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Bankers expect trade decline with Latin America . By Doreen Hemlock for the http://www.sunsentinel.com
Jan 4, 2002

A survey to 150 members and associate members of the Florida International Bankers Association, known as FIBA, South Florida financial services expect a decline in U.S. sales and investment in Latin America this year, and a slowdown in lending and trade with the region.

About 83% of Florida bankers, which were most pessimistic about Argentina, following the debt default and four-year recession, expected U.S. exports to Argentina to drop this year. Similarly, 79% said U.S. direct investment in factories, utilities and other ventures will decline.

A clear majority also foresee a drop in U.S. sales and investment in Venezuela, where autocratic President Hugo Chavez has alienated business and unions with economic decrees that mandate land confiscation in some cases.

A plurality -- 40 to 50 percent -- also expect a drop in overall U.S. exports and investments to the region, even as Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean outperform other weak Latin markets.

The upshot: 60 percent of respondents said South Florida banks will provide less money to correspondent banks in Latin America this year, and a whopping 80 percent expect a decrease in the number of Latin American banks opening offices in South Florida in 2002.

The survey carries weight, because South Florida serves as the gateway for business with Latin America. Some 100 banks now operate in South Florida, many concentrated in downtown Miami on Brickell Avenue. They funnel tens of billions of dollars yearly into financing trade with the Latin region, with much of their money coming from deposits made by non-U.S. citizens.

The banks helped finance more than $55 billion in South Florida trade in goods in 2000, with about 75 percent of that trade with Latin America. But trade slipped last year, as the United States entered recession and Latin America's economies likely posted less than 1 percent growth overall.

Economists predict minimal economic growth in Latin America again this year, as recovery in the region lags behind the United States. The U.N. Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean forecasts 1.7 percent growth in the region in 2002, up from 0.5 percent in 2001 but down from 4.1 percent growth posted in 1999.

Note from the http://www.sunsentinel.com. The note was done by Doreen Hemlock who can be reached at dhemlock@sun-sentinel.com or 305-810-5009.

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