China’s Growing Trade Dominance in Latin America
China’s Growing Trade Dominance in Latin America
Over the past 20 years, China’s economic presence around the world has grown significantly, including in Latin America.
Now, China is one of Latin America’s largest trade partners, which is threatening U.S. dominance in the region. This graphic by Latinometrics uses IMF data to show trade flows between China and Latin America since the 1980s.
Two Decades of Trade Growth
Four decades ago, the United States had a much stronger trade relationship with Latin America than China did. In 1981, Cuba was the only Latin American country trading more with China than the United States.
Here’s a look at total trade flows between Latin America and the two countries since 1980. Latinometrics calculated trade flows as total exports plus imports.
|Trade Flows by Year||U.S. & Latin America||China & Latin America|
Things stayed relatively stagnant until the early 2000s. Then suddenly, at the start of the new millennium, trade between China and Latin America started to ramp up.
This uptick was driven largely by Chinese demand for things like copper, oil, and other raw materials that the country needed to help fuel its industrial revolution.
Momentum has continued for two decades, and now China is the top trading partner in nine different Latin American countries. In fact, in 2021, imports and exports between China and Latin America (excluding Mexico) reached $247 billion—that’s $73 billion more than trade flows with the United States that same year.
Trade between China and Latin America is expected to keep growing, at least for the time being. By 2035, trade flows between the two regions are projected to more than double, according to World Economic Forum.
China’s Global Economic Presence
China’s trade takeover of Latin America speaks to a wider trend that’s happening on a global scale—over the last two decades, China has surpassed the U.S. as the world’s largest trading partner.
While China is likely to remain the world’s leading trade partner for the foreseeable future, growth is likely to slow in the short-term, given ongoing supply chain issues and geopolitical tensions that have disrupted the global economy.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
Visualizing the Link Between Unemployment and Recessions
This infographic examines 50 years of data to highlight a clear visual trend: recessions are preceded by a cyclical low in unemployment.
The Surprising Link Between Unemployment and Recessions
The U.S. labor market is having a strong start to 2023, adding 504,000 nonfarm payrolls in January, and 311,000 in February.
Both figures surpassed analyst expectations by a wide margin, and in January, the unemployment rate hit a 53-year low of 3.4%. With the recent release of February’s numbers, unemployment is now reported at a slightly higher 3.6%.
A low unemployment rate is a classic sign of a strong economy. However, as this visualization shows, unemployment often reaches a cyclical low point right before a recession materializes.
Reasons for the Trend
In an interview regarding the January jobs data, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen made a bold statement:
You don’t have a recession when you have 500,000 jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in more than 50 years
While there’s nothing wrong with this assessment, the trend we’ve highlighted suggests that Yellen may need to backtrack in the near future. So why do recessions tend to begin after unemployment bottoms out?
The Economic Cycle
The economic cycle refers to the economy’s natural tendency to fluctuate between periods of growth and recession.
This can be thought of similarly to the four seasons in a year. An economy expands (spring), reaches a peak (summer), begins to contract (fall), then hits a trough (winter).
With this in mind, it’s reasonable to assume that a cyclical low in the unemployment rate (peak employment) is simply a sign that the economy has reached a high point.
During periods of low unemployment, employers may have a harder time finding workers. This forces them to offer higher wages, which can contribute to inflation.
For context, consider the labor shortage that emerged following the COVID-19 pandemic. We can see that U.S. wage growth (represented by a three-month moving average) has climbed substantially, and has held above 6% since March 2022.
The Federal Reserve, whose mandate is to ensure price stability, will take measures to prevent inflation from climbing too far. In practice, this involves raising interest rates, which makes borrowing more expensive and dampens economic activity. Companies are less likely to expand, reducing investment and cutting jobs. Consumers, on the other hand, reduce the amount of large purchases they make.
Because of these reactions, some believe that aggressive rate hikes by the Fed can either cause a recession, or make them worse. This is supported by recent research, which found that since 1950, central banks have been unable to slow inflation without a recession occurring shortly after.
Politicians Clash With Economists
The Fed has raised interest rates at an unprecedented pace since March 2022 to combat high inflation.
More recently, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell warned that interest rates could be raised even higher than originally expected if inflation continues above target. Senator Elizabeth Warren expressed concern that this would cost Americans their jobs, and ultimately, cause a recession.
According to the Fed’s own report, if you continue raising interest rates as you plan, unemployment will be 4.6% by the end of the year.
– Elizabeth Warren
Powell remains committed to bringing down inflation, but with the recent failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, some analysts believe there could be a pause coming in interest rate hikes.
Editor’s note: just after publication of this article, it was confirmed that U.S. interest rates were hiked by 25 basis points (bps) by the Federal Reserve.
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