Trump presidency could mean big Latin American opportunities for China and Russia

Nov 10, 2016 | 7 comments

By Liam Higgins

The election of Donald Trump as U.S. president could signal much greater involvement in Latin America by China and Russia, according to several trade experts.

Chinese President Xi-Jinping

Chinese President Xi-Jinping

“I think it’s great news not only for the Russians and Chinese but also for Iran, India and other rising world powers,” says Miami-based trade consultant Pedro Calderon. “The focus has been on Mexico because of Trump’s threats about NAFTA, but the consequences of his election could have major economic ramifications for the rest of Latin America.”

Calderon says the first steps in the formation of new trade alliances could be taken as soon as November 19 when Chinese President Xi-Jinping arrives in Peru for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting. “This meeting suddenly takes on much more importance,” he says.

Xi-Jinping plans visits to several South American countries following the APEC meeting, including Ecuador and Venezuela.

Paul Gonzalez, a University of San Francisco-Quito history instructor, believes Trump’s election could also mean a foreign military presence in Latin America. “China has talked about making big investments in Venezuela and I can see it playing a role similar to Russia’s in Syria,” he says. “This would require a military component. They could prop up the Maduro regime that will probably collapse without outside intervention. The access to oil and other natural resources in Venezuela could make that a good investment for China, although it also creates geopolitical issues.”

Gonzalez adds that Russia has been in discussions with the Cuban government about establishing a military base on the island. “I think the U.S. election makes that much more likely.”

Calderon says that Trump’s election speeds up current trade and political trends in Latin America. “U.S. influence has been waning in Latin America for years and it will wane much faster if Trump follows through on his isolationist policies. This allows new players to enter the region.”

He adds that there will be winners and losers in the new hemispheric order. “Central America, especially Mexico could be negatively affected while some countries in South America could see benefits, especially Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela.”

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