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New opportunities for trade between the U.S. and Latin America

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As the United States remains the main individual trading partner for Latin America and the Caribbean, conditions are now right to launch a new era of economic and trade cooperation, according to a new report by United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The publication, “The United States and Latin America and the Caribbean: highlights of economics and trade,” was produced for the visit of President, Barack Obama, to three of the region’s countries: Brazil, Chile and El Salvador.

The report describes recent trends in investment and trade relations between the parties, as well as advancing proposals for a re-launch of such relations.

The report says the United States’ share of regional foreign trade has decreased over the past decade.

In terms of exports, it says there was a fall from 59.7 percent in 2000 to 40.1 percent in 2009; while, in terms of imports, there was a drop from 49.3 percent to 31.2 percent in the same period.

However, although this decrease has pushed up the share represented by China and other emerging economies in the region’s foreign trade, the United States remains the main trading partner, and the region’s exports to the United States are more diversified than those to the European Union Asia, the report says.

According to the document, while the region’s countries exported an average of 1,197 products to the United States in 2008-2009, they exported only 878 products to the 27 European Union countries, 511 products to Asia as a whole and 202 products to China.

In addition, the United States continues to be the main individual investor in the region, accounting for 34.7 percent of cumulative foreign direct investment flows received by the region between 1999 and 2009.

“The current tour of President Barack Obama to three Latin American countries offers an unmissable opportunity to renew hemispheric relations,” said ECLAC’s executive secretary, Alicia Bárcena, in the foreword to the document.

“What the region expects from the United States are proposals for a strategic dialogue and new initiatives in the field of trade and investment in order to strengthen mutual cooperation”, she added.

Despite Latin American and Caribbean economic buoyancy over the past decade, the United States has not had a comprehensive trade strategy for the region in recent years, the ECLAC report says.

It says new cooperation relations should include the speedy approval of pending free-trade agreements and the renewal of preferences for Andean and other regional countries.

In addition, it calls for a “joint commitment” to work towards concluding the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round in 2011, opening a strategic dialogue between the United States and the region’s countries that are part of the Group of 20 (G-20) and establishing an integrated economic cooperation program.

On Mar. 21, Obama visited Chile, where he met with the Chilean President, Sebastián Piñera, and delivered a message to the entire region from La Moneda Palace and Cultural Centre, at an event that is co-sponsored by ECLAC and the United States Embassy in Chile.

Updated 12:05 am, March 29, 2011
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