[Riordan Roett, Guadalupe Paz (Eds.). Latin America and the Asian Giants: Evolving Ties with China and India. Brookings Institution Press, 2016, 336 pages]


review / Ignacio Urbasos Arbeloa

Trade between Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region has grown over the last decade at a dizzying rate of 21% per year[1]. However, China's prominence has overshadowed and concentrated the vast majority of academic analyses, leaving other relevant actors such as India in the background.  This book by Riordan Roett, Guadalupe Paz and other collaborators from different parts of the world offers an interesting comparison between the two "Asian giants" in their relations with Latin American countries in a new global context. This review, will focus on India's rise in the region, although references to China are inescapable.

Historical ties between Latin America and India, though weak, have existed since the colonial period. Today, one million people[2] descendants of Indian migrants live in the Caribbean, a fact that can be considered an opportunity to generate channels of dialogue, however the magnitude of the Indian diaspora eliminates any trace of exceptionality. Another interesting element directly links India and Brazil, two countries that share to some extent the bequest They have been champions of South-South cooperation to this day, an approach shared by Lula and Dilma as well as Modi.  In the section historically, India's relevance is much greater than that of China, which lacks relevant references partner-cultural activities in the region.

The growing economic presence of the two Asian giants in Latin America has not gone unnoticed in the discussion politician. Historically, left-wing sectors have been more supportive of increasing trade relations with China, considering it a way to achieve the continent's emancipation and independence from the United States.  The right, on the other hand, has been reluctant to have a greater presence of China, aligning itself in the case of the countries of the Pacific Alliance with the TPP, which until the arrival of Trump was intended to be a free trade agreement aimed at increasing the presence of the American continent in the Asia-Pacific outside of China[3].  In the authors' opinion, Latin America lacks a cohesive narrative and strategy on China, thus drastically reducing its negotiating capacity and influence over the Asian country. The case of India is different, as the volume of trade is still a tenth that of China, being a democratic country, an ally of the US and with a better image on the continent.

Despite the fact that the vast majority of Latin American exports to Asia are made up of commodities and imports are made up of manufactured products, there are subtle differences that explain India's better image in the region. First, Chinese imports are much more diversified than Indian imports, generating a general perception of destruction of the industrial fabric and local jobs due to greater competitiveness due to economies of scale and the distortion of the yuan.  Likewise, what India exports to Latin America are socially valued products (such as generic drugs, which have reduced the price of medicines) and cheap vehicles, while Indian businessmen set up information companies, which have generated 20,000 jobs in the region.

In terms of imports, both India and China concentrate their purchases on natural products. profile India's most energetic and China's most mining. Both countries concentrate a huge demand for soybeans, a product that agreement with Riordan Roett it will gradually become increasingly important due to its versatility as a feed, feed and biofuel source. It is important to note that Latin America is one of the keys to the energy and food security of these countries, which are facing this enormous challenge The size of its population is derived differently: India is betting on private investment and China on long-term purchase agreements for its state-owned companies. A possible collision between the two Asian giants for access to these markets cannot be ruled out, with the geopolitical implications that this entails.

In terms of India's financial positioning in Latin America, the reality of the sample an almost testimonial presence compared to that of China. However, it should be noted that Indian investment and loans are viewed much better than Chinese ones. Overall, India acts as a partner This is not the case with China, whose actors are more accustomed to dealing with a complex bureaucracy than with a democratic system. Likewise, Chinese loans, increasingly present in certain economies such as Venezuela or Ecuador, have proven to be less advantageous than those of international organizations such as the IMF or IDB as they have higher interest rates and are linked to strict conditions for the purchase of goods.  All of this makes India a partner friendlier to the public: a challenge that it will have to face as its presence in the region increases and with it its true way of acting abroad can be appreciated, still an unknown.

In final, India's role in the region is promising but still limited in scope. The annual growth of trade between that country and Latin America was 140% between 2009-2014[4] and India has already signed the first free trade agreements (with MERCOSUR and Chile), although of small magnitude. It should be noted that this is mainly an inter-industrial trade, in which Latin American countries export primary products and manufactures based on natural resources and import manufactures of different technological intensities, which limits the potential for deeper economic relations between the two regions[5] and condemns them to fluctuations in commodity prices. The fact that it takes between 45 and 60 days for a freighter to arrive from the Chilean coast to Indian ports is a real barrier to trade, however there are many reasons to expect India to have a greater regional presence, such as its excellent relations with Brazil, the expectations of annual growth of more than 7% of its GDP and the inescapable importance of Latin America in guaranteeing the energy and food security of the region. the growing population of the Asian country.


[1] CELAC: International Trade and Regional Division DATA.

[2] NRIOL: Non Residents Indian Online DATA

[3] Wilson, J. D. (2015). Mega-regional trade deals in the Asia-Pacific: Choosing between the TPP and RCEP?. Journal of Contemporary Asia.

[4] ECLAC, N. (2016). Strengthening the relationship between India and Latin America and the Caribbean.

[5] ECLAC, N. (2012). India and Latin America and the Caribbean: Opportunities and Challenges in Their Trade and Investment Relations.

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