2017 China-Latin America Economic Bulletin

China-LAC

This China-Latin America Economic Bulletin is the fourth annual note summarizing and synthesizing trends in the burgeoning China-Latin America economic relationship. The goal of the bulletin is to provide analysts and observers a handy reference to the ever-changing landscape of China-Latin America economic relations, a landscape where data is not always as readily accessible.

In 2016, LAC’s economic relationship with China did not move much in total quantity: exports were flat while investment and finance fell slightly. However, one sector in particularly reinforced its centrality in all three major channels: extraction. China’s interest in LAC as a source of extractive raw materials has remained, even as other economic partners have shied away during the commodities price slump of the last several years.

The main findings of this year’s edition include:

  • The “China boom” in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) appears to be cooling. LAC exports to China have barely grown over the last five years, after doubling during the previous five years. Meanwhile, LAC imports from China have fallen, shrinking the region’s trade deficit with China.
  • However, China’s importance to LAC continues to soar in one sector: extractive industries. China has maintained its presence in LAC’s extractive sectors, despite the slump in minerals prices, while other countries like the US have pulled back. China now purchases over one-fifth of all of LAC’s extractive exports, and extractive goods account for over half of LAC’s exports to China.
  • Chinese investment and finance in LAC is also heavily focused on extraction. Mining, drilling, and refining accounts for over half of Chinese mergers and acquisitions in LAC, and coal, oil, and natural gas account for over half of public-sector lending: a record $17.2 billion in 2017.
  • A new official Chinese policy paper on LAC sets priorities for the coming years: a continued concentration on natural resources and energy, but supplemented with upstream and downstream investments to create supply chains in related industries. There are some sigs of China-LAC moving in that direction.