Latin American and Caribbean Exports to China Increase in 2017

WASHINGTON, United States, Thursday December 21, 2017 – Exports from Latin America and the Caribbean have increased by around 13 per cent this year and are nearing the US$985 billion mark. This sharp acceleration contrasts with the 3.3 per cent drop of 2016, according to ‘Trade Trend Estimates for Latin America and the Caribbean’, a new report published by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

The IDB said the main explanation for the growth is the recovery in exports to China, which are up by 30 per cent, and to the United States, which grew by 10 per cent. Those destination markets accounted for two-thirds of total growth. The 12-per cent increase in intraregional flows also contributed significantly to the region’s trade performance.

Exports from the region grew more than total global exports, which saw a year-on-year variation of 9.7 per cent between January and September this year. This is mainly because recovering prices benefited the region relatively more than the rest of the world, on average. For example, the price of iron increased by 26.9 per cent and that of petroleum by 23.5 per cent year-on-year between January and November 2017.

“China’s purchases from the region were the most dynamic, as they largely entailed raw materials, which saw a strong upward trend,” said Paolo Giordano, principal economist at the IDB’s Trade and Integration Sector, who coordinated the report.

“Overall export volumes increased by 4 per cent, which marks the end of a long period of stagnation. However, growth was concentrated in a handful of countries.”

At the subregional level, the report indicates that exports accelerated more sharply in South America, which saw a 16-per cent increase in 2017, in contrast with the 4.5-per cent drop of 2016. Growth rates were highest in Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, and Ecuador. Exports to China and the United States, which grew by 30 per cent and 18 per cent, respectively, were the most dynamic and explained nearly half of all growth.

The Caribbean’s exports grew by 11 per cent, a stark contrast with the 17.6-per cent contraction of 2016. Exports from Mexico (10 per cent) and Central America (6 per cent) also showed moderate growth.

The increase in demand from Asia particularly benefited South American exports and to a lesser extent the Caribbean’s. The United States’ external purchases fueled growth in exports from Mexico and some countries in Central America. The recovery in intraregional demand was particularly strong for economies in South America and the Caribbean.

“To consolidate this incipient recovery in regional exports, there is a need to clear up uncertainties around the growth of the Chinese economy, the acceleration of the economic recovery in Latin America, and the results of market access negotiations that are currently underway with the United States and the European Union,” Giordano said.

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