Latin America's growth slowed in 2012, partly because of shifting patterns in its economic activity amid government efforts to move away from unprocessed exports to manufacturing.
Latin economies are also suffering from the continuing effects of the 2008-09 economic downturn, weather vagaries and ill-conceived nationalizations. Venezuela has witnessed a slowdown due to all three factors and Argentina is struggling with local industry fightback to restrictive government policies.
China has taken a long look at regional trends and seems to have decided its interests lie in Latin America thriving and its consumer markets expanding in the coming decade, analysts said.
This month China set the ball rolling on $2 billion in loans channeled through the Inter-American Development Bank despite forecasts of at least 9 points less growth in the region this year. The economic growth assessments appear not to be discouraging the Chinese, who have seen their economic involvement in the region soar during the past few years.
Between 2000 and 2005 China represented nearly 40 percent of the global growth in world demand for oil, one of Latin America's leading export commodities aside from agricultural commodities, minerals and other raw materials.
Trade between China and Latin America increased 1200 percent, from $10 billion to $130 billion between 2000 and 2009.
That value of trade increased to $241.5 billion in 2011, Chinese Trade Ministry data indicated. Only the United States was a larger trading partner.
The top five Latin American nations in the trade were Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Venezuela.
In 2009, 7 percent of Latin America's exports were to China -- mostly raw materials and commodities including copper, iron ore, oil and soybeans.
China in turn was the largest export market for Brazil, Chile and Peru and the second largest for Argentina, Costa Rica and Cuba, the data indicated.
IADB said the Chinese initiative, China Co-financing Fund for Latin America and the Caribbean, was the first of its kind between China and a multilateral development bank and will provide valuable additional resources for public and private sector development.
Managed by IADB, the Co-financing Fund will support projects that promote sustainable economic growth in the region, the bank said.
It will provide capital to complement the IADB's own resources for projects seeking to alleviate poverty and reduce inequality, boost private sector investment, improve competitiveness and social welfare, and support programs to mitigate the impacts of climate change and promote greater gender equality.
"China is a key partner for the bank's mission to alleviate poverty and inequality in the region," IADB President Luis Alberto Moreno said.
"This partnership is another example of our efforts to promote greater South-South cooperation to narrow funding gaps in sectors with high developmental impact and enhance the social and economic impact of our projects. It will serve as a benchmark for future models of cooperation with China and other countries," Moreno added.
China hopes to channel its resources toward development finance projects that require additional financing to make them viable.
The $2 billion Chinese contribution will be used to co-finance a total of up to $500 million of IADB public sector loans and up to $1.5 billion for loans made by the bank to private sector entities.
Co-financing Fund resources will be used to complement IDB loans, subject to pre-established limits.
The funds from China will be available for the next three years for public sector projects and the next six years for non-sovereign guaranteed operations.
"China presents both a threat and an opportunity for Latin American emerging markets," a
paper by Jorge Blazquez-Lidoy, Javier Rodriguez and Javier Santiso said.
"On average and despite some exceptions, Latin America is a clear trade winner from Chinese global integration," said the study, The Visible Hand of China in Latin America, published by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.