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The Elephant in Latin America

Jaime Daremblum

In recent years, Latin America’s trade with India, the world’s largest democracy, has grown much more slowly than its trade with China. However, the Latin Business Chronicle notes that “an increasing number of Indian companies are now looking at Latin America as the ‘next frontier.’“ The quote comes from HarshulAsnani, head of Latin American and Caribbean operations for the Indian telecom powerhouse Tech Mahindra, who has said, “We are very upbeat about Latin America and view it as the next frontier of growth.” Omar Momin of India’s Godrej Industries believes there are “tremendous opportunities in Latin America.”

According to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), total trade between India and the Latin American/Caribbean region more than quadrupled between 20042005 and 20082009, increasing from $4.2 billion to $16.1 billion. In late April, the CII hosted its fourth annual “IndiaLatin America and Caribbean Conclave.” Prior to the gathering, the Indian trade lobby announced that “project proposals with an aggregate value of $10.39 billion will be discussed during the course of the Conclave.“ 

One high-profile example of India’s growing economic interest in Latin America is the expansion of Indian sugar producer Shree Renuka. In late 2009 and early 2010, it agreed to purchase a 100 percent stake in one Brazilian firm (Vale Do Ivaí SA Açúcar e Álcool) and a majority stake in another (Equipav SA Açúcar e Álcool). These deals have made Shree Renuka the world’s third-largest sugar company. 

While India’s economic footprint in the region is still much smaller than China’s, we can expect it to grow significantly over the coming years. For their part, Latin American countries have compelling economic and strategic reasons to boost ties with the South Asian giant.

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