Guatemala Ambassador to Korea Marco Tulio Chicas Sosa (Embassy of Guatemala in Seoul).
The inclusion of Guatemala in a free trade agreement between Korea and other Central American nations cannot be delayed so as to strengthen bilateral relations, Guatemala Ambassador to Korea Marco Tulio Chicas Sosa said in an email interview with The Korea Herald Friday.
Work is underway to include Guatemala in the trade pact with five Central American nations -- Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama – that was fully implemented last year.
“Such instrument would increase the competitiveness of Korea, compared with other Asian actors, such as India, that keeps constantly increasing its presence in Guatemala,” Chicas said.
Guatemala is the largest market for Korean goods in Central America, according to the ambassador, and the accession of Guatemala to an FTA between Korea and rest of the Central American countries would strengthen the textile industry, which accounts for around 80 percent of South Korea’s investment in Guatemala.
Guatemala was initially included in the multilateral trade pact, but later dropped out of the negotiations.
Any more delays of the inclusion would have a big impact on the agriculture sector job market in his country, Chicas said, urging for a swift conclusion of Guatemala-Korea trade negotiations after a recent meeting of trade ministers of the two countries.
“Those negative effects are contrary to the pledge of Korea to support a solution to the root causes of migration from Guatemala to the USA,” said Chicas.
Last year South Korea, among others, agreed to work with the US to address the root cause of the influx of people from Central America to the US. Measures for addressing the issue include providing relief to the region, and increasing investment.
According to Chicas, the best way Korea could contribute to the cause is to conclude the negotiations and ratify Guatemala’s inclusion in the FTA.
Guatemala Vice Minister of Economy Maria Luisa Flores is expected to visit Korea this week to promote mutual understanding and free trade between the countries, as a concrete demonstration of the political will to reinforce commercial relations, Chicas added.
“Korea is a relevant partner to Guatemala for the attraction of investments, mainly in the textile industry, with impact in the generation of employment and wealth that benefits both countries,” said Chicas.
Discussing opportunities in engineering, procurement and construction (EPC), he said that Korea was moving forward strategically to become a key partner for infrastructure development in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Certainly, the accession of Korea to the Central American Bank of Economic Integration in 2021, has opened a variety of possibilities,” Chicas said.
Chicas underlined that Korean EPC companies seem to be attracted by the recovery of the Guatemalan economy in the last quarter of 2021, which led to a 7.5 percent annual GDP growth.
“Guatemala was among the less affected economies of Latin America in 2020, besides the fact that growth projections of the economy in 2022, is expected to be between 4 percent to 6 percent,” Chicas said.
When asked about the 60 years of Guatemala-Korea bilateral relations, the ambassador recalled how the relations were forged in October 1962, at a time when many feared the world was on the brink of a nuclear war.
Chicas was referring to when leaders of the US and the Soviet Union were engaged in a tense standoff over the presence of nuclear-armed Soviet missiles on Cuba..
“It is one of my deepest desires that similarly, as it happened almost 60 years ago, a solution to the major international conflicts and threats against peace that are currently taking place, may be announced soon, despite the current situation,” he said.
The ambassador also pointed to how both countries had long promoted peace and development even before the establishment of diplomatic relations.
“A small but meaningful action took place in 1953, when the government of Guatemala provided to Korea, a donation of timber valuated in around $150,000 to contribute with the efforts of reconstruction after the Korean War,” he said.
Guatemala is one of 21 foreign diplomatic missions stationed in Korea that are a part of the Peninsula Club, a forum for dialogue on the promotion of peace and the denuclearization of North Korea.
“Guatemala has always condemned the nuclear tests and the launch of missiles made by North Korea,” said Chicas.
He also applauded Korea for being a constructive partner to Guatemala for offering aid in areas of development such as environment, agriculture, productivity, security, among others since 1991.
According to Chicas, Guatemala is home to the largest Korean community in Central America and the Caribbean.
“Guatemala City counts with its own Korea Town, and a street named after the South Korean capital, Seoul,” Chicas said.
This article is a part of a series of interviews with embassies in Seoul commemorating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and 13 Latin American countries. -- Ed