Guatemala Announces Plans to Open Consulate in Atlanta
|Thursday, March 24, 2005||
Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774
ATLANTA – Governor Sonny Perdue and the Guatemalan Ambassador to the United States, H.E. Jose Guillermo Castillo, announced today that Guatemala plans to open its first consulate general in Atlanta. Guatemala is the fourth Central or South American country in the last five months to open or signal its intention to establish an official presence in the city.
“Atlanta’s bid for the Secretariat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas highlights Georgia’s status as an international trade and business center,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “Guatemala and the countries of Central and South America and the Caribbean are interested in strengthening their ties to our state due to Georgia’s dynamic business and cultural climate.”
Guatemala is estimated to have more citizens living in Georgia—almost 40,000—than any Central American country other than Mexico. They are currently served by an honorary consul in Atlanta, Ms. Maria Teresa Fraser. She has held that position for 40 years and is the longest-serving consul in Atlanta. The new office, which is expected to open this summer, will be a full consulate with jurisdiction over a number of Southeastern states. It will be headed by a consul general and provide full consular services, such as issuing visas and passports, as well as promoting trade, investment, tourism, academic and cultural relationships.
“We recognize the critical importance to Guatemala of Atlanta and Georgia and the neighboring states in the U.S. Southeast, not only because of the large number of Guatemalan citizens who live and work in this region, but also because of the many business, trade and tourism opportunities we already enjoy,” said Ambassador Castillo. “This is my fourth visit to Atlanta in the past year – a strong indication of the importance my country attaches to this region of the United States. In light of the signing of the Central American-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) with the U.S. last year, we want to focus on additional opportunities we will be able to develop for our mutual benefit.”
Guatemala ranks ninth among Georgia’ trade partners in the FTAA, with just over $105 million in exports in 2004, a 43 percent jump from 2003. Georgia’s primary export to Guatemala is textiles. Almost $91 million in commodities from Guatemala were imported through Georgia ports in 2004 – mostly apparel and accessories. Delta Air Lines provides daily non-stop service between Atlanta and Guatemala City.
Ambassador Castillo, in Atlanta with other officials from Central American and the Dominican Republic for trade talks, met with Governor Perdue earlier this week to accept the Governor’s invitation to open the new Guatemalan consulate general. Governor Perdue extended the invitation last year during his visit with the president of Guatemala, Oscar Berger. Brazil and Peru have both announced plans to establish a consulate general in Atlanta, and El Salvador opened a consulate in Duluth last month.
The initiative to raise awareness of Georgia’s position as the premier gateway and future home of the Secretariat of the Free Trade Area of the Americas is directed by Hemisphere, Inc., a public-private partnership chaired by Governor Perdue.