Thursday, September 29, 2011

Latin America and the Middle East

The Financial Times provides details about the boom in trade between Latin America and the Middle East.  Brazil has been particularly active in promoting trade:

Brazilian exports to Iran surged more than sevenfold between 2000 and 2010, hitting $2.12bn last year, as slowing growth across the developed world forced the Latin American country to look further afield for trading partners.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, trade is expanding just as fast. Arab countries have also proved an invaluable source of income, with Brazilian exports to the Arab League reaching $12.6bn last year, up 34 per cent from 2009.

It is almost entirely focused on commodities:

In fact, Brazil’s top exports to Middle Eastern countries are all commodities. Sugar is the country’s biggest export to Egypt, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, while it is iron ore in the case of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman. In return, Brazil mostly just buys oil.
Similarly, Argentina and Uruguay have become important sources of wheat for the Middle East.

Three points:

First, this can help us understand more why Latin American governments have become more vocal about Middle Eastern politics, even beyond just whether to recognize Palestine.  Their stake is growing.

Second, this serves to explain more why Iran is so interested in Latin America, beyond simply wanting to annoy the United States (which it very clearly does want to do).  Not everything is ideological.

Third, the article does point to initial efforts toward exporting goods other than commodities, such as Brazil's Embraer, but this sounds like a very familiar story.  Diversification of trading partners is good, but it needs to be accompanied more by diversification of exports.


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