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Activists from grassroots organizations from around the world chant slogans against free trade and the World Trade Organization conference, Buenos Aires, Argentina, Dec. 10, 2017 (AP photo by Victor R. Caivano).

Latin America Scouts Out Trump-Era Trade Alternatives

Thursday, April 5, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump’s hostility to existing trade deals and his heavy-handed approach to long-standing partnerships has exasperated Latin America. No longer able to depend on smooth relations with Washington, various countries in the region are pursuing other alliances and sources of economic growth. The collection of articles below sheds light on the shifting trade strategies of Latin American leaders as they try to mitigate the danger posed by Trump’s unpredictability.

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Diversifying Portfolios

Trump’s Protectionism Has Mexico Looking South to Latin America for Trade
For more than a year now, Mexico has been rattled by Trump’s protectionist trade policies and his threats to pull out of NAFTA. It has responded by diversifying its own trade ties, including in Latin America. In an email interview, Duncan Wood discusses what moving away from the U.S. economically could mean for Mexico and the region.

Progress Toward a Retrofitted TPP Sent a Strong Signal Against Protectionism
On the sidelines of last November’s APEC summit in Vietnam, the remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a group that includes four Latin American countries—agreed on most elements of a deal to salvage a version of the pact excluding the United States. At the time, J. Berkshire Miller described the revised deal as a repudiation of Trump’s protectionism. The 11 countries went on to sign the agreement in March.

The EU, Mercosur and the Two-Decade Push for a Free Trade Agreement
In February, negotiators from the European Union and Latin America’s Mercosur bloc concluded another round of unsuccessful talks aimed at securing a free trade agreement. In an email interview published shortly after those negotiations, Sebastian Dullien discussed the latest push to seal a deal and the implications for both sides in a time of growing protectionism.

Latin American-Gulf Economic Ties Are Still Largely Aspirational
A series of agreements signed by Argentina and the United Arab Emirates early last year highlighted the growing opportunities for links between Latin America and the Gulf states, despite many obstacles. In an email interview from last April, Michael Shifter discusses the slow process of bringing the regions closer together.

How China and the Trump Effect Have Changed Japan’s Position in Latin America
Changing realities in the Americas are forcing Japan to re-evaluate its brand in Latin America, Eric Farnsworth wrote last October. Tokyo is taking steps to raise its profile, a strategy that can be seen as a response to both China’s continuing push into the region and uncertainty about the economic role of the U.S. under the Trump administration.

Making Way for China

Why Trump’s Rise Is Sending Latin America Into China’s Arms
Last February, in the nascent days of Trump’s presidency, Frida Ghitis described a renewed determination among Latin American leaders to seek alternatives to the partnership with the U.S., which is now viewed as unreliable. The winner in this realignment will almost certainly be China, she predicted, noting that Beijing has been making inroads in the region.

Trump’s Trade Threats Have Pushed Mexico and China Closer Together
With NAFTA renegotiations deadlocked, Mexico is looking to expand trade ties with China and insulate itself from economic uncertainty north of the border. In an email interview last October, Carin Zissis discussed the evolving nature of Mexico-China relations and why Mexico is looking to wean itself off the U.S. market.

With NAFTA in Limbo, Canada Looks to China for a Potential Free Trade Agreement
Last December, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with his Chinese counterpart, Li Keqiang, in Beijing to discuss enhanced trade relations. In an email interview published later that month, Stewart Beck discussed the nature of economic ties between Canada and China and the opportunities for a free trade agreement.

Why Argentina’s Macri Switched Gears on China, Now His Favorite Business Partner
Argentina’s president, Mauricio Macri, visited Beijing last spring to attend China’s enormous One Belt, One Road summit and sign several agreements with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping. It was a surprising shift, Sean Miner wrote last May, given that Macri campaigned in 2015 partly on getting tough with China.

What Panama’s Recognition of China Means for America’s Backyard
Panama’s decision last summer to recognize China and sever ties with Taiwan further opens the door to increasing Chinese influence in the Western Hemisphere. In an email interview last October, R. Evan Ellis explained what’s behind Panama’s diplomatic shift and what it means for China’s wider strategy in Latin America.

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