Trade between China and Latin America reached US 489 billion in 2023

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According to data from the General Administration of Customs of the People’s Republic of China (GAC), as of the end of 2023, trade between China and Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for 8.2% of China’s total imports and exports. Chinese imports from Latin America and the Caribbean amounted to $243 billion, showing a 4.9% increase, while Chinese exports to the region were $245 billion, marking a 2.4% decrease, resulting in a slight trade surplus for China.

The Latin American region has solidified itself as a significant supplier of food to China, exporting products such as soybeans, coffee, sugarcane, cherries, shrimp, beef, and fishmeal. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLA), between 2010 and 2022 Latin America and the Caribbean was the source of almost one-third of China’s food imports.

The decline in Chinese exports to Latin America and the Caribbean is attributed to a global trend, with the first decrease in seven years due to the weak global economic recovery and increasing geopolitical tensions. However, Chinese exports of medium and high-tech manufactured goods experienced a smaller contraction of 2.4% compared to the global downturn.

Despite a landscape of low economic growth in the region for 2024, China has become one of the most attractive export markets for Latin American players. China is the top trading partner of South America and the second for Latin America and the Caribbean, after the United States.

A total of 22 out of the 33 Latin and Caribbean countries actively participate in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with expectations that others may join. The opening of new maritime and air transport routes between China and Latin America is anticipated, including the recent container ship route between the Chinese port of Dalian and Mexico, Colombia, and Ecuador.

In 2024, new areas of economic cooperation, Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), and the consolidation of the digital Silk Road are expected, along with the implementation of initiatives presented by the Chinese government to build a high-quality BRI.

The demand for Chinese imports is expected to continue growing for products such as soybean, copper, iron, oil, and lithium 鈥 with the latter used extensively in electric vehicle production, where China leads globally. Trade will concentrate on five countries: Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Peru, and Colombia, currently representing over 89% of exports to China from the region.