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Latin America in the Global Economy

The Georgetown Americas Institute’s Latin America in the Global Economy (LAGE) program is a multiyear initiative to advance research and promote dialogue within the academy and with governments, the private sector, and civil society around the most critical economic challenges facing the region. A critical focus will be the emerging position of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) in a new global economic trade architecture characterized by deep structural changes.

In 2023 with the support of CAF - Development Bank of Latin America, the LAGE program will support a one-year research effort focused on untapped opportunities in global value chains (GVCs). The global economy is changing, bringing new challenges and opportunities for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). LAC is emerging from a COVID-19 crisis that led to one of the most dire recessions in its economic history, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine added to the gravity of the situation. Even before these shocks, there was already debate about the extent to which the world economy had been disrupted and entered a new phase of de-globalization with governments around the world reacting by recalibrating their trade and integration policy strategies.

In this context, there are high expectations in some policy circles around a potential reorganization of global value chains (GVCs) with the reshoring and nearshoring of manufacturing and service sector jobs. Driven by a flight to resilience and timeliness and changes in technology and labor costs—all accelerated by trade tensions with China, the COVID-19 shock and the invasion of Ukraine—this reorganization is expected to allow the region to overcome its historically low participation in GVCs. Recently, national security and geopolitical concerns have been added to the discourse on GVCs with concepts such as friendshoring.

There is, however, considerable uncertainty about this process of reorganization of GVCs and its likely impacts on LAC. If countries in the region want to seize the opportunities created by these changes, they still need to deepen their integration in the global markets and access world-class inputs and technologies, and in addition invest in high quality infrastructure, modern logistics, and sound regulatory practices.

To address these critical questions for LAC the Georgetown Americas Institute and CAF-Development Bank of Latin America have collaborated to launch a joint research program on Latin America: Untapped Opportunities in Global Value Chains. This program will bring together a group of highly recognized LAC experts to address knowledge gaps in existing research and ensure its relevance for policy discussions and private sector strategies. The program will consist of six studies, combining different methodological approaches, to provide a comprehensive assessment of LAC participation in GVCs and its potential and readiness to face a new emerging policy environment regarding the evolution of GVCs.

Latin America’s Untapped Opportunities in Global Value Chains: The Case of ADD Countries

  • Authors: Alberto Trejos, Jorge Cornick
  • The COVID-19 pandemic, U.S.-China trade war, and geopolitical tensions have exposed the fragilities of global value chains, leading to discussions of reallocation of operations. This context presents new opportunities for increased and improved GVC participation for Alliance for Development in Democracy (ADD) countries, which are relatively small economies. The study focuses on three ADD countries—Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, and Panama—to explore untapped opportunities for increased participation in GVCs, identify obstacles, and propose practical next steps. The study uses economic complexity logic, expert opinions from multinational corporations and policymakers, and specific proposals to eliminate the identified barriers needed to fully benefit from this unique opportunity.

Nearshoring: Possible Scenarios of Its Size and Impact on Mexico’s Economy

  • Authors: Daniel Chiquiar, Martin Tobal
  • The paper will examine the events causing a geographic reconfiguration of global value chains,  leading to Mexico becoming a potential host of certain production processes that were previously located elsewhere. Combining anecdotal and indirect evidence of nearshoring processes in Mexico with academic review, the article will provide an analytical framework and empirical analysis to identify sectors that could benefit the most from nearshoring decisions and assess the possible effects on sectoral and aggregate output growth. The authors will also propose relevant policy recommendations. A conceptual framework and empirical strategy will be used to analyze theoretical nearshoring opportunities, identifying the possible sectors where there is a larger likelihood of outsourcing activities shifting from China or other Asian countries towards Mexico.

Global Value Chain Reorganization: Are There Opportunities for Brazil?

  • Author: José Guilherme Reis
  • The paper aims to examine how Brazil can attract investments focused on export-oriented specializations within GVCs and identify policy actions needed for Brazil to be a recipient of GVC-related investments in the near term. The global value chain trade interdependence is being threatened by recent political, health, environmental, and economic disruptions. This has led to concerns about the need for reshoring or relocation of firms and jobs. Brazil, with its large domestic market, green energy matrix, and complex ecosystem of firms, is being considered as a potential location for industrial firms in the context of a fluid GVC architecture. This paper will argue that Brazil's limited openness to trade is a major factor inhibiting its participation in GVCs, but some sectors, such as aerospace and machinery and equipment, have been increasing their participation in international trade.

Regional Integration and the Opportunities offered by Global Value Chains: The Case of the Pacific Alliance

  • Author: Sandra Zuluaga
  • The objective of this study is to evaluate the participation of the Pacific Alliance (PA) countries in global value chains (GVCs)—with emphasis on Chile, Colombia, and Peru—in order to determine their potential and readiness for more active involvement in the recent reorganization of GVCs. The paper will analyze the trade structure and competitiveness of the PA countries; evaluate the configuration of productive value chains; explore the competitive situation of Chile, Colombia, and Peru; analyze the advances and obstacles in the PA integration process; and present recommendations for public policy and for the private sector. The study will use a combination of qualitative and quantitative tools, and will include a review of relevant literature and secondary information, primary information, and analysis with quantitative tools such as trade structure, competitiveness, and productive chains. The study aims to help PA countries take advantage of the opportunities offered by the GVCs.

Value Chains for the Energy Transition: Opportunities for Latin American Countries in a Changing Landscape

  • Authors: Tomás González, Christian Jaramillo
  • Latin American countries are aiming to become carbon neutral by 2050 despite the significant role fossil fuels play in the region's macroeconomic stability. Transitioning to a low-emissions energy matrix is challenging due to fiscal revenues, public investment needs, inefficient consumption technologies, underinvestment, and institutional weaknesses. However, the energy transition brings opportunities for investment and innovation, development of critical minerals (such as copper, silver, and lithium), modernization of government, and trade and integration in the global energy transition value chains. The paper proposes a framework to describe the value chains, identify changing links, and suggest strategies for LAC countries to insert themselves in the chains.

Digital Services in Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Author: Stacey Frederick
  • The study aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of LAC’s global digital services ecosystem, with a focus on knowledge process services. It intends to analyze LAC countries' participation in digital services and identify potential niche opportunities for them in regional and global chains. It also aims to examine the requirements for participating in established information technology (IT) and business process (BP) services and emerging knowledge-intensive digital services. The research will utilize various data sources, including international organizations, academic research, market reports, consulting agencies, trade data, and digital competitiveness indices to provide a robust analysis in three main sections: defining and mapping digital services value chains, LAC's participation and potential opportunities, and requirements to increase participation by investors and segments.





Globalization, Trade, and Regionalism in Latin America and the Caribbean

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, the global economy has weathered a series of shocks, including U.S.-China trade disputes and the unprecedented impact of COVID-19, that are reshaping the dynamics of globalization. These changes have prompted governments to recalibrate international…