AMERICAS & THE CARIBBEAN.
With admirable resilience, the economies of Latin America, with forecast growth rates of 3.4 per cent for 2013 and 3.9 per cent for 2014 managed to make the region the world’s second most dynamic, after Asia. Admittedly, there was something of an imbalance in the figures; five countries – Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Mexico and Peru – showed healthier growth than did say Argentina or Venezuela, although Brazil’s figure had slumped rather alarmingly from 7.5 per cent in 2010 to a miserable 0.9 per cent in 2012. To the north the United States of America (USA) with figures of 2 per cent for 2013 and 3 per cent for 2014 looked set to continue its modest recovery, as did Canada (which had never really suffered from the recession) with figures of 2.0 per cent for 2013 and 2.5 per cent for 2014. The encouraging performance of so many Latin American economies as well as their northern neighbours whose flexibility and capacity for finding solutions has meant that those solutions have been quickly identified, has thrown into relief the poor performance of most European economies. Precisely the ones who would once lecture their transatlantic counterparts on turning round their ailing economies. That’s not to say that there is nothing left to be done by way of improvement and reform. The former star of the Latin American show, Brazil, only exports 12.5 per cent of its gross domestic product. A small increase in that percentage would make a big difference to the economy as a whole. Brazil’s trade in services is lamentably low, and all sorts of protectionism still survive. The London Economist described Brazil’s import tariffs as ‘high’ and its customs procedures as ‘a catalogue of bloody-minded obstructionism'. Taxes soak up some 36 per cent of the Brazilian economy, a highest proportion in the developing world – alongside the Argentina of the ailing Cristina Fernández. Brazil could do worse than model itself on its northern neighbours. In October 2013 Canada reached agreement with the European Union (EU) on a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). The US was not far behind with its Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) also with the EU. The CETA Agreement would open competition for government contracts in Canada to European companies while Canada would be able to access the US$2.6 trillion European procurement market. One of the objectives is specifically to free up international trade in services, which generate some 70 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of developed countries. In November 2013 the London Economist’s Latinobarómetro opinion poll suggested that in the countries surveyed only 40 per cent of those polled were satisfied with the way that democracy worked in practice in their country. The Economist noted that the biggest complaint seemed to not so much to have to do with levels of economic growth, or the perceived quality of their democratic institutions – rather it was the perception as to whether their government was acting on their behalf or not, on behalf of everyone rather than an élite or privileged few. In the Economist’s view, this helped explain the populist success of two Latin American Presidents, Ecuador’s Rafael Correa and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega. The Latinobarómetro poll found Latin America’s ‘best functioning’ democracy to be that of Uruguay which, under its humble President Mujica succeeds in combining ‘liberal freedoms with socialist government'.