Like Asia, Latin America is convenient to speak of as a region, but more useful to understand as a geographically linked collection of separate states, some of which are economically strong, but others of which have suffered due to poor governance.
The strongest economies in Latin America are Brazil, Mexico, Chile, and Colombia, and the majority of good economic news – and growth – comes from those nations.
In 2019, FDI in Latin America and the Caribbean grew by 10% to $164 billion, with Brazil registering a 20% increase, to $72 billion. Manufacturing and services were the major targets of foreign capital investments regionally, and Mexico’s manufacturing sector accounted for half of its $32.9 billion foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows. Also seeing strong FDI growth in 2019 was Colombia, which received $14.5 billion in investment, an increase of 25.6% over 2018, and Chile, which was the recipient of $11.4 billion in FDI, an increase of 62.9% over 2018. Peru also saw significant FDI growth of 37.1% over 2018, receiving a total of $8.9 billlion.
Overall, Latin America buys four times more goods from the United States than China does. U.S. trade with Latin America decreased 10% last year, but its trade with China went down more than 25%. The US-China trade war has vaulted Mexico far past China as a U.S. trading partner, and as global companies seek to diversify their supply chains, Mexico offers proximity to U.S. markets, modern infrastructure, access to ports for global distribution and a highly skilled, well-educated workforce.
Mexico’s USD1.3 trillion economy is the second-largest in Latin America and the 15th-largest in the world. Mexico ranked number one among U.S. trading partners in 2019 with a bilateral trade value of USD614.5 billion as well as USD144 billion in bilateral, reciprocal foreign direct investment (FDI), and it is the first or second-largest export destination for the business communities of 27 U.S. states.
Brazil’s USD1.8 trillion economy is the largest in Latin America as well as the world’s ninth-largest, and the United States is Brazil’s second-largest trading partner, with two-way trade in goods and services an estimated $105.1 billion in 2019. The United States is Brazil’s second-largest export market, and U.S. FDI in Brazil was $81.7 billion in 2019, led by the manufacturing, finance and insurance, and mining sectors.
There is plenty of opportunity in Latin America, but without question, the biggest economic problem in most of its markets is the weak rule of law.
Throughout the region and across many industries, we support our clients’ businesses by writing strong bilingual contracts, ensuring their intellectual property is protected, and conducting thorough due diligence. We also assist with entity formation, statutory compliance, operations finance and local partnerships, and we have successfully resolved countless legal disputes between entities from different countries.
Harris Bricken has an on-the-ground presence in both Mexico City and São Paulo, the capitals of Latin America’s two largest economies and from where our attorneys manage client legal matters across the region with the support of strong legal and business networks.
Adrián Cisneros Aguilar oversees our Mexico practice, where he helps companies on US-Mexico cross border legal matters, including cannabis law matters, Latin American and European companies on China and International Law issues, and local companies with international and domestic business transactions.
Rodrigo Guedes Nunes heads up our Brazil office, using his legal and business experience, combined with a vast array of South American contacts and knowledge, to help companies from all over the world conduct business in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay.
Both Adrián and Rodrigo are experienced in and knowledgeable about the Asia-Pacific region, and their knowledge and abilities serve as a bridge to South America for Harris Bricken clients headquartered in Asia and Australasia, especially in the areas of due diligence, contract negotiation and arbitration.
In Latin America, Harris Bricken understands the laws, the legal systems, the regulatory environments and the broader global trade context, and our counsel takes into account all these elements as we help our clients develop winning strategies.