S. America frets over slow China growth

March 19, 2012 at 4:37 PM
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RIO DE JANEIRO, March 19 (UPI) -- Latin American countries see a Chinese economic slowdown and eurozone crisis as major threats that could reverse their own gains in recent years, an Inter-American Development Bank report said.

Current projections for growth in Central and South American economies are down from recent trends, amid fears over China's future direction and eurozone woes. Further concerns that a U.S. economic recovery may not be as robust as expected have added to a changing outlook on the region's emergent markets.

Overseas cash infusions drawn to attractive interest rates in Brazil, Argentina and other countries kept the region flush with new money but also dampened demand for exports as national currencies soared against the dollar.

More Latin American monetary regulators see overseas investment inflows as a mixed blessing than they did last year, analysts said.

IADB called the recent upsurge in capital inflows "potentially dangerous."

The biggest worry, however, remains in trends in commodity prices and China's future demand for Latin American minerals and ores.

Latin American commodity prices could lose up to 30 percent of current values if China's economic growth slowed during the year, IADB President Luis Alberto Moreno said in the report.

"The biggest risks to Latin America are not internal it's more about what happens outside Latin America," Moreno said.

Food and commodity prices, although under pressure, are likely to prove more resilient than prices for metals that respond quickly to any perceptions of slowing growth not only in China but worldwide.

Chile and Peru are major exporters of copper and other minerals and metals while Argentina and Brazil, despite industrialization, still depend on grain and cereal exports for foreign currency earnings.

Problems in Europe have already dampened demand for South American exports.

Eurozone financial troubles have also prompted European banks to cut back on investments in Latin America, with subsidiary banks currently at the center of a brisk mergers and acquisitions activity.

Current Chinese projections of 7.5 percent growth in 2012 -- although impressive -- would mark the lowest percentage in eight years.

A much-awaited EU free trade pact with Latin America remains elusive because of disagreements within the Mercosur trade bloc and Argentina's restrictive policies affecting both EU and regional partners.

Last week EU trade ministers agreed a free trade pact with Colombia and Peru that could boost European car and chemical exports and lift food and mineral exports from the South American countries.

The EU said the agreement could boost Colombian and Peruvian economies and open them to more EU investment.

The trade pacts, however, are modest when compared with a regional trade pact being sought by Mercosur. Negotiations on a draft have been slow.

Peru is among the fast-growing economies that are exposed to the risks of price fluctuations in their commodity exports. Peru recorded a 6.9 percent growth last year, built largely on commodity exports.

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