China – Latin America Economic Bulletin

Boletín Económico China-América Latina

2013 Edition

Rebecca Ray and Kevin P. Gallagher

Summary Version


The China-Latin America Economic Bulletin is an annual note that summarizes and synthesizes trends in the burgeoning China-Latin America economic relationship.  Research for the Bulletin is conducted by the Global Economic Governance Initiative (GEGI) at Boston University.  GEGI partners with the Global Development and Environment Institute (GDAE) at Tufts University USA to translate and disseminate the bulletin in Latin America, China, and beyond.

In fifteen years China has gone from being a relatively insignificant economic partner in Latin America to the number one trading partner of some of the largest economies in the region.  That said, there is a lack of reliable data on many aspects of the China-Latin America economic relationship—especially in the areas of investment and finance.  The goal for this annual bulletin is to help fill this gap so that policy-makers, journalists, analysts, advocates, and others can have a more evidence-based understanding of this burgeoning economic relationship.

As the first in the series, this issue puts recent trends in historical context.  Highlights from this year’s report are:

• LAC exports to China have soared since 2000, but slowed in 2012, stalling to a 7.2 percent growth rate in real dollar terms, compared to average annual export growth to China at 23 percent from 2006 to 2011.

• Behind this slowdown are falling commodity prices. LAC exporters are “running in place” as exports to China have continued to grow in volume, but have fallen in price, leading to stagnant total export values.

• More than half of all LAC exports remain concentrated in three broad sectors related to copper, iron, and soy—with the majority of these exports concentrated in three countries: Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. These sectors are all prone to large price swings, contributing further to the slowdown in the value of exports to China.

• Chinese exports to LAC are diverse and mostly in manufacturing, with a heavy emphasis on electronics and vehicles. Their value has grown more quickly than LAC exports to China, opening an LAC trade deficit in goods with China in 2011 and 2012.

• Chinese FDI to LAC increased slightly but remains a relatively small percent of total FDI into LAC. Chinese FDI continues to be concentrated in a handful of sectors, such as food and tobacco, automobiles, energy and communications.

• Chinese finance to sovereign governments has slowed and become more discretionary in nature, rather than earmarked for particular industries and sectors.

• Based on preliminary commodity price values for 2013 and projections for 2014, it is reasonable to expect a growing LAC trade deficit in goods with China.

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Summary Version