Economic Development

Cultivating Ties: Deepening trade and investment between Latin America and the GCC

March 17, 2022


Cultivating Ties: Deepening trade and investment between Latin America and the GCC

March 17, 2022

Melanie Noronha

Principal, Policy & insights

Melanie is a principal at Economist Impact. She has over ten years of experience delivering consulting and thought leadership projects to public, private and not-for-profit organisations. Based in Dubai, she leads the Middle East and Africa team on research across a range of sectors including food sustainability, recycling, renewable energy, fintech, trade and supply chains. She is a specialist in advanced recycling technologies and international trade. She is a seasoned moderator, having chaired numerous panel discussions and presented Economist Impact's research at global in-person and virtual conferences.

Before joining The Economist Group, she was a senior analyst at MEED Insight, a research and consulting firm serving Middle East and North Africa. At MEED, she developed expertise in bespoke market studies and financial modelling across a range of sectors spanning construction, finance, power and water, oil and gas, and renewable energy. She held previous posts at the Office of the Chief Economist at the Dubai International Financial Centre and at the San Francisco Center for Economic Development. Melanie has an MSc in International Strategy and Economics from the University of St Andrews and a bachelor’s degree in business administration.


Examines the business and investment environment in Latin America (LatAm) and opportunities for greater economic co-operation with the countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) in a post-pandemic era.

As Latin American countries navigate the post-pandemic economic recovery, they are discovering that there are fresh opportunities to seize and new relationships to forge. Companies in the region are riding the surge in commodity prices, which benefits their agricultural and metal exports, and are positioning themselves as the partner of choice for companies that are diversifying their supplier base for products ranging from medical devices to cosmetics. 

In this report we examine the sectors poised for growth in Latin America (LatAm) and opportunities for engagement with international markets. To this end we are taking a closer look at the trade and investment relationship between LatAm and the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) to identify areas where the GCC can be a destination for LatAm products, a supplier for key industries, an investor for growing operations, and a knowledge partner for industry best practice. 


Key findings of the report:


  • LatAm growth will come from sectors that require engagement with international markets. The highest shares of executives who expect revenue to expand in 2022 are in the healthcare industry and the food and agriculture sector (cited by 97% in each). This includes producers of medical equipment, pharmaceuticals (including vaccines) and a host of food products from coffee to poultry. These products are among the region’s key exports and will continue to rely on external demand for growth. 
  • The GCC and Latin America have a complementary but limited trade relationship. The GCC imports iron ore from LatAm for the production of aluminium, which it then exports to LatAm. LatAm imports fertiliser for its agricultural sector from the GCC, and the agricultural outputs are then exported to the GCC. However, trade levels are low. In 2020, imports from LatAm accounted for just 3.2% of the GCC’s total imports and 1.6% of LatAm’s total exports.
  • LatAm executives are starting to turn to the GCC for investments. Just 5% of the executives we surveyed in 2021 were engaging with the GCC to secure investments, but 28% said they were interested in doing so in the future. Between 2016 and 2021 the GCC invested US$4bn in LatAm countries, 77% of which was sourced from the UAE, 22% from Saudi Arabia and 1% from Qatar. 
  • There is an untapped opportunity for knowledge exchange between the two regions. The GCC countries have successfully executed road, electricity and telecommunications infrastructure projects. LatAm is home to a rapidly expanding fintech industry and has an established agricultural sector. There is an opportunity for sharing best practice in sectors vital for growth. 
Download Arabic Report

Enjoy in-depth insights and expert analysis - subscribe to our Perspectives newsletter, delivered every week