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Latin American exports post second straight year of sluggish growth

After declining in the first half of the year, the region’s exports showed signs of growth in the second semester

Latin America’s exports stagnated in 2013, posting a second straight year of sluggish growth. Exports are expected to post growth of just 0.2 percent for the year, for a total value of slightly more than $1 trillion, according to Latin American Trade Trend Estimates 2013, a study published by the Inter-American Development Bank.

The report, based on national and international data on 18 countries in Latin America, notes that the region’s exports actually declined in the first months of the year, continuing a negative trend that began in late 2012. However, in the third quarter, exports began to grow again, and current estimates point to a small positive overall growth rate for the year.

Results varied considerably among countries. Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela all posted declines in exports, while Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguay posted increases. Results in Central America were mixed, with exports barely growing in Costa Rica and Guatemala, declining in Honduras and Nicaragua, but expanding in El Salvador, and Panama.

These results reflected uneven economic conditions in Latin America’s major trade partners. In Europe, continued sluggishness was reflected in a 5 percent drop in demand for the region’s exports. In contrast, China’s imports from Latin America increased nearly 10 percent region-wide, in spite of slower growth in the Asian nation, while Japan and the Republic of Korea reduced their purchases from the region.

Exports of mineral ores and metals did not perform well in 2013, affecting countries like Peru, Chile and even Brazil, while foodstuffs had a better year. A fall in the prices of some primary goods, such as copper, gold and soybeans, also had a negative impact on export revenues, in the latter case a good harvest compensated for the price drop. Of key commodities, only iron ore showed a significant price increase in the second half of the year.

For 2014, stronger demand from the United States should benefit the region, especially Mexico, while improved demand from China is expected to benefit the main mineral and agricultural exporters in South America.

Estimates were not run for the Caribbean due to a lack of an adequate year‐to‐date sample on which to base robust calculations.

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