourist arrivals for 2016 increased (very modestly) for the fourth consecutive year amounting, to 1,385,547. That number was 1,299,100 in 2015, 1,289,351 in 2014 and 971,527 in 2013. Overnight tourists accounted for roughly 380,631 versus 341,125 in 2015 and 1,004,916 were from cruise ship arrivals versus 957,975 in 2015.  Estimates of annual tourist expenditures amounted to roughly US $245 million and accounted for 38.1% of GDP in 2016. The sector is expected to increase further over the next several years with additional airline routes, the Norwegian Cruise Line private island terminal and destination, and further investments in hotels like the Hilton and Leonardo Di Caprio’s Blackadore Caye.

Despite significant decreases in earnings across all major commodities for 2016, the agriculture and agro-productive sectors rank second most important in economic performance. In 2016, this economic sector faced many challenges including diseases that reduced production of citrus fruits and shrimp, Hurricane Earl which caused wind and flood damage to banana and grains, and poor deteriorating infrastructure which added to the cost and time of getting products to markets. Belize’s gross exports for 2016 amounted to $201 million, down 25.1 percent from the US $268 million in 2015. The main exports were sugar (25.6%), citrus (21.9%), bananas (17.4%), marine products (10.4%), crude petroleum (5.6%), and animal feed (3.1%), among others.

As a consumer country that relies heavily on imports, Belize’s trade imbalance continues to grow. Belize’s gross imports for 2015 totaled $1,029.5 million, up from 2014’s $1,002.67 million. Together machinery & transportation equipment, manufactured goods, fuels, food and chemicals account for roughly 66 percent of all exports for Belize.

For 2016, the United States remained Belize’s lead trading partner.  While the U.S. remained the major importing partner, accounting for 37% of overall imports, it dropped to Belize’s second largest export destination after the United Kingdom, with 29% of exports or $59 million. Other major trading partners for imports included Central America, Mexico, Netherlands Antilles, and China; other major trading partners for exports included the United Kingdom, other European Union countries and CARICOM. For more information visit the Statistical Institute of Belize website.

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 its close proximity to the United States which makes it accessible via air, terrestrial, and shipping routes.  It is also the only English-speaking country in Central America. It 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 approximately 73%.

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