Saturday, June 19, 2010

Colombia, Venezuela and Exports: Biggest Loser Edition

A Bloomberg article today touches on how the diplomatic dispute with Venezuela is affecting Colombia’s economy, as it has resulted in plummeting trade with their second most important trading partner. Maladjusted wrote awhile back about how a Mockus presidency could be good for business if it means a reopening of trade between Venezuela and Colombia. Well, it doesn’t look like Mockus has a snowball’s chance in hell to actually win this thing, but as updated numbers are out from Colombia’s DANE, it’s worth taking a look to see how continued diplomatic problems (almost assured with Santos) will continue to weigh on the economy. Already, as Bloomberg points out, Colombia has the second lowest growth forecast in the region, and the collapse in trade is at least part of the problem. So, lets run some numbers through Maladjusted Charts and see what we can find out, has Colombia found new markets for these goods? What sectors are the worst hit?

First off, lets get the basics down, just how much has trade with Venezuela collapsed, and who has picked up the slack?

Before the drop off from Venezuela, the US was still Colombia’s largest trading partner, but was followed by Venezuela (all alone in second place), Ecuador and of all places, Switzerland. But through the first 5 months of this year, the US has remained its dominant position, while China has catapulted from obscurity to accounting for nearly 8% of total exports, about double that of Venezuela or Ecuador, as the chart below shows.

So from the above, it does seem that Colombia has fared pretty well finding alternative markets for their exports to Venezuela, indeed total exports increased over the same period last year. Unfortunately for some, looking at the breakdown of goods reveals a slightly different picture. Some 23% of exports with Venezuela during the period of Jan.-April 2009 were animals and animal products, a sector that accounted for around 5% of Colombia’s total exports. This year, however, Venezuela has stopped buying these products, and the sector has taken an extreme hit, making up less than 1% of total exports so far this year. The chart below shows how while exports to the US have skyrocketed, none of it has come from animals and animal products.

So what has accounted for the rapid rise in exports to the US? Well, simply, oil. Colombia has increased their oil production this year, and coupled with a rise in prices from last year, exports of combustibles accounts for nearly the entire rise in total exports, with most of the surplus going to the US.

Another sector that seems to have taken a hit from the Venezuela dispute is textiles. Overall, despite being a smaller component of total exports, textiles accounted for the second largest drop from last year to this year after animals and animal products. Exports to Venezuela of textiles dropped by $125 million, while overall exports of textiles fell by $105 million. As the chart below clearly shows Colombia has been unable to replace the Venezuela market for textiles.

In the end, what this means is summed up nicely in a quote from the Bloomberg article referenced earlier, “Colombia is selling more oil to the U.S.,” said Sandy [an economist with Credit Suisse Group AG]. “For the industrial sector and food producers, more sales to the U.S. don’t do anything.”

So while total exports have increased over 2009, it’s really not saying much as 2009 was clearly not the best year. And although trade has increased greatly with China and with the US, there have been sectoral shifts more so than straight replacement. I would say that the increased trade with China is definitely a good thing for Colombia, since before the recent increase Colombia exported less to China as a percent of total exports than just about every other country in South America. On the other hand, increasing dependence on the US may not be the most desirable outcome here. I’m sure the US will be happy to buy up Colombian oil…especially over Venezuelan oil, but look at Mexico…do you really want to be that tied to the US economy? Not to say that being tied to Venezuela’s economy right now sounds very good either, but looking at the next few years up north is not very promising. The UCLA Anderson Forecast was just released and projects growth for the next three years below the 3% long-term nominal growth rate. And yes, unemployment is expected to still be over 8.5% by 2013. Not exactly a booming export market.

But more importantly, and certainly more importantly for those most affected in Colombia by the trade fall off, are the sectoral shifts that will occur over the medium term if exports to Venezuela don’t return, or if new markets for those products can’t be found. While the overall export picture doesn’t seem dire, the industries that have been most affected, animal farmers and textile producers have been severely hit. Farmers, while they account for a smaller percent of GDP, make up nearly 20% of the workforce and have been the worst hit by the dispute with Venezuela.

Well, I’m sure this is WAY more than you ever wanted to know about trade between Venezuela and Colombia, I think it may be more than I wanted to know, but there ya have it. Next time maybe we can see if Venezuela has found new markets to import all that food that they no longer get from Colombia….then again, it’s probably just rotting in a container somewhere anyhow…

1 comment:

  1. Excellent analysis. A couple bits of color: When they say "textiles and clothing" that largely means underwear. Colombia makes all those thongs. Yes, those. And as far as food, there was huge variety in the food imports to Venezuela but a lot of it was sugar cane (now being turned into ethanol in Colombia) and milk, both of which can be bought from Brazil. Venezuela hearts Brazil.