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, and the June 2017 Summit held in Cali, Colombia.

A map of the world listing the 52 observer states of the Pacific Alliance.

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The 52 observers are Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Uruguay.

In June 2017, Australia launched free trade agreement negotiations with the Pacific Alliance, one of the first countries to do so. Australia also 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". In July 2017, Australia also attended the inaugural Pacific Alliance Fisheries Network meeting in Lima.


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 May 2017. 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. Four Working Groups on Socio-Political Cooperation and Sustainable Development; Culture, Youth, Gender and Sports; Science, Technology, Innovation and Education; and Trade, Investment, Tourism and MSMEs 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 and Venezuela has applied to leave.

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).

Australian Companies Operating in Latin America by Sector - 2017

From two dozen in 1999, there are now over 420 Australian companies in Latin America, including 43 ASX200 companies. 41 per cent are in the mining, 10 per cent are in METS (mining equipment, technology and services), nine per cent are in the manufacturing and five per cent are in the Agribusiness.

Pie chart data in table below
Australian Companies Operating in Latin America by Sector - 2017
Sector Number of companies
Mining 173
Manufacturing 39
Agribusiness 21
Retail 13
Engineering Services 12
Business Services 12
IT 11
Education 11
Energy 10
Financial Services 10
Other (unclassified) 10
Food 7
Logistics 7
Medical 7
Oil and Gas 5
Construction 4
Entertainment 3
Defence 3
Infrastructure 3
Water 3
Transport 2
Government 2
Consulting 2
Travel Services 2
Catering Services 1
Media 1
Migration Services 1
Property 1
Security 1
Testing Services 1
Tourism 1

Australian Companies Operating in Latin America by Country – 2017 (selected countries)

Bar chart data in table below
Australian Companies Operating in Latin America - 2017 (selected countries)
Argentina Brazil Chile Colombia Ecuador Mexico Panama Peru Uruguay
Non-ASX200 42 92 205 29 10 92 6 72 10
ASX200 10 21 20 14 9 30 4 11 2
TOTAL 52 113 225 43 19 122 10 83 12

Trade with Latin America

In 2016, Australia's total trade with Latin America was $10.3 billion, around 1.5% of Australia's global trade.

Graph: 2016 Australian Trade with Latin America (select countries), see data table below.
Australia's two-way trade in goods & services with Latin America (select countries) $A million
Argentina Brazil Chile Colombia Mexico Peru Uruguay
Exports Goods 167 1143 469 49 464 116 9
Exports Services 67 755 187 416 94 60 7
Imports Goods 667 757 533 76 2506 353 22
Imports Services 89 147 246 60 136 116 12
Total two-way trade 989 2802 1435 601 3200 645 51

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%).

Graph: Latin American student enrolments in Australia (select countries) 2013-2016. Data in table below.
Latin American student enrolments in Australia (select countries) 2013-2016
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%).

Graph: Latin American student enrolments by State and Territory 2016. Data in table below.
Latin American student enrolments by State and Territory 2016
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

Australia-Latin America two-way travel

Country Arrivals to Australia 2016/17 Australians visiting in 2016*

Note: These numbers do not include Australian dual nationals and are not official Australian government statistics but have been provided by Latin American immigration authorities and, in some cases, rounded to the nearest thousand.

(1) From June 2015 - May 2016

(2) This figure is an estimate as no official figures are available.

Argentina 18,775 52,996 (1)
Bolivia 350 17,604
Brazil 63,263 49,809
Chile 25,122 50,968
Colombia 21,899 15,664
Costa Rica 762 13,555
Cuba 258 20,000 (2)
Dominican Republic 191 2,800
Ecuador 1,581 13,496
El Salvador 419 2,000
Guatemala 382 21,000
Honduras 176 5,700
Mexico 12,001 87,000
Nicaragua 86 8,500
Panama 255 7,000
Paraguay 337 279
Peru 5,098 42,389
Uruguay 2,019 6,446
Venezuela 3,299 1,500 (2)
Last Updated: 31 October 2018