Declining Latin American exports of raw materials and a corresponding growth of steel products imports from China are to blame for a US$31 billion trade deficit recorded for 2015 – up 21% on 2014.

China benefited from plummeting raw materials costs last year and acquired 4% more in tonnage terms when compared with 2014. It also paid 38% less last year, in dollar terms, compared with the previous year.

Latin America shipped 217 million tonnes of iron ore to China, up 9% on 2014. Most of it (88%) originated in Brazil.

Shipments from China to Latin America grew 66% in volume and 5% in dollar terms when compared to 2014. Coke was the main steelmaking input sent by China to the region (1.7Mt, up 83% on 2014 figures).

China exported 9.4Mt of steel to Latin America in 2015, up 1% on 2014. The range of exported products included finished steel (long and flat products and seamless pipes) as well as steel derivatives (wire products and welded tubes).

Latin America exported just 15.1kt of finished steel and steel derivatives products to China, down 65% on 2014.

Most Chinese finished steel exports landed in Central America (1.8Mt); Chile (1.3Mt); and Brazil (1.2Mt). Mexico received 1.1Mt, up 18% on what it received in 2014. The figures for Central America, Chile and Brazil were down 44% on 2014 figures.

Flat products accounted for 49% of finished steel and steel derivatives arriving in Latin America from China – down 17% on 2014 figures. Steel derivatives imports reached 1Mt, accounting for 11% of total steel.

Other alloyed steel sheets and coils (1.6Mt) and hot dipped galvanised sheet (1.1Mt) were the most representative flat products arriving in Latin America from China. Bars (1.6Mt) and wire rod (1.3Mt).

Where steel-containing products were concerned, the deficit between China and Latin America remained at 2014 levels. The volume of steel content that arrived from China dropped 1% while the dollar value increased 5%.

China exported 6Mt of steel content in 2015 compared with just 76.7kt travelling the other way – down 28% on 2014.

According to Alacero, the Latin American Steel Association, ‘raw materials trade between China and Latin America showed a surplus for the latter in 2015’. Unfortunately for Latin American nations, the surplus is declining annually and is not sufficient to offset the deficit in finished steel and indirect trade products.

For details of how to obtain China – Latin America Foreign Trade Yearbook 2013-2015, email