Latin America Could Turn to Russia, China in Wake of Trade Split With US

The governments of some Latin American countries have signaled that they are ready to “break their dependence” on the United States; Russia and China could play a key role in the region, Venezuelan political analyst Ernesto Wong told Sputnik Mundo.

Chinese President Xi Jinping
In an interview with Sputnik Mundo, Venezuelan political analyst Ernesto Wong said that in Latin America, there are several factors which have given rise to the hope that this year will see a number of key political changes in the region.

One of these factors is the willingness of some regional governments to “break their dependence” on the United States and allow Russia and China to play a key role in the region, according to Wong.

“Latin America is at odds with Washington but it is developing friendly ties with China and Russia, which is why in 2017 the region is expected to overcome the imperialist dependence on the US and to establish more favorable conditions for exchange… trade and investment with Russia and China,” Wong said.

As for China, Wong referred to the January 20 meeting between Beijing and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which he said opened up new prospects for the exchange of public and private capital.

“It’s important that none of the countries of the Pacific Alliance decided to break off relations with China, which means that they are  interested in continuing trade ties with Beijing,” he said. The Pacific Alliance is a Latin American trade bloc which currently includes Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

According to Wong, the most important affecting the Pacific Alliance is the existence of Trump’s so-called model of “neo-isolation.” The alliance had been seen as a close partner of the United States and Canada; its members (less Colombia) were among the countries set to co-establish the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) this month.

This initiative was nullified when Trump abandoned TPP on January 23. Trump also raised the question of revising the terms of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

“As a consumer, the US is in a critical situation after it greatly reduced its imports, which were supported by the free trade agreement. Trump wants to get out of it because he intends to develop national industry,” Wong said, adding that this process will also be affected by the critical situation in Western Europe.

Aside from to China and Russia, Latin American countries may also invest in Africa, according to Wong.

“This is potentially a good opportunity because openness toward Africa would help promote Latin American products there and the African continent would benefit from receiving equal conditions for exchange,” he said.

He added that such transparency would also be attractive for those countries in the region which are not progressive because they seek to improve relations with other regions, which could give them the opportunity to obtain a larger income.Wong emphasized that it is Latin America distancing itself from the United States and rapprochement between Eurasia and Latin America that will pave the way for regional countries becoming more independent and sovereign.

Article originally published here

Uruguay and Chile, least corrupt countries in LAC region says Transparency International

uruguay-corrupcionIn Latin America, Uruguay leads with a ranking of 21, followed by The Bahamas and Chile both in 24th place, and Venezuela figures at the bottom.

Over two-thirds of the 176 countries and territories in this year’s Corruption Perceptions Index fall below the midpoint of a scale spanning 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean), said Transparency International (TI) upon the release of the non-profit’s 2016 report. No country reached above 90.

The global average score is a paltry 43, indicating endemic corruption in a country’s public sector. And top-scoring countries are far outnumbered by countries where citizens face the tangible impact of corruption on a daily basis.

Results can be viewed on a map at the TI website.

In Latin America, Uruguay leads with a ranking of 21, followed by The Bahamas and Chile both in 24th place, and Venezuela figures at the bottom.

This year’s results highlight the connection between corruption and inequality, which synergistically create a vicious circle of corruption, unequal distribution of power, and unequal distribution of wealth, said the index researchers.

“In too many countries, people are deprived of their most basic needs and go to bed hungry every night because of corruption, while the powerful and corrupt enjoy lavish lifestyles with impunity,” said José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International

The interplay of corruption and inequality also feeds populism, said TI. When traditional politicians fail to tackle corruption, people grow cynical and are more include to elect populist leaders who promise to break the cycle of corruption and privilege. Yet this is likely to exacerbate – rather than resolve – the tensions that fed the populist surge in the first place.

Leading the index of countries examined in 2016 were Denmark and New Zealand with scores of 90/100. At the bottom of the ranking sit South Sudan with 11/100 and Somalia with 10/100, according to the index results.

Renewable Energy, a Rising Tide

Leading the surge is China, which already has a huge advantage in its current position at the front of the pack.china-investments

China has not only vastly expanded its domestic investment in renewable energy, it is plowing record sums into renewables markets overseas. As our report noted, China put $32 billion into foreign renewables projects in 2016 alone, and last week it said it would increase its bets on renewables by tenfold around the world before the end of 2020. That increased bet is likely to expand China’s renewable-energy employment base beyond its current 3.5 million level. Of note on this point: employment growth in renewables is in sharp contrast to massive worldwide layoffs in the oil, gas and coal industries.

Its domestic renewables push has given China priceless experience ahead of other nations, allowed it to develop leading-edge technology, educated a large, supporting labor force and created financial mechanisms to pay for the expansion. Now China is exporting its renewables juggernaut, taking stakes in projects of note elsewhere in Asia and in Africa, Europe, India, North America and South America.

We think the global boom in renewables will last for decades, driven not just by Chinese investment but by other emerging economies—and by industrialized ones as well. Growth in solar, wind and energy-efficiency initiatives are steadily reducing the costs of production and making renewable energy cheaper than traditional sources. Public pressure to combat pollution and build collective action on global climate change is growing. These are huge combined market forces that as we speak are shaping how electricity production, especially, is being reimagined.

In the fast-moving renewables revolution, economies as diverse as those of Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Indonesia, Kosovo, Mexico, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and South Africa now have the means to foster prosperity without imposing harsh consequences on public health and the environment.

Meantime in the U.S., national energy-policy discussions are drifting the other way as an evidently over-the-hill gang takes power in Washington with hopes of going back in time to when companies like Exxon mattered more than they do now and when economic growth was driven by fossil-fuel consumption.

Those days are done, though, and so are the days when solar- and wind-powered energy were dismissed by skeptics as sci-fi experiments or “alternative” sources to traditional fossil-fuel generation.

There’s no turning the clock back. Clean energy has gone mainstream.

Abridged, article originally published here

China Seizes Opportunities in Latin America

chinese-dragonChina has big plans for Latin America—plans that seem to reflect China itself: massive and ambitious.

There are plans for a $10 billion, 3,300-mile-long transcontinental railroad snaking through the jungles of the Amazon river basin and over the highest mountain range in Latin America, linking the Atlantic shore to the Pacific. There’s talk of a $50 billion supersized canal carving a 161-mile-long swath across Nicaragua, offering passage to the megatankers of tomorrow and overwhelming even the newly expanded Panama Canal to its south.

There are more. Many more. These gargantuan projects are aimed at fueling China’s needs for resources and feeding South America’s need for energy and infrastructure. But geopolitics also play a role as China strives to make Latin America an economic partner, if not a counterpoint to the United States.

In fact, China’s investments in Latin America, from mining to massive hydroelectric dams, nuclear reactors and railroads, grew by 500 percent between 2000 and 2010, totaling nearly $100 billion, with another $250 billion in spending promised over the next decade. And while the U.S. still accounts for more than three times as much in trade and investment in the region, some analysts see disturbing signs in the steadily shifting balance.

In 2000, the Chinese portion of Latin American trade was about 2 percent. The U.S. share was 53 percent. Ten years later, the Chinese share was up to 11 percent and the U.S. portion was down to 39 percent.

“Clearly we are still the dominant player vis-à-vis them,” says Francisco Cerezo, the U.S. head of DLA Piper’s Latin America corporate group. “But it does speak to the trend. And I would be more concerned about the trend and making sure you right the ship and you focus on it properly.”

The past two decades of forays into Latin America come as part of China’s “go global” plan. Its first priority: raw resources to fuel its economic growth. China is heavily, and increasingly, dependent on imported oil. Its energy needs led it to offer some $65 billion in loans to Venezuela’s government in the last decade, according to the Washington nonprofit Inter-American Dialogue, along with direct investments in oil production and infrastructure there.

China also single-handedly accounts for nearly a fourth of the world’s copper demand, along with significant demand for tin and iron ore. “That’s why you see them coming into Latin America’s mining sector, which is huge,” says Jerry Brodsky, a partner and director of the Latin American practice group at Peckar & Abramson. “It’s perhaps the largest economic driver in Latin America’s mining.”

China gets much of its copper from Chile, while the China-based Chinalco Mining Corp. International put $3.5 billion into the Toromocho mine in Central Peru, giving it control of “the world’s second largest preproduction copper project, as measured by proved and probable copper ore reserves,” according to the company’s website.

Now China is reaching beyond resources. Its latest wave of investments involves massive infrastructure and energy projects.

The China Three Gorges Corp. has been rapidly acquiring hydroelectric dams in Brazil since 2013, paying nearly $4 billion in June to take over operation of two of the country’s largest dams, with a combined capacity to produce 5 gigawatts of electricity. That came just three months after China Three Gorges announced a proposal to build a new 8-gigawatt dam on the Tapajos River.

China’s State Grid Corp. is developing two transmission lines to deliver power from the Belo Monte dam in the Amazon basin. Last year, state-owned China National Nuclear Corp. signed a $15 billion deal to build Argentina’s fourth and fifth nuclear power plants, roughly doubling the amount of electricity generated by the country’s nuclear plants. Construction of the first of the new reactors, in cooperation with Argentina’s state-owned Nucleoeléctrica, is due to begin early next year.

These projects come on top of the nearly $42 billion that China invested in infrastructure in Latin America in just 2013 through 2015 alone. China is finishing construction of a space tracking, telemetry and command facility in Patagonia, Argentina, complete with a pair of maneuverable parabolic antennas, engineering facilities, and a $10 million electric power plant.

China Harbour Engineering teamed up with local partners to win the contract for Autopista Mar 2, a 152-mile motorway connecting four towns north of Medellin, Colombia. And, in May, it landed a $465 million road contract in Costa Rica.

“They’re providing what the specific markets need,” says Brodsky. “They follow the path of least resistance. Latin American needs infrastructure. Brazil has an insufficient production of local energy. So does Argentina. The road projects in Colombia are booming right now because for 30 or 40 years they spent all their money fighting the guerrillas, and they didn’t pay attention to their road infrastructure. So now there is an accelerated program in Colombia for road building.”

The nature of the projects also plays to China’s strengths. Despite its recent economic slowdown, China remains flush with money from its boom years. Combined with the technical expertise that it has built with domestic projects and industries, those deep pockets allow China’s state-owned companies to compete at a scale that few challengers can match.

“When you get to that level of megaprojects, there are not that many qualified bidders out there­—people that have not only the technical capacity but the financial capacity,” Brodsky says, adding that Chinese companies “have the money to self-fund a lot of their projects, and that makes them very competitive when it comes to bidding for big, large projects in Latin America.”

Abridged, original article published here

Mexico’s International Trade Agenda for 2017

mexico1International events such as “Brexit,” the United States’ potential withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) or the possibility of renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are all extremely relevant for Mexico’s economy – which has the fourth-largest gross domestic product (GDP) in the Americas and the 15th-largest GDP in the world. The Mexican economy rests heavily on its exports, making 2017 a particularly challenging year for Mexico’s international trade agenda during this last year of the current administration. In 2018, Mexico will hold federal elections to designate a new president and Congress.

The Mexican international trade agenda will be most likely occupied by existing negotiations – such as the modernization of the European Union (EU)-Mexico Global Agreement – as well as with current trade issues such as China’s steel overcapacity and the sugar export restrictions imposed on Mexican exports to the U.S., but there are certain likely events that deserve a close examination:

  • likely formalization of the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU – widely known as “Brexit” – a formal invocation of Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty that may have an impact in the current free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations with the EU and also may require bilateral negotiations with the UK
  • renegotiation of NAFTA or a possible U.S. withdrawal
  • formal U.S. withdrawal from the TPP and/or possible revival of the initiative in a different format – with or without the U.S.
  • surge of trade protectionist measures, not only through the adoption of additional unilateral measures allowed under international trade agreements, either by Mexico or against Mexican exports, such as antidumping and countervailing duties, but also through more aggressive unilateral actions (customs duties increases, safeguards investigations, tax or export restrictions, etc.), all of which may result in additional dispute settlement proceedings under the World Trade Organization (WTO) or bilateral FTAs – such as NAFTA Chapter XIX­– and investment treaties
  • increase activism by Mexico to diversify its export destinations and foreign direct investment sources, particularly with China, Korea and Japan, to expand and increase trade flows. (Mexico already has an FTA with Japan, has explored the possibility of an FTA with Korea and has not formally expressed yet any interest to negotiate with China)
  • increased pressure by China to obtain recognition from Mexico as a market economy, which could have a serious impact on new antidumping investigations and on the 27 existing antidumping duty orders against Chinese products (out of the current 52 products that are subject to antidumping orders in Mexico); China recently filed for consultations with the EU and the U.S. under the WTO to address this matter

On its own, 2017 will be a busy, uncertain year for Mexico’s trade agenda. The uncertainty over Mexico’s relationship with the U.S. will add additional stress to the system. While the debate will continue to rage in the U.S. as to whether NAFTA was a good trade deal for the U.S., NAFTA brought benefits to Mexico that created a more stable neighbor for the U.S.

Article originally published here

Meet Canada’s new International Trade Minister

francois-phillippe-champagneFrançois-Phillippe Champagne, a lawyer who’s worked for a string of major multinationals, Champagne knows the world of global trade—but says Canadians must reap the benefits at home.

Arguably the biggest promotion in today’s federal cabinet shuffle goes to François-Philippe Champagne, who vaults from parliamentary secretary to Finance Minister Bill Morneau, a supporting role just outside cabinet, to succeeding Chrystia Freeland in the high-profile post of minister of international trade.

I say “arguably” because an obvious case could be made that Freeland is, in fact, the key moving part in the shuffle. In taking over from Stéphane Dion as foreign minister, she notches up noticeably in prestige and profile. But Champagne, previously known only to attentive Ottawa insiders, in a single stride becomes an unignorable front-bench player for anyone watching federal politics.

This doesn’t come entirely as a surprise. Before he jumped into politics, Champagne held down serious jobs in international business. A lawyer, he was senior counsel and vice-president at ABB Group, a Swiss engineering giant, and then had a string of titles, including strategic development director, at AMEC, a big London-based project-management company focused on the energy sector. But he never hid his political ambitions, and returned to Shawinigan, Que., where he grew up (yes, in Jean Chrétien’s hometown) to win the Saint-Maurice-Champlain riding in the 2015 election.

Last month, before rumours of an imminent cabinet shuffle were much in the wind, I interviewed him at his office just off Parliament Hill. An upbeat, diminutive, and youthful 46, he riffed confidently on the challenges facing the Canadian economy.

And now that he’s taking over the trade portfolio, Champagne’s perspective on Canada’s position in the world economy is even more relevant. He sees plenty of room for improvement. For instance, he cited Australia and Britain as countries that do a better job selling themselves to international investors. Canada’s profile abroad is too often, he suggested, a fragmented one.

“I have been in a room in London where provinces were pitching against each other,” he said, recalling his days in the private sector. “I didn’t think, as a Canadian ex-pat, this really was the best way.” Champagne touted Morneau’s plan to create something called the Invest in Canada Hub, announced in last fall’s economic statement, as a step toward a “one-stop shopping” solution to marketing the national brand.

He argued the time is right for Canada to present itself more assertively, checking off the country’s selling points in an unsettled world. “Stability, predictability? Yes, you can see ahead. Rule of law? You know, if you build a plant here, 50 years from now it’s still going to be yours; you’re not going to have a change of regime. And you talk natural resources, low cost of electricity, fairly low cost of doing business, favourable tax rates.”

After Champagne waxed on for a while about Canada’s advantages as an open, trading economy, and a beacon for foreign investment, I asked if that vision remains politically viable in the era of Donald Trump and Brexit. Isn’t it likely that many Canadians, deep down, share the anxieties of English and American voters who responded last year to more protectionist, defensive rhetoric?

Champagne said that’s not what he hears in his own rural and small-town Quebec riding. He claims voters there, from truck drivers to lumber industry workers, tend to grasp that trade is essential to their livelihoods. But it’s crucial, he argued, for governments to make sure most people can see the benefits of liberal economic policy flowing their way.

So he cited measures from last spring’s budget, including the new Canada Child Benefit and the boost to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for lowest-income seniors. “People get it,” he said. “They see that, from the growth that we’re aspiring to achieve for the country, there is a piece of that for them.”

And he contrasted that with the discontent he noticed, back when he was based for five years in London, over how globalized trade and investment seemed to benefit only “a very discrete group” of the highly educated Brits. He added cautiously: “It’s not for me to talk about other countries, but I’m just talking from personal experience. You could see at some stage there was this imbalance.”

For Canada to avoid a Brexit-like backlash, the economy must keep generating wealth and spreading it around. Champagne agrees with economists who say that will be hard to sustain, since our workforce just isn’t expanding like it used to. “A lot of the growth in our country came after World War Two, with the influx of population from Europe, mainly. Then in the 1970s, women came to the workforce,” he said. “Now what we’re facing is that population in Canada is aging more than the world population.”

He said the federal policy response to the demographic crunch of more retired and few working-age Canadians can’t be merely incremental. “In an era of slow growth we need to have big, bold ideas,” he said. “We need to be ambitious.”

Up to now, Champagne has worked in Morneau’s shadow, helping develop policy ideas like the finance minister’s infrastructure bank and investment hub. Freeland showed, when she was finalizing Canada’s trade deal with the European Union, how a trade minister can make a mark—and secure a cabinet promotion. Now, Trudeau is giving Champagne his chance, and Ottawa has a key new player to watch.

Article originally published here

Non-Tariff Barriers Can Connect Trade to Sustainable Development

flagsIn the landscape of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, trade is a means of implementation towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Addis Ababa Action Agenda (AAAA) on financing for development further specifies the role of trade as “an engine for inclusive growth and poverty reduction, and contributes to the promotion of sustainable development.” That is, trade should function as a means for achieving “sustained, inclusive and sustainable” economic growth. More importantly, trade-led growth should enhance, rather than undermine, the potential for social development and environmental sustainability.

In the past several decades, however, many developing countries witnessed that trade growth contributed to aggregate economic growth, and also increased the within-country income inequality. This would suggest that a country’s trade policy reflects the interests of the country’s economic giants rather than small and marginalized players, and that these interests can override the importance of conservation of natural resources and ecosystems.

There is a need to rethink policymaking in order to link trade growth to sustainable development, including its social and the environmental dimensions. The recent UNCTAD report, ‘Trading into Sustainable Development: Trade, Market Access and Sustainable Development Goals,’ looks into this issue, focusing on the interactions between market access conditions – such as customs duties (tariffs) and non-tariff measures (NTMs) – and achieving the SDGs.

What are non-tariff measures?

Historically, market access conditions in international markets were determined by the level of tariffs on imported products. However, tariff barriers have fallen significantly across countries: the trade-weighted average tariff rate in the world fell from just over 5% in 1995 to 2.5% in 2014/2015. Against the trends of falling tariffs, the influence of NTMs upon trade costs has increased. In 2014, around 70% of agricultural products traded in the world market faced sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, and over 60% of manufactured products faced “technical barriers to trade (TBT),” such as technical regulations and product standards.

Such regulatory measures are designed to meet important social and/or environmental objectives, such as by setting maximum levels for toxic residues in food, ensuring the sustainable sourcing of natural resources, or limiting trade in polluting substances. But they can directly affect trade flows and economic development when they are applied to imported products. In many cases, NTMs can be more trade-restricting that tariffs. UNCTAD estimates that existence of SPS measures to agricultural exports may increase production cost by 22%, compared to the average tariff facing the same exports at around 5%. NTMs can be particularly restrictive for low-income countries constrained by limited capacity to comply with NTMs thus significantly increasing their trading costs.

Because the vast majority of NTMs directly target key determinants of sustainable development, such as food security, health and environmental protection, countries are likely to implement more such measures for the achievement of the SDGs. That is, the number of NTMs in world trade may be increasing fast.

How to make non-tariff measures work for sustainable development

Will an increase in NTMs squeeze low-income countries’ capacity to use trade as a means of implementation of the SDGs? Not necessarily. In fact, the presence of NTMs can be the source of regional or international collaboration that can help countries to achieve a win-win situation: (i) collectively improve policy environment towards achieving the SDGs; and (ii) reduce trade distortionary impact of NTMs. The key is to eliminate trade-distortionary effect of NTMs.

Trade distortions arise from NTMs when they increase production costs for exporting countries to meet the regulatory requirements, including the costs associated with conformity assessment and certification. These costs will be higher when exporters have to meet different requirements for different markets including domestic market. That is, NTMs can be trade-distorting when the “regulatory distance” between an exporting country and its market countries is large. Therefore, reducing the regulatory distance among trade partners is the way to achieve the win-win situation.

Regulatory distance between countries is measured by the similarity of regulatory patterns of NTM types applied to a specific product classified at the HS 6-digit level. For example, if two countries each apply ten different product requirements to lemons, the regulatory distance is huge and it increases trade costs significantly. UNCTAD has assessed the potential impact of reducing costs related to NTMs in the 15 member countries of the Southern African Development Community. The gains amount to US$6 billion through a 25% reduction of NTM-related trade costs. No member country is worse off from the reforms. The largest gains stem from reducing the restrictiveness of SPS measures and TBT for partners from the whole world through alignment with international standards. In the case where barriers to trade from NTMs are reduced only to SADC exporters, the gains are much lower, with a total of about US$1.3 billion.

Moreover, when regulatory convergence is achieved among countries, it implies that countries will be implementing policy measures in a manner coherent with their trading partners. Such collaboration can jointly improve the effectiveness of policy measures, particularly in the areas where policy impacts can be cross-border, such as environmental regulations.

NTMs provide an important “policy interface” between the SDGs and trade, particularly in the framework of regional economic cooperation among developing countries.

Article originally published here

India Looks to Boost Access to Latin America, Eyes $100 bn in Trade

indialac

In a bid to ease hurdles and open up access to new frontiers, the government aims to enhance connectivity with Latin American (LatAm) countries — a move which will ease the long-standing demand of various nations. Trade volume could easily go up to $100 billion.

Sources in the government told FE, “At the recently concluded India-LAC summit organised by the MEA in Mexico, it was felt that South-South cooperation needs to be more vibrant and effective. Poor connectivity emerged as the biggest hindrance for investors — connectivity would go a long way in enhancing business between India and the LatAm and Caribbean region.”

“Trade and investments are below expectations in the region, while the shipment takes almost 60-90 days. And there are no direct flights,” sources added.

The region offers immense opportunities to Indian companies, especially in sectors such as energy, pharmaceuticals and agri business. Trade between India and Latin America is likely to double in the next five years from the current level of $46 billion, with direct shipping, air connectivity and visa-on-arrival, as well as free trade agreements, as some of the steps being taken to boost trade with the region.

While transportation costs and the lack of familiarity with each other’s markets were previously cited as the big impediments, the government is planning to improve connectivity to the region.

 

Experts say that the trade volume could easily go up to $ 100 billion if the leaders of both sides blend proactive diplomacy, address issues like enhancing connectivity and leverage multifarious win-win opportunities, especially in areas like energy, agriculture, nutritional processing, textiles, transport and IT & ITES.

Countries in the region, especially those landlocked like Bolivia, recognise that their connectivity too needs to be improved.

Seeking investments in developing Bolivia’s massive lithium deposits, which account for 60% of the world’s reserves, and keen on selling potassium and urea to India, minister for development planning René Orellana of Bolivia, told FE, “In an effort to improve connectivity, we are planning to improve our own infrastructure in Santa Cruz and creating a big business hub where big planes could land.”

Cuba, as pointed out by its ambassador, Oscar I Martínez Cordovés, has embarked on a rapid programme of modernisation and has in place special economic zones and technology.

Nicaragua is seeking Indian collaboration in the renewable energy space, which offers huge capacities for development of this alternate energy source. It is also looking at the Indian companies for mining too.

Countries like Haiti are anxious to see a balanced sharing of resources between the developed North and the developing and least developed countries of the South.

This is critical to pushing development in the growth-starved South, which is in urgent need of education, transfer of knowledge and technology, and use of great capacities in R&D for the socio-economic upliftment of its people.

Today, 60% of the current bilateral trade is in oil, hydrocarbons, minerals and agriculture commodities, but it is now moving into niche areas like pharmaceutical and IT services.

Article originally published here

Brazil Sets Record Trade Surplus of $48 Billion

brazil-coverBrazil’s trade surplus soared to a record U.S. 47.69 billion, the country’s trade ministry’s statistics revealed on Monday.

Amid political turmoil, a recession and a weaker real, exports boomed as imports were slashed in 2016. The previous record of $46.45 billion was in 2006, Reuters reported.

Brazil’s new record was more than double 2015’s trade surplus of $19.68 billion. Brazil’s 2016 exports totaled $185.24 billion, compared with imports worth $137.55 billion, according to the trade ministry.

The trade surplus occurred even though exports of many agricultural commodities fell, with the exceptions of pork and sugar, after a crippling drought devastated crops last year.

Corn grain exports fell the most, down 26 percent. Exports of soybeans dropped 8.2 percent, along with corn on the cob, which fell 13.2 percent compared to the previous year, the trade ministry said.

Soybean bran exports fell 11 percent, along with beef, down 7 percent and chicken, which decreased 5 percent.

However, pork exports increased 15 percent and exports of raw sugar increased 40 percent.

Brazil  posted hefty increases in semi-manufactured and manufactured goods, according to the trade ministry’s statistics.

Exports of gold ore increased 31 percent, while lumber jumped 17 percent.  Increases in exports of manufactured goods included: oil rigs, (87 percent), cars,  (38 percent), and cargo vehicles, 27 percent).

Brazil’s exports to China, its biggest buyer, slid 1.2 percent to U.S.  $37.4 billion due to the decrease in soybean exports, according to the trade ministry.  The U.S. was the second-largest customer, buying  $23.2 billion in exports from Brazil.  Argentina was third, at $13.4 billion.

The drop in ag exports contributed to a decline in exports to some regions, according to the trade ministry.  Although exports to Argentina were up 4 percent, exports fell to MercoSur, the Latin American trading bloc.  Countries in MercoSur include Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and Paraguay. Venezuela was suspended as a member on Dec. 1 of 2016.

Article originally published here

IDB Approved Billions for Caribbean Projects in 2016

caribbean_mapThe Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) says it had provided US$11.7 billion for various projects in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2016.

The Washington-based financial institution said funds were also provided by its subsidiary Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC).

“Between the IDB and the IIC, disbursements exceeded US$9.6 billion during the year, confirming the IDB Group’s role as the region’s leading source of multilateral financing,” the IDB said in a statement.

It said both the approvals and the disbursements were “in line with the priorities set by the IDB Group’s 48 member countries, such as ensuring that at least 35 per cent of the new financing goes to the region’s smallest and least developed economies”.

The IDB said 2016 was the first full year of operations of the renewed IIC, which is now in charge of the IDB Group’s non-sovereign guaranteed operations.

During 2016, the IDB said the IIC approved a total of 153 deals for US$2.26 billion, of which 100 corresponded to the Trade Facility (US$457 million).

Of the larger transactions, the IDB said 41 per cent went to infrastructure projects, 40 per cent to financial institutions and 19 per cent to corporate financing deals.

The IDB-led sovereign guaranteed operations went to state modernisation projects (33 per cent), infrastructure and energy (30 per cent), social programmes (24 per cent), climate change (12 per cent) and trade and integration (One per cent).

During 2016, the IDB said its group continued to implement administrative cost controls that it had put in place last year, “reflecting the austerity policies adopted by many of its member countries”.

Article originally published here