Latin American Regional Organisations

The Pacific Alliance

The Pacific Alliance was initiated in 2011 and formalised by a framework agreement in 2012. Its members – Mexico, Chile, Peru and Colombia – have outward-oriented trade liberalising policies. The Alliance aims to achieve the free movement of goods, services, capital and people among members. Australia became an observer in November 2012 and attended the May 2013 Summit held in Cali, Colombia, the June 2014 Summit in Punta Mita, Mexico, the June 2015 Summit in Paracas, Peru and the June 2016 Summit in Puerto Varas, Chile.

The other observers are Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.

Australia works with the Pacific Alliance in the areas of environment, engaging with the Asia-Pacific and in education and training. Australia attended the inaugural Pacific Alliance Education Forum in Lima, Peru, in May 2016 and supported a Pacific Alliance cooperation project – “TVET in Benchmarking for Transport and Logistics Sector”. Australia is also interested in engaging with the Alliance’s mining group.

Mercosur

Mercosur is a trade bloc comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela (currently suspended). Bolivia is going through the ratification process to become a full member. Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru and Suriname are Associate Members. Mexico is an observer. Mercosur was founded in 1991. Australia and New Zealand have a formal consultation mechanism – CER-Mercosur. The last CER-Mercosur consultations took place in October 2012. Since November 2014, Mercosur has been working on options for convergence with the Pacific Alliance.

The Central American Integration System

The Central American Integration System (SICA) was formally established in 1991. Australia became in observer in 2011. Since joining, Australia has attended summits annually since 2011.

Forum for East Asia and Latin American Cooperation

Forum for East Asia and Latin American Cooperation (FEALAC) is the only formal dialogue between countries in Latin America and East Asia. It draws together 36 countries from East Asia and Latin America aiming to strengthen the relationship between the two regions. It involves in-principle biennial Foreign Ministers’ meetings as well as annual Senior Officials and Working Group meetings. Three Working Groups on Science and Technology; the Economy and Society; and Politics, Culture, Education and Sport operate to build collaboration across these thematic areas.

Australia is a founding member of FEALAC, the first time Australia was accepted as a member in the Asia region. Australia has participated in FEALAC Foreign Ministers' and Senior Officials Meetings since FEALAC's inception in 1998.

The Organization of American States

The Organization of American States (OAS) was founded in 1948. It has a permanent secretariat in Washington and includes all 35 independent states of the Americas. Cuba has been excluded since 1962.

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was a Mexican initiative announced in 2012. CELAC’s membership is the same as the OAS except that it excludes Canada and the United States and includes Cuba. It has no permanent secretariat and is becoming a vehicle for engagement outside the region. The first CELAC-EU Summit was held in Santiago in January 2013 and the first CELAC-China Forum was held in Beijing in January 2015. Australia met the CELAC Troika in December 2012.

Within the United Nations these countries form the Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC).

The Union of South American Nations

The Union of South American Nations (Unasur) Consultative Treaty was signed in 2008, with entry into force in 2011. It includes all 12 independent South American states (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela). Unasur's Secretariat is located in Quito, Ecuador. The Union is focused on physical regional integration, including on energy, education, health, environment, infrastructure, security and democracy. Unasur has also sought to encourage dialogue between the government and opposition in Venezuela, with Unasur Secretary General Ernest Sampo leading a delegation, including the foreign ministers of Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador, to Caracas in March 2015.

The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America

The Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) was founded in 2004 by Cuba and Venezuela. They were joined by Antigua and Barbuda (2009), Bolivia (2006), Dominica (2008), Ecuador (2009), Grenada (2014), Nicaragua (2007), St Kitts and Nevis (2014), St Lucia (2013) and St Vincent and Grenadines (2007).

Latin America's Trade and economic links with Australia

Australian Companies Operating in Latin America - 2014

From two dozen in 1999, there are now over 260 Australian companies in Latin America, including 51 ASX200 companies. Most began in Chile, before expanding to Brazil and Peru.

Australian companies operating in Latin America - 2014. Details in Table
Australian Companies Operating in Latin America - 2014 (select countries)
Argentina Brazil Chile Colombia Mexico Peru
Non-ASX200 28 75 76 25 33 45
ASX200 11 25 25 9 18 17

2015 Goods Trade with Latin America

In 2015, Australia's merchandise trade with Latin America was $8.6 billion, around 1.6% of Australia's global merchandise trade.

Graph: 2015 Goods Trade with Latin America, see data table below.
2015 Goods Trade with Latin America (select countries) $A million
Argentina Brazil Chile Colombia Mexico Peru
Exports 337 1142 332 31 547 81
Imports 828 645 874 81 2459 140
Total 1165 1787 1206 112 3006 221

2015 Trade in Services with Latin America

In 2015, Australia's services trade with Latin America was $3.1 billion, around 2.2% of Australia's global services trade.

Graph: 2015 Services Trade with Latin America, see data table below.
2015 Services Trade with Latin America (select countries) $A million
Argentina Brazil Chile Colombia Mexico Peru
Exports 45 658 158 327 87 61
Imports 68 107 250 48 117 106
Total 113 765 408 375 204 167

Total Trade with Latin America

In 2015, Australia's total trade with Latin America was $11.7 billion, around 1.7% of Australia's global trade.

Graph: 2015 Total Trade with Latin America, see data table below.
2015 Total Trade with Latin America (select countries) $A million
Argentina Brazil Chile Colombia Mexico Peru
Goods Exports 337 1142 332 31 547 81
Services Exports 45 658 158 327 87 61
Goods Imports 828 645 874 81 2459 140
Services Imports 68 107 250 48 117 106
Total 1278 2552 1614 487 3210 388

Latin American student enrolment in Australia

In 2016, there were over 58,000 student enrolments from Latin America. With the majority of students from Brazil (50.7 %) and Colombia (29.5%).

Latin American student enrolments in Australia (select countries) 2013-2016
Graph: Latin American student enrolments in Australia (select countries) 2013-2016. Data in table below.
2013-2016 Student enrolment data (select countries)
  2013 2014 2015 2016
Brazil 17548 22162 24610 29440
Colombia 12003 12704 14041 17190
Chile 2023 2348 2668 3266
Mexico 1750 2106 2375 2672
Venezuela 948 1202 1535 2153
Peru 1638 1535 1594 1627
Argentina 282 355 445 651
Ecuador 557 892 813 608

Latin American Students in Australia by Sector

The majority of Latin American student enrolments are in English language and vocational education and training (VET) courses. Colombia and Brazil have the highest number of students enrolled in higher education courses, while Brazil and Mexico have the highest number of non-award enrolments (such as exchange or foundation programs).

Graph: Latin American Students in Australia by Sector. Data in table below.
Latin American student enrolments by Sector data (selected countries) 2016
  Higher Ed. VET ELICOS Non-Award Schools
Brazil 1199 11184 15452 1317 288
Colombia 1442 1056 11328 73 17
Chile 476 4330 1608 93 33
Mexico 603 826 671 519 53
Venezuela 209 1228 700 12 4
Peru 351 458 786 26 6
Argentina 143 243 220 36 9
Ecuador 413 51 123 20 1

Latin American Students in Australia by State and Territory

The top three Australian states that had the most Latin American students enrolled in 2016 were New South Wales (40.9%), Queensland (26.9%) and Victoria (21.2%).

Latin American student enrolments by State and Territory 2016
Graph: Latin American student enrolments by State and Territory 2016. Data in table below.
Latin American Student Enrolment Data State and Territories 2016
State/Territory Number of Students
NSW 23,746
VIC 12,297
QLD 15,596
SA 1,260
WA 4,800
TAS 94
NT 26
ACT 263
Not Defined 3

Latin America's Trade with the World

Latin American merchandise exports

In 2002, 58.4 per cent of Latin American exports went to North America and 6.8 per cent to Asia. By 2012, exports to Asia, in particular China, had grown to make up 17.1 per cent of Latin American exports. In this period Latin American exports to Asia grew seven-fold, from around US$22.4 billion, to US$164.9 billion.

Latin America's Merchandise Exports in 2002 - data in table below Latin America's Merchandise Exports in 2012 - data in table below

Latin American merchandise imports

In 2002 48.2 per cent of Latin American merchandise imports came from North America and 14.7 per cent from Asia.  By 2012, the share of imports from Asia had almost doubled to 26.9 per cent while the share of imports from North America fell to 33.1 per cent.  Imports from Asia during this period increased from US$45.8 billion to US$261.9 billion.

Latin America's Merchandise Imports in 2002 - data in table below Latin America's Merchandise Imports in 2012 - data in table below
Latin America's Trade with the World
Partner Country 2002 Exports US$m 2012 Exports US$m 2012 Imports US$m 2012 Imports US$m
Africa 4,082 20,585 3,671 18,770
North America 193,144 407,697 150,070 322,217
Caribbean 7,029 12,824 1,890 8,787
Latin America 44,554 177,376 47,563 173,657
Asia 22,448 164,949 45,820 261,865
Middle-East 4,194 17,866 2,193 11,348
Europe 44,306 145,988 49,846 154,876
Oceania & Antarctica 113 444 464 775
Other 11,012 19,162 9,938 22,172
Total 330,882 966,891 311,454 974,467

Source: UN data on the DFAT STARS Database

Last Updated: 5 May 2017