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US influence in Latin America wanes, as China's grows

Written by Girish Gupta Tuesday, 26 April 2011 07:04
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Broadening the mind is the reason one travels, or certainly one reason
one travels.  Broadening the mind is not something that one does by
looking inward, as this financial traveller often does, through the
grubby lenses of his own problems in dealing with foreign currencies,
markets and protocols.  Once in a while, the bigger picture must be
explored.

So I rub my eyes and take a fresh look at the economies of Latin
America; I find it is China that is blinding me.  No longer does the
United States have hegemony over the region.  The United States has
market-friendly governments in many Latin American nations --
discounting Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru it seems from early June when
Ollanta Humala, friend of Hugo Chávez, takes the helm.

Being market friendly, however, means that these countries’ economies
are guided by the market and not by their friendship with their
hemispheric giant.  And it is China that is not only jumping on the
bandwagon but wheeling it across the Pacific and parking it there,
tightly secured from the grip of the United States.

For example, Barack Obama visited El Salvador, Chile and Brazil just
last month in order to boost trade, create US jobs and generally
bolster his domestic economy. Obama “came, saw [and] said nothing,”
said Jose Pinera, former labour minister and brother of Chilean
President Sebastian Pinera.

With growth in Brazil hitting 7.5% last year, the country was the
highlight of Obama’s visit.  However, he failed to grasp Brazil’s
affair with China -- now its biggest export market.  Brazil also finds
most of its manufactured items produced there.  President Dilma
Rousseff was in China just weeks later and came back with many deals
signed and sealed -- tangible results.

Even Colombia, friend of the United States, chose this month to
extradite Walid Makled, an alleged drug trafficker, to Venezuela and
not the United States as President Juan Manuel Santos there looks to
build bridges with his leftfield and somewhat difficult neighbour in
order to build on bilateral trade, which just four years ago hit $7
billion.

While the financial traveller must keen an eye on his own pocket, it
will always do him or her good to take a look at the bigger picture in
order to understand the world that little better -- the entire reason
for the travels.

Last modified on Tuesday, 26 April 2011 07:18

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