Market Watch

Regional Integration



Pacific Alliance

Andean Community

South American Community of Nations

SICA (Central American Group)


FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas)





Latin America consists of 19 countries of which 18 speak Spanish Brazil speaks Portuguese. It has a population of 596 million and GDP of 5.148 trillion dollars.



(millions) 2016


(bn. $)

Total Imports
(bn. $)

Total exports
(bn $)

























350 ?









Pacific Alliance
























Andean Community


11 34 10 9



16.4 98 21 18









Costa Rica 4.9 57 16 10
















El Salvador
















Dominican Republic

















sources: ECLAC, World Bank, WTO

Venezuela GDP figure needs correction

Market Watch


Latin American market in 2017-18 and prospects for Indian business

Latin America's GDP growth is projected to increase to 2.2% in 2018 from 1.3% in 2017.   The Pink Tide  has receded for the moment, giving rise to more centre right governments in the region. In 2018, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Venezuela will have presidential elections. Venezuela’s political and economic tragedy could get worse.

Caught between the bullying Trump, protectionist Europe and the trust deficit with the Chinese, the Latin Americans have started looking more seriously at India, which has become more important for Latin America's exports than any European country. 

In the fist six (April-September) months of 2017-18 fiscal year, India’s exports to Latin America have increased by an impressive 17% reaching 6.2 billion dollars.Indian companies have started getting infrastructure projects and contracts for supply of equipments and machinery in the region. Sterlite Power Grid of India has just won a billion dollar power transmission line project in Brazil. Latin America has become a regular contributor to India’s energy and food security.

This is an opportune time for India to take the win-win economic partnership with Latin America to the next level. The appointment of Mr Suresh Prabhu as Commerce Minister of India is welcome news for economic relations with Latin America. He has been taking interest in the region with his deep knowledge and understanding. 


Latin America is increasing its imports in 2017

Latin America is projected to increase its imports by 6% in 2017, according to the 3 August report of the Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean ( ECLAC). This is welcome news, coming after the decline of imports in the last four years since 2013.

The region is resuming GDP growth (1.1%) in 2017, after the contractions of 0.4% in 2015 and 1% in 2016. The economic recovery of the region is being driven by the rise in domestic consumption and demand, the increase in global prices of commodities exported by the region and favourable global economic conditions

More in the blog

Brazil is still the largest recipient of FDI in Latin America

The Indian media was ecstatic in September 2015 reporting that India had overtaken China and US in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the first half of 2015. They quoted a Financial Times report which had estimated that India had received FDI of 31 billion dollars as against 28 billion received by China and 27 billion by US. The media have, however, missed the news that Brazil had received 42 billion dollars of FDI in the first semester of 2015 which is more than India's.

For Indian companies with global ambitions, this is an ideal time for investment and to build on the cumulative Indian investment of 15 billion dollars in Latin America. The DIPP could include the Latin American investors such as Carlos Slim as well as pension funds in their global FDI campaign to see increase in the Latin American investment of 1.5 billion in India.


Mexico's manufacturing boom

Mexico has overtaken China in 2013-14 as the world's top destination for automobile investment, according to Financial Times of 21 April 2015. Mexico had attracted 12.6% of global FDI in auto manufacturing as against 12.4% of China in 2013. In recent years, many global automakers have opened or announced plans to set up manufacturing units in Mexico whose car production projected to increase to 4.7 million vehicles by 2020 from 3.2 million in 2014. Mexico accounts for 20% of the vehicle production of North America and is the seventh largest producer of cars in the world. It has become the fourth largest exporter of vehicles in the world and exports 80% of its total production. Mexico's auto exports earned 85 billion dollars in 2014. More...

Mexican pharma market.

Mexico's pharmaceutical market was valued at 13.1 billion dollars in 2013 and is expected to reach 25.6 billion by 2016, according to IMS Health Mexico, a research and consultancy firm. Generics represent 70 % of volume but only 13.5 % of the value of the sales. Mexican government hospitals buy 80% of the generics produced in the country. In 2013 Mexico imported pharmaceuticals worth 4.98 billion and imported 1.8 billion dollars. More info


Poverty and Inequality declining in Latin America

Poverty rate has decreased signifcantly from 48.4 % in 1990 to 27.9 % in 2013 and extreme poverty has declined from 22.6% to 11.5 % in the same period, according to a report “Social panorama of Latin America” released on 5 December by ECLAC ( Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean), a UN organisation based in Santiago, Chile. The other highlights of the report are:

The rate of poverty reduction has slowed down in the region in recent years due to the impact of the global financial and economic cris, the fall in commodity prices and slower domestic growth., The per capita GDP growth in 2012 was just 1.9% in 2012 as against 3.2% in 2011 and 4.5% in 2010.

Venezuela tops the list with the largest drop in poverty reduction. Brazil, Peru, Argentina and Ecuador have also seen significant fall in poverty. On the other hand poverty rate has gone up in Mexico.

Inequality in income has reduced in Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia and Uruguay while it has increased in Paraguay, Panama and Costa Rica.

Share of social spending as a percentage of GDP in 21 countries of Latin America and Caribbean has gone up from 12.5% in 1992-93 to 19.2% in 2010-11. The share of social spending as a percentage of public spending has also increased from 50 % in 1992-93 to 65.9 % in 201-11 in the same group of countries.

The credit for the reduction in poverty and inequality in Latin America goes to the proactive poverty alleviation programmes of the Leftist governments in the region. Brazil’s Bolsa Familia is a role model for the region and for the world too.

The region needs to keep up its Leftist orientation in the coming years since even now poverty rate is substantial. The number of people living below the poverty line in Latin America is 164 million accounting for 27.9 percent of the total population. The number of people who are extremely poor in the region is 68 million representing 11.5 % of the total population.


Macroeconomic indicators of the region since 2000

GDP Growth in percentage










2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014










-1.2 6.2 4.3 2.7 2.7 1.1


Trade in billion dollars










2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014










906 701 889 1109 1102 1099 1090










864 650 843 1036 1054 1083 1071


Foreign Direct Investment (In billion dollars)









2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014









95 67 81 124 129 154 118



External Debt

(In billion dollars)









2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014









745 807 944 1082 1179 1248 1121



(In percentage)










2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014










4.7 6.5 6.8 5.6 7.3 9.3

Inflation has been decisively tamed in Latin America. It is in single digit since 2000. Only Venezuela and Argentina have double digit inflation in recent years.



Regional Integration


All the countries (except Cuba ) from Brazil to Mexico have now become part of one or other trade blocs of Latin America. Approach to markets of individual countries has to therefore take into account the bloc to which each country belongs.

The Latam countries attach importance to the ongoing integration process. They have realised the value of collective strength. The regional integration has reinforced the stability and prosperity of member states. While the integration process passes through transitional stages and difficulties, there is no doubt that the direction in which the countries are going is greater integration.

Regional integration is not new for Latin America . Even before independence (in the 1820s) Simon Bolivar, the liberator of South America , had called for a political union of the countries in the region. In the fifties and sixties, there were some attempts for regional and sub-regional integration. But the times and circumstances did not favour success.

In the eighties and nineties the Latin Americans realized the need for and advantages of regional integration and moved decisively to create new trade blocs and revitalize those created earlier. . Individual countries and regional groups have been signing Free Trade Agreements with other countries and blocs within as well as outside the region. Regional integration continues to be an effective tool for broadening markets, diversifying exports and achieving economies of scale, which, in turn, are decisive factors in enabling the Latin American countries to enhance their productivity, generate employment, attract capital and stimulate investment.

There are four sub-regional groups in LAC region.

  • Andean Community
  • Central American Integration System(SICA)
  • Pacific Alliance

Mexico is, of course, part of NAFTA which includes USA and Canada, besides being a member of Pacific Alliance.

Mexico, Peru and Chile are members of TransPacific Partnership(TPP) signed in March 2016.

In December 2004, mercosur and andean community agreed to form a South American Community of Nations ( UNASUR) including Chile, Guyana and Suriname, which means the whole of South America.

CELAC ( Community of Latin American and Caribbean countries) is the grouping formed by all the 33 countries of Latin Americ and Caribbean in February 2010. This has been formed as an alternative to the OAS ( Organisation of American States - based in Washington DC) which is dominated by USA and from which Cuba is excluded. This new group is basically political in nature. It has evolved from the earlier political grouping known as Rio Group. The first summit of CELAC was held in Caracas in 2011 and the next ones were held in Chile in 2012 and Cuba in 2014 and the fourth one in Costa Rica in 2015.


MERCOSUR (Mercado Comun de Sur-Southern Common Market)

Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela and are the members. Bolivia joined on 7 December 2012. Chile and Peru are associate members.

With the admission of Venezuela and Bolivia as full members of MERCOSUR, the grouping has become a market worth US$ 3.3 trillion with 285 million inhabitants. The trading bloc has also added a major energy component of Venezuelan oil and Bolivian gas to its profile as an agricultural powerhouse.

The Secretariat of Mercosur is located in Montevideo, Uruguay. Mercosur, formed in 1991 with the objective of free movement of goods, services, capital and people became a customs union in January 1995. It has evolved as a kind of ‘Common Market’. Intra-Mercosur trade is duty-free while there is Common External Tariff (CET) for imports from other countries. The average CET is 14 percent and it ranges from 0 to 20 percent. CEP has 800 exceptions including cars and sugar. The Customs Union does not function perfectly and there are problems from time to time.

Mercosur has become a successful regional market of 285 million people and 2 trillion dollars of GDP. It is the third largest integrated market after EU and NAFTA.

Mercosur’s role model is European Union. Its integration project envisages coordination of macro economic policies, common currency, Mercosur Bank, common citizenship and cooperation in development of infrastructure culture and education. Mercosur countries signed an Air Services Agreement in 1996, under which airlines of member countries can fly into the international airports of the region freely. The region is binding itself with a web of investments and a growing network of cross-border roads, electricity grids and gas pipelines.

Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay are dependent upon Mercosur for a large part of their trade while Brazil’s trade with Mercosur’s partners is limited. Intra-Mercosur tradehas grown and accounts for about 20% of their global trade.

European Union has signed a cooperation agreement with Mercosur and is negotiating a Free Trade Agreement. But the chances of conclusion of FTA are not bright due to the issue of EU restrictions on entry of agroproducts.

Mercosur and Mexico have concluded a FTA.

Mercosur has signed an Agreement for consultation and cooperation with China and is considering cooperation agreements with ASEAN, Japan and Korea .

MERCOSUR has concluded a PTA with India and another one with Southern African Customs Union (SACU).

Mercosur and the two associate members namely Chile and Bolivia approved in 2002 a plan for free movement of their citizens and the right to live and work in any of the member countries as part of the integration of Mercosur. This will benefit the 250 million population of the six countries.

The integration process has not moved forward since 2008 due to the protectionist attitude of Argentina, followed later by the Brazilian protectionist policies.

Website of MERCOSUR:


India- Mercosur PTA

This was signed in March 2005. Preferential duty ( 10-20 percent in most cases) is given to 450 Indian products entering mercosur and reciprocal concession to 450 products of mercosur entering India. List of products in the link below.

Negotiations are going on for the last several years to expand and deepen the PTA.


Pacific Alliance

The Presidents of Chile, Colombia, Peru and Mexico signed an agreement establishing a regional group called as “Pacific Alliance” in their summit meeting on 6 May 2012 at the Paranal observatory in the Atacama desert of Chile. Guatemala, Costa Rica and Panama have expressed interest in joining this new bloc.

The new economic bloc has a combined population of 204 million (36% of Latin American population), GDP of $1.7 trillion (35% of region’s GDP) and global trade of $1045 billion which is half of the region’s global trade.

The four member countries of the Alliance have some common features: All four of them have investment grade markets. They are more open economies, outward looking and are keen to diversify their trade and economic partnerships. Chile and Mexico have signed the maximum number of FTAs (Free Trade Agreements) with other countries around the world. Peru and Colombia are following their examples. All four of them have FTA partnerships with U.S.

One of the stated objectives of the Pacific Alliance is to increase trade with Asia. The Alliance is planning a FTA with ASEAN. Chile and Peru have signed FTAs with China, Japan and Korea, while Colombia and Mexico are in the process of negotiating FTAs with China, Korea and Japan.

In the summit meeting held in Cartagena, the four members namely Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Chile agreed to remove tariffs on 92% of goods by 2015. The remaining 8% consist of goods considered as sensitive such as agro products. Elimination of tariffs on this 8% will take 17 years. It was also agreed to create a fund to finance infrastructure investments within the four member countries and establish a joint system to monitor and control the price of medicines.

Costa Rica signed an agreement to join the Pacific Alliance. Panama and Guatemala have expressed interest in membership.

India has been admitted as an observer in the Alliance


Andean Community

This regional market, which has an international legal status, consists of four countries namely Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. In April 2006 Venezuela withdrew its membership from Andean Community and joined Mercosur in 2012. Bolivia also has joined Mercosur. Colombia and Peru went on to become members of Pacific Alliance. After this, the Andean Community is virtually defunct.

The Community was formed in 1969 but became operational in the nineties with the establishment of a Free Trade Area in 1993 and Customs Union in February 1995. Goods are traded within the Community without any customs duty except some specified items. The Common External Tariff (CET) for imports from outside the Community has a four-level structure of 5, 10, 15, and 20 percent with an average level of 13.6%. CET applies to about 60 percent of the products of external imports.

This regional market has got the following institutional framework:

(1)       Andean Secretariat at Lima - This is the executive body, with a full time Secretary General.

(2)     Andean Development Corporation (CAF) at Caracas.

CAF is the leading source of external financing for the Andean Community members contributing more than 40% of their requirements. The annual total credit given by CAF is over two billion US dollars. The credit is given to regional integration projects and financing of international commerce of companies and banks and government projects. CAF has established its reputation as a successful regional fund with strong fundamentals and good credit rating. Indian companies can participate in the tenders of CAF. Information on projects financed by CAF can be seen in the website Exim Bank of India had extended a dollar 10 million line of credit to CAF.

CAF has now been renamed as Development Bank of Latin America

(3) Andean Court of Justice ( Quito )

This body resolves disputes among member countries.

(4) Andean Parliament ( Bogota )

The Parliament is the policy advisory body.

The Andean Community’s home page is


Union of South American Nations (UNASUR)

The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) is the latest regional entity in South America. It consists of all the twelve countries of South America, namely, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Mexico and Panama are observer countries.

The twelve countries stated their interest to form UNASUR in the “the Cuzco Declaration” of December 2004. The first UNASUR Summit was held in Brasília in September 2005.At the third South American Summit held in Brasilia on 23 May 2008, Presidents of the 12 countries signed the Treaty under which formation of UNASUR was formalized.



The objective of UNASUR is to integrate the region and become a collective entity like the European Union. It envisages a single market, common monetary policy, currency, parliament and passport. As part of the integration it has set up Regional Defence Council, South American Health Council and South American Human Rights Council.

UNASUR has established South American Councils to for  Infrastructure and Planning, Social Development, Education, Culture, Science and Technology as well as combating drug trafficking. There are proposals for construction of a South American energy grid and an Inter-oceanic Highway, connecting Atlantic and pacific oceans by road through Peru, Brazil and Bolivia.



  • The headquarters of UNSUR has been established in Quito, Capital of Ecuador
  • The Presidents of member nations have annual Summit meeting.
  • The Ministers of Foreign Affairs meet once every six months. Mercosur, Andean Community, and other institutions for regional cooperation and integration will also participate in the meeting.
  • Sectoral Ministerial meetings and extraordinary Summits will be organized by the Presidents of the member states as and when necessary.
  • The Presidency of UNASUR will rotate amongst the member countries every year. Ecuador took over the Presidency from Chile on 10th August 2009. 

UNSUR is rich in agriculture and energy sources and can be a global player in food and energy security. It has 27% of the world's freshwater sources and eight million square kilometers of forest land.


SICA (Central American Integration System)

SICA is an extension of the Central American Common Market which was formed by Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador in 1963.

Formed in 1991, this consists of seven countries namely Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Belize and Nicaragua. SICA has taken Dominican Republic as an Associate Member. This has a combined population of 44 million and GDP of 94 billion dollars. A general secretariat located in San Salvador coordinates the process of political, economic, social and environmental integration. Summit meetings and ministerial meetings are held periodically to give political impetus for the integration process. The Secretariat has prepared a programme of projects for regional development for the period 2001-2020. A Bank for the Economic Integration of Central America has been established. The projects being financed by the Bank include Central American Logistical corridor, Central American Electricity Connection and fibre optic network.

Projects of this Bank can be seen in

SICA has established specialized Technical Secretariats for economic integration and cooperation in areas such as education, environment, development, tourism, agriculture and maritime transport. SICA has also established a Parliament and Court of Justice.

SICA has signed (1993) a Framework Cooperation Agreement with EU. In May 2002, the two sides had agreed to start negotiations on an Association Agreement. An Agreement for Cooperation with Mexico was signed in 1991. Member countries of SICA have signed Free Trade Agreements with USA , Canada and Mexico . SICA has plans to open trade negotiations with Mercosur, EU, Andean Community and CARICOM.

SICA has agreed to evolve common negotiating positions in multilateral negotiations such as WTO and FTAA.

In the Summit meeting in July 2005, the leaders had agreed to work towards a common central american passport and common visa . These were agreed among four of the eight SICA countries, namely El Salvador,Guatemala,Honduras and Nicaragua.

For information on SICA see website


CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Area) Plus DR

This is a Free Trade Agreement concluded between USA and the six SICA countries, namely Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Dominican Republic. Also knwn as DR- CAFTA Agreement. After a long period of debate and expression of concerns, the US Congress approved this agreement in the last week of July 2005. This has been ratified by all the countries except Costa Rica.

Under this Agreement, duties have been eliminated on most goods. The Agreement covers all forms of investment including securities, debt, licenses,contracts and dealership.

Central America is an important exporter of apparels to USA. the six CAFTA countries together are the second largest buyer of US yarn and fabric. The average US-content in apparel exported by Cafta-6 to USA is around 70 percent.

Panama has separately concluded a FTA with USA in December 2006.

India- SICA Forum

India-SICA [consisting of eight countries Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic –an associate member] meetings are held from time to time at the level of foreign ministers.

India has set up IT training centers in five SICA countries viz. Panama, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras and will be setting up IT centers in Belize, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. India has offered lines of credit to all the SICA countries.



USA , Mexico and Canada formed this Free Trade Area in January 1994 under the NAFTA Agreement. This is the world’s largest FTA with a population of 406 million people. Each day the NAFTA partners conduct more than 2 billion in trilateral trade.

Under NAFTA, restrictions on trade and investment are to be gradually removed (some immediately, others in 10-15 years) over a period of 15 years. Tariffs on automobiles and Textiles are to be phased out in 10 years. Non-tariff barriers are to be reduced or eliminated. There is binding protection of intellectual property rights. There are elaborate dispute settlement procedures. NAFTA does not have a Common External Tariff like Mercosur and Andean Community.

In some respects NAFTA goes beyond a conventional FTA. Accords, covering issues such as intellectual property rights, reciprocal trucking rights, agricultural inspection standards, and conditions under which professional and financial institutions can access and operate in each other’s markets, have been signed. It incorporates side agreements on labour and environment. But NAFTA does not include movement of labour, government procurement and energy.

Although NAFTA is a three country arrangement, there are many bilateral arrangements. The agricultural protocol between US and Mexico differs from that between US and Canada . There are bilateral commissions (US-Canada and US-Mexico) to settle disputes. There are over 200 pages of ‘Rules of Origin’ and the NAFTA document itself runs into 2000 pages.



NAFTA has been a clear success on the trade promotion objective. The intra-NAFT trade has gone up and accounts for one third of their total trade. For Canada and Mexico intra-NAFTA export represents 85 and 90 percent of total exports and for USA it is 36%.

Canada accounts for 20.4% of US trade followed by Mexico with 12%. On the other hand, Canada has become the second largest market for Mexican goods and Mexico has become the fourth largest exporter to Canada .


Impact on Mexico

Thanks to NAFTA, Mexico has emerged as the largest trading nation in Latin America. Many US companies have shifted their production to Mexico . Most importantly the Mexican market has matured and is evolving in the model of USA .

NAFTA has also become an insurance for Mexican economy. For example, when Mexico was hit by a crisis in 1995 after the Peso devaluation, USA put together a $ 50 billion international loan package and rescued Mexico quickly. Mexico took only seven months for recovery. But in 1982, when Mexico had a similar crisis, it took seven years.

For more information visit


FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas)

FTAA was an initiative of USA to form a Free Trade Area of the 34 countries in the hemisphere ( Latin America , North America and Caribbean ) except Cuba . This was proposed in the Summit of the Americas held in December 1994 in Miami . The Summit leaders agreed to create a FTAA in which barriers to trade and investment will be progressively eliminated and to complete the negotiations by 2005. The FTAA was to enter into force not later than December 2005. The Miami summit was followed by two other summits: the second one in 1998 at Santiago and the third one at Quebec in 2001. The initial negotiations held at ministerial and official levels were going slow since the Clinton Administration could not get Fast Track Authority which made the Latin Americans skeptical about the seriousness of USA . But the negotiations got a new life when the Bush administration managed to get the Trade Promotion Authority in August, 2002.

The fourth meeting of the Summit of the Americas held in Argentina on 4-5 November 2005, Venezuelan president Chavez and Argentine President Kirchner took out public protests, opposed FTAA with the support of Brazil and killed it

For all practical puroses, it can be said that FTAA is dead..


USA signs FTAs with Latin American countries

USA has signed FTAs with individual countries and regional groups of Latin America after having signed NAFTA with Mexico.


USA-Chile FTA was signed in June 2003. The Agreement deals with services, intellectual property rights, labour and environment issues besides freeing of trade.

USA has signed FTAs with Colombia and Peru  

USA-Central America

USA has signed a FTA with the five Central American countries-Costa Rica, El Salvador, Gautemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. It is called as CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Area). Under CAFTA, tariff and other barriers for trade in goods, services and investment are to be eliminated gradually. In August 2004 USA signed a FTA with Dominican Republic. After this CAFTA has become “Dominican Republic-CAFTA Free Trade Agreement”.

USA concluded a FTA with Panama in December 2006.

APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum)

Mexico, Chile and Peru are the three Latin American members of APEC which has 21 countries as members including USA. Colombia and Ecuador have expressed interest in joining APEC. APEC promotes broad trade and investment liberalization. APEC countries have announced that they would become a Free Trade Area by 2010 (for the developed countries) and 2020 (for the developing countries). Around 55% of the Chilean exports go to other APEC members.

Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Mexico, Peru and Chile are part of this Group which has signed in 2016 a second-generation FTA among its membership.

One of the adverse impact this is for Indian generic pharma exports, since TPP has gone beyond the WTO- approved patent norms.