(3 May 2012) Latin America and the Caribbean received US$153.448 billion from foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2011, which represents 10% of the global total flows according to a report presented today by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile.
This is about the largest amount of FDI received by the region so far, as stated in the report entitled Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America and the Caribbean 2011. In 2010, the region received US$120.880 billion, whereas in 2009, due to the international economic crisis, investments decreased to US$81.589 billion. Until then, the highest record had been registered in 2008, when investments amounted to US$137.001 billion.
In 2011, the main foreign direct investment recipients in the region were Brazil (US$66.660 billion, representing 43.8% of the total of flows into the region), Mexico (US$19.440 billion), Chile (17.299 billion), Colombia (US$13.234 billion), Peru (US$7.659 billion), Argentina (US$7.243 billion), Venezuela (US$5.302 billion) and Uruguay (US$2.528 billion). Of these countries, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Uruguay reached historic records.
In Central America, FDI incomes increased by 36% compared to 2010, where the amounts received by Panama (US$2.790 billion), Costa Rica (US$2.104 billion) and Honduras (US$1.014 billion) stand out. In the Caribbean, flows soared by 20% compared to the previous year, with the Dominican Republic at the head with US$2.371 billion.
"In spite of the prevailing uncertainty in global financial markets, Latin American and Caribbean economies attracted important amounts of foreign direct investment during 2011. These amounts should remain high in 2012," stressed the Executive Secretary of ECLAC, Alicia Bárcena.
In 2011, 46% of the net income deriving from FDI was due to profit re-investments, whilst the remaining percentage was due to capital contributions and loans among companies. According to the Organization, this denotes the trust of transnational companies in the region and important business opportunities within it.
As shown in the report, this tendency, which started in 2002, is a result of the amount of assets accumulated by transnational companies in the region and an increase in their profitability due to the good economic performance of the countries and to high international prices of exported raw materials.
Nevertheless, ECLAC identifies a current phenomenon that is increasingly relevant since 2004: the growing repatriation of profits by transnational corporations investing in the region, a fact that reminds that FDI is not a unidirectional flow. "FDI revenue transferred back to the countries of origin has increased from US$20 billion per year between 1998 and 2003 to US$84 billion between 2008 and 2010 per year," noted Bárcena.
Also, the document points out that FDI strengthens the specialization of production in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2011, 57% of foreign direct investments received by South America (except Brazil) were directed to the natural resources sector, 36% to services and 7% to manufacturing. In exchange, 7.8% of FDI received by Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean were oriented to natural resources, 39.7% to manufacturing and 52.5% to services. Meanwhile, 46.4% of foreign direct investments received by Brazil were directed to manufacturing, 44.3% to services and 9.2% to natural resources.
"In this context, it is urgent to promote policies to guide FDI and leverage its potential benefits, among which are the knowledge and technological exchange and the increase of local capacities by strengthening national innovation systems, creating production chains, building human capacity and fostering local entrepreneurial development," emphasized the UN high-level official.
Investments made by Latin American and Caribbean transnational corporations -also known as trans-Latins- decreased to US$ 22.605 billion in 2011 - having amounted to US$44.924 billion in 2010. In spite of this decrease, ECLAC underlined that these corporations are still in an expansion phase.
According to the Organization, this downsizing can be mainly explained by Brazil's behavior, where net borrowings granted by subsidiaries abroad to parent companies increased, whereas capital contributions were cut down, a fact that suggests that Brazilian companies are investing more in their own country.
Chile was the country that invested the most abroad in 2011 (US$11.822 billion), followed by Mexico (US$9.640 billion) and Colombia (US$8.289 billion).
The ECLAC report shows that the European Union (EU), as a bloc, is the largest investor in Latin America and the Caribbean. In the last decade, the EU invested an average of US$30 billion per year in the region, representing 40% of the total received. European investments, which have been mainly directed to South America, are widely diverse and strongly relevant to strategic sectors such as electricity and banking.
Among the main investors in 2011, the United States (18%), Spain (14%), the Latin American and Caribbean region itself (9%) and Japan (8%) - among others - stand out.
ECLAC estimates that, in 2012, the FDI flows to Latin America and the Caribbean will maintain high levels. Nevertheless, the Organization warns that if the crisis in the eurozone worsens, the flow of investments -especially those coming from Europe- could be reversed.
Due to this uncertainty and to the attractive position of Latin America and the Caribbean to transnational companies, the Organization anticipates that inflows to the region deriving from FDI in 2012 will vary between -2% and 8% compared to inflows in 2011.
- Full report. Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America and the Caribbean 2011.
- Table. Latin America and the Caribbean: foreign direct investment inflows, by recipient countries, 2000-2011. (PDF, 165 KB.)
- Fact sheet. Foreign direct investment by the European Union in Latin America and the Caribbean. (PDF, 156 KB.)
- Presentation by Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC Executive Secretary (PDF, 530 KB.)
For further questions, please contact ECLAC's Public Information and Web Services Unit.
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