Sunday, June 09, 2013

U.S. Trade with Latin America: Why the Whining?

There are so many arguments out there that the United States is "ignoring" Latin America. Heraldo Muñoz, who I respect very much, just published an op-ed arguing U.S. exports to Latin America "have receded during the last decade."

This just isn't true. Let's take a look at some sources.

According to the Congressional Research Service:

Between 1998 and 2009, total U.S. merchandise trade (exports plus imports) with Latin America grew by 82% compared to 72% for Asia (driven largely by China), 51% for the European Union, 221% for Africa, and 64% for the world.

According to the Census Bureau, trade with Central and South America is at an all-time high. In 2012 the U.S. hit its highest monthly amount ever (over $16 billion) and every year see growth.

According to the United States Trade Representative, the U.S. has free trade agreements with 20 countries around the world. More than half (11 of 20) are with Latin America.

Meanwhile, according to the Inter-American Development Bank, in 2012 Latin American exports to the United States grew 3% compared to only 1% with Asia (after a big surge the year before).

I could go on and on.

So there is no evidence that the U.S. is ignoring Latin America in any way. However, it is true that Latin America is trading more with the rest of the world. But this is good. If Latin America is growing, the economic pie is growing, and that's good for everyone. The U.S. policy goal should not be dependence or exclusion--it should be prosperity. The U.S. sells more, China sells more, India sells more. Why is everyone constantly complaining as if this signals some problem that the U.S. has to solve?



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