Trade. – According to BEHEALTHYBYTOMORROW, Guatemalan trade shows a favorable trend in the sense that the value of exports exceeds that of imports. For the period 1925-1929 there is in fact the following movement (a Guatemalan quetzal is equivalent to a United States dollar, and to 19 Italian lire): imports, on average per year: 22.8 million quetzales; exports: 29.1 million quetzales. The average annual surplus is therefore 6.3 million.
On export, coffee, bananas, sugar, chicle gum, timber, etc. prevail. As a value, coffee represents on average 70-80% of total exports. It is therefore the fundamental product: the events of coffee exports have an immediate impact on the entire economic life of the country. Imports mainly concern cotton fabrics, followed by foodstuffs, iron and steel products, alcoholic beverages, fuels (coal and oil).
The war brought about profound changes in the direction of the flow of export and import traffic. United States, Germany, Great Britain are the main countries that trade with Guatemala. They imported 86% of total imports into Guatemala in 1913; their overall share points to a slight decrease in recent years. The United States always holds the top spot, feeling a formidable increase during the World War, due to the complete disappearance of Germany, and a gradual reduction in the postwar period, when competition from continental European countries returns to the fore. Germany took 2nd place in 1913; its sales dwindled to zero during the war, but after 1919 the recovery was vigorous, regaining, albeit attenuated, the pre-war position. Britain is feeling a notable increase in the immediate postwar period, but the decline has been gradual in recent years. After the United States, Germany and Great Britain are followed by France (2.9% in 1930), Italy (2.8%), Mexico (2.3%), Japan (2.3%). %), Holland (1.5%), Belgium (1.4%), etc. The current of exports from Guatemala is undergoing profound changes. In the pre-war period, the main customer was Germany (53%), followed by the United States and Great Britain. The war almost completely annihilates the two European countries and the bulk of exports (especially coffee) headed for the United States. Once hostilities ceased, Germany increased its imports from Guatemala year by year (from 0.5% in 1920 to 40% in 1929), contending with the United States for primacy. Great Britain almost entirely loses its importance, while in third place we find Holland with as much as 16% in 1930.
Analyzing the Italo-Guatemalan trade it is noted that Italy imports insignificant quantities of goods from Guatemala, while its exports to the Central American country are increasing more and more. In 1930, the Italian participation in imports into Guatemala was 2.8%, a modest value if we consider the Italian production capacity and the absorbing power of Guatemala. The highest values are given by wool, cotton, silk and wool hats, wines and medicines. Italy is the main supplier for felt hats, followed by Germany and the United States.
Communications. – Given the essentially mountainous characteristics of the country and the poor navigability of the rivers, the railways have achieved great importance. Currently the Guatemalan railway network measures km. 1240: it is all narrow gauge, except for the Ferrocarril de los Altos, which leads from San Felipe to Quezaltenango. The railway heritage largely belongs to the International Railway of Central America (Ferrocarriles Internacionales de Centro America), with the exception of the state- owned Ferrocarril de los Altos and the German-owned Compañia del Ferrocarril Verapaz y Agencías del Norte. Owned by the United Fruit Company then there are the numerous local lines, located in the banana plantations in the lower Motagua basin.
The direct line, joining the two largest Guatemalan ports, is the San José-Guatemala-Puerto Barrios. There are currently two international lines, one for Mexico, and one for El Salvador. The latter, which ended in 1929-30, is of great importance especially for Puerto Barrios.
The road network (carreteras): currently there are over 2400 km. of truckable roads, with a vehicle heritage of 2500 touring cars, 250 buses and 800 trucks. Most of the commercial relations are done by sea, through the ports of the Atlantic (Puerto Barrios, Livingston) and those of the Pacific (San José, Champerico, Ocós). The fundamental port always remains Puerto Barrios. The most represented flag is that of the United States; of the European fleets, the Norwegian is the one with the highest number of ships, followed by the German and English fleets. The participation of the Italian flag is notable in the ports of the Pacific, touched by the Italian ships that from Genoa and Trieste, through the Panama Canal, reach the ports of the United States and Canada in the Pacific.
The merchant navy is of little importance; The Lloyd’s Register does not make separate mention. Relations with foreign countries are ensured by foreign companies; Puerto Barrios, in the Atlantic, is connected to New York by the United Fruit Co., With Plymouth through Hapag, with Liverpool and Havana through the Pacific Steam Navigation Co. (British), to which Guatemala paid 500,000 francs in postal subsidies for a long time. The National Legislative Assembly approved, on May 30, 1931, the convention between the government and the Compañia Agricola de Guatemala for the construction of a modern port on the Pacific coast – which is more populated – about twenty miles between the current ports of call of San José (in the South) and Champerico (in the North). The aim is to increase the cultivation of bananas, providing the fruit with the mechanical means for prompt and accurate loading; art. 6 of the convention grants the fleet of the hiring company the exemption from all port, lighthouse, pilotage, etc. rights. This may open the door to the creation of a national navy.
The development taken by aviation is also noteworthy. The Compañía Nacional de Aviación carries lines from Guatemala to Quezaltenango, in Coban, Flores, and Compan ê Mexicana de Aviación (Pan American Airways) holding the line from Mexico to Guatemala. Telephone, telegraph and radio stations depend on the state.