Rising employment, a growing middle class and an economy that’s heating up

1 December 2016

Latin America is attracting greater attention in Australia thanks to recent major events. At the same time, recognition of Australia’s skills is gaining traction over there.

Americas Division, DFAT

Brazil hosted the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Peru hosted APEC, Colombia's President Juan Santos won the Nobel Peace Prize and the Western Bulldogs, sponsored by Mexico's Mission Foods, won the AFL Grand Final. 

These major events are taking place at a time when Latin America is continuing to record strong economic growth, raising employment and lifting millions out of poverty.

Increasingly, countries are looking to pro-market policies to improve efficiency and to lift productivity through micro-economic reform.

An affluent middle class is emerging across the region, providing a market for Australian produce, as well as education and tourism services. Last year, there were 48 000 student enrolments from the region in Australia.

More than 280 Australian-owned or managed companies are active in Latin America.

Our free trade agreement with Chile and close working relations with the pro-trade liberalisation Pacific Alliance (Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru) have helped connect Australia in the region.

Economic reforms in Argentina and Mexico are providing new opportunities, particularly in agribusiness, energy and mining.

Across the region, new infrastructure spending provides opportunities for both Australian engineering firms, as well as reducing energy and transport costs.

There is also strong recognition of Australia's skills and training management framework as part of the solution to addressing a region-wide skills shortage.

This plays into a broader narrative of Australia and the countries of Latin America sharing experiences that have contributed to the kind of economic success and lifestyle that Australians have enjoyed over the last quarter of a century of economic growth.

Companies from Latin America, such as JBS from Brazil and Grupo Grumo (the parent company of Mission Foods) from Mexico, are investing in Australia, including to tap into Australia's supply chains to Asia.

In December, the second Australia-Chile Economic Leadership Forum will take place in Melbourne. As the gateway for many Australian companies in Latin America, the Australia-Chile relationship helps to lead the way for further engagement in the region.

Similarly, Australia's participation in MIKTA (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia) illustrates a new dimension of Australia's relations with Latin America – middle power democracies working together on the global stage.

Indeed, this is something Australia has been doing well with Latin America. An early success was the creation of the Cairns Group and the inclusion of agriculture in the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations. A more recent success was the declaration of a marine sanctuary in Antarctica's Ross Sea. 

From addressing the impact of climate change on agriculture to curing tropical diseases, Australia and Latin America have a strong imperative to work together to combat the challenges of our time.

In keeping with Australia's growing interest, Australia's consular and diplomatic representation in Latin America has continued to grow. Thirteen Latin American countries now have embassies in Australia, up from nine in 2009.


Last Updated: 1 December 2016