The value of exports from Latin American and the Caribbean fell by 1.6 percent in the first quarter of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. The decrease was caused by lower export volumes and falling commodity prices.
The downturn ended 27 months of growth. Exports have fallen in every subregion, but the drop was particularly pronounced in South America, according to the latest update of Trade Trend Estimates: Latin America and the Caribbean, which is published today. The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) issues the report every six months.
Exports grew in several of the 26 countries discussed in the report, although Barbados, Haiti, and Suriname were the only ones whose performances outstripped those of the first quarter of the previous year.
“A combination of risk factors is affecting the outlook for regional trade,” said Paolo Giordano, the economist at the IDB’s Trade and Integration Sector who coordinated the report. “What happens next depends largely on the outcome of current global trade tensions and whether the Latin America and the Caribbean remains on a growth path.”
The figures for the first quarter of 2019 contrast with the revised data for 2018, which showed export growth of 8.9 percent, although this slowed as the year went on and trade conflicts escalated.
The value of Latin American and Caribbean imports grew by 10.8 percent in 2018 before stagnating in the first quarter of 2019.
China was the most dynamic destination for the region’s cumulative exports in the first quarter of 2019. US import demand slowed, and LAC exports to the European Union and within the region also contracted notably.
Performance by Subregion
In the first quarter of 2019, South American exports fell by 5.4 percent after expanding an average rate of 8.3 percent in 2018. This was true of almost every country in South America. Exports to the European Union and within South America contracted the most (-14.8 percent and -14.0 percent, respectively), while the exports to China and the rest of Asia remained in positive territory.
Mesoamerican exports increased an estimated 2.1 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2019. This compares to 9.4 percent in 2018. This slowdown is explained by the slower growth of Mexican exports and the contraction of Central American ones.
Growth in exports from the Caribbean slowed slightly in the first quarter of 2018, according to estimates based on data for five countries in the subregion.
The Inter-American Development Bank is devoted to improving lives. Established in 1959, the IDB is a leading source of long-term financing for economic, social and institutional development in Latin America and the Caribbean. The IDB also conducts cutting-edge research and provides policy advice, technical assistance and training to public and private sector clients throughout the region.
Integration and Trade principal economic specialist