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Coffee, rum and tourism to lure Australians to Guatemala

A Central American country is hoping to capitalise on Australians' love of coffee and travel to boost trans-Pacific trade.

Guatemala's embassy in Canberra has been open for just over a year, having established a permanent base in Australia after previously being represented diplomatically from its mission in Japan.

Tikal, Guatemala.
Tikal, Guatemala. Photo: Hilary Doling

The second Central American nation to open an embassy in Canberra after El Salvador, Guatemala is hoping to secure closer ties with both Australia and the wider western Pacific region.

Ambassador Connie Taracena Secaira​ singled out coffee and rum as two export markets her country was hoping to build on in the bilateral trade relationship.

"Guatemala's unique coffee comes from clay-rich soils, volcanic ash and lava, and from steep lands where erosion adds a more fertile soil," she said.

"Guatemala is already exporting its famous aged Rum Zacapa, which comes from Guatemala's rich sugar plantations and its rich wooden barrels."

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The country has experienced an uneasy rise in economic growth and improvement in human rights since a 36-year civil war ended in 1996.

Situated between Mexico, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras on the isthmus connecting North and South America, Guatemala boasts 4000 Mayan temples, and 20 indigenous nations with their own languages and traditions.

Previously represented through Guatemala's embassy in Tokyo, the country decided to build on its relationship with Australia by appointing a resident ambassador to Canberra in December 2014.

Australia has opened a consulate in Guatemala, but the embassy in Mexico City covers diplomatic representation.

Ms Taracena Secaira said the diplomatic mission hoped to encourage tourism to Guatemala and take advantage of bilateral and regional trade agreements.

"Rivers, waterfalls, jungles, more than 300 microclimates, and its impressive fauna and flora, makes Guatemala an ideal country worth of visiting," she said.

"This is the first embassy my government has in Oceania, reflecting the importance we see in this country and this continent."

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia's main exports to Guatemala in the 2014-15 financial year were dairy products, coal, goods vehicles and paper, with total trade with the country worth $40.4 million.

Ms Taracena Secaira is also ambassador designate to New Zealand, and said she hoped countries in the region would be interested in investing in Guatemala.

"Guatemala is a great opportunity for foreign direct investment, offering Australians [the chance] to invest in a secured emerging market with different free trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties, and opportunities in its young population."