Trade between South Korea and Latin America continued to flourish in 2013, reaching over $50 billion in bilateral commerce. Still, this is a decline of 2.8 percent over last year, and is a far cry from 2011, when trade increased 22 percent year over year to reach a record $53 billion. Nevertheless, South Korea’s trade with the region has more than tripled in the last ten years, and the region remains a strong consumer of Korean exports.
Indeed, although bilateral trade between South Korea and the region trails that of the region with neighboring Japan, Latin Americans bought some $32 billion in South Korean exports last year - $2 billion more than from Japan. The majority of these exports were automobiles, electronics, and machinery.
South Korea is also the region’s second-largest Asian investor, after Japan, providing valuable investments in manufacturing, especially in automobiles and electronics. Samsung has long produced products for the Latin American and U.S. markets in Mexico and Brazil, and Korean automaker Hyundai recently announced new investments in a Kia assembly plant in Mexico. Information from KOTRA – the Korean trade promotion agency – says this new assembly plant will also come with auto-part makers, which could also work with other foreign automobile manufacturers in the country many have dubbed “the new Detroit.”
Indeed, Brazil and Mexico remain the most important trading partners for South Korea: together those two countries account for two-thirds of all Korean exports to the region, and almost 50 percent of imports from the region. Nevertheless, South Korea’s approach to trade with the two countries is very different says Joon-HwaSeong, Manager of KOTRA’s Latin America Region.