The new Manila Galleons: Latin American companies in Asia

| By Lourdes Casanova |
For 250 years, between 1565 and 1815, trade between Latin America and Asia flourished. Porcelain, gunpowder, agricultural products and animals from China and other parts of Asia would arrive to the west coast of Mexico (New Spain at the time) via the Philippines on Manila Galleon trading ships. Traveling in the other direction, as much as a third of the silver produced in Mexico was exported to China. Two centuries later, Latin America looks with admiration at the outstanding development of China, which, suddenly, is playing a major role in its economy. The Middle Kingdom has outpaced Latin America’s traditional investors and trade partners: the United States and Europe. China is now the second largest import source and the third largest export destination for the region. Huawei and ZTE started supplying goods to telecom companies in Latin America about 10 years ago and they are now present in 14 countries in the region. More recently, Chinese banks have become the biggest lenders to Latin America, ahead of international financial institutions like the World Bank, CAF and the Inter-American Development Bank. In the electricity market, China’s State Grid, now the world’s seventh biggest company, and Sinohydro have projects in Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Venezuela. A few weeks ago State Grid won a concession to build a 2,500-kilometer power line to connect the Belo Monte hydropower plant to Brazil’s national grid. How has Latin …

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