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Guatemalan e-commerce

Despite all the talk about electronic commerce, few Latin American countries have yet to see concrete examples of this new way of doing business.
In Guatemala, however, one of the most time-consuming aspects of the current, paper-based system of international trade is about to get much quicker, thanks to a program run by the Association of Non-Traditional Product Exporters (Agexpront).

The new initiative will consist of an Internet-based Electronic Authorization of Exports Service (EAES), which will make it possible for Guatemalan businesses to acquire export licenses on-line, eliminating a big piece of the paperwork that has traditionally slowed international trade.

The EAES, which will be connected to governmental agencies that control the license authorization process, will be available to users 24 hours a day everyday, year-round. Arnoldo Beltrán, an IDB specialist at the Bank’s Guatemala City office, says the new system will free exporters from having to travel to the limited number of governmental offices that offer such licenses, thereby saving a great deal of time. The EAES system will also help fulfill the government’s long-promised “one-window” service goal by centralizing license requirements through the Internet.

“This system will definitely help promote Guatemala’s economic development,” says Beltrán. Guatemala’s government will also benefit because the system will generate a detailed and up-to-date export database. “The system is connected to the central bank, known as Banguat, the Superintendence of Tax Administration, and any other agency or ministry involved in the process,” says Jorge Cruz, general manager of Agexpront. This interconnection means that if a certain export product requires authorization from the Ministry of Health, for example, the ministry can issue its approval online, without having to print and handle its own forms.

The EAES initiative is being underwritten by the Guatemalan government through its Food and Agriculture Sector Program, which is financed by the IDB. Other initiatives financed by this program will complement the EAES. The government is developing an electronic monitoring system for trucks transporting imports across the borders, for example.

And an IDB-financed Technological Innovation Program for Guatemalan Microen-terprises includes the installation of Community Information Centers with Internet access. Through these centers, even small business people who cannot afford telephones or computers will be able to access the EAES system.

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