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Latin American and Caribbean exports drop 24 per cent in 2009, UN reports

Latin American and Caribbean exports drop 24 per cent in 2009, UN reports

The value of total exports from Latin America and the Caribbean in 2009 fell 24 per cent compared to the previous year due to the global economic crisis, according to a new United Nations study released today.

The value of imports in the region also declined by 25 per cent, according to “International Trade in Latin America and the Caribbean 2009: Crisis and Recovery,” published by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The 24 per cent drop in the value of the region’s exports represents a combined 15 per cent decline in value and 9 per cent decrease in volume.

“This simultaneous decrease in price and volume is unprecedented in recent history. The last similar situation took place in 1937,” states the report, which updates a study published last August.

It also stated that although both exports and imports declined significantly, the drop is not as bad as during the first part of 2009, when they declined by 31 per cent and 29 per cent, respectively.

This implies a better outlook for 2010, according to a news release issued by ECLAC.

The report attributed the “economic recovery” in the last quarter of 2009 to, among others, the partial rise in the price of several commodities, such as copper, zinc, oil, wheat and soya, and the strong demand from China since the second quarter of last year.

Significant differences were also cited between countries and subregions. While exports diminished 42 per cent in Venezuela and 32 per cent in Andean countries as a whole, they decreased 29 per cent in the Caribbean, 22 per cent in Mexico and Chile, and only 6 per cent in Central America (excluding Mexico).

Mining and oil exports fared the worst, according to the study, with an average decline of 42.3 per cent from January to September 2009. Meanwhile, manufactured products dropped 25.4 per cent and agricultural and livestock exports decreased 18.4 per cent.

Last month ECLAC predicted that Latin America and the Caribbean will bounce back faster than expected from the global financial crisis, with growth projected at over 4 per cent in 2010. In its annual report, the Commission said it expects positive growth rates for most countries in the region, but notes there are still doubts about whether the recovery will be sustainable, since external scenarios remain uncertain and could impact the area.