In terms of international trade, it would be bold to talk about Latin America as a homogeneous region. Therefore, it is important to carry out a detailed analysis of each variable in each of its countries to better understand the existing opportunities and how exporting companies can penetrate their respective markets.
To give some context, according to a report by COMEX, Spain's exports to the Latin American region between January-December 2022 were 4.7% of the total and increased by 27% YoY, with Mexico and Brazil being our biggest clients.
As for significant rebounds, last year sales to Mexico (0.3 points) stood out mainly in clothing, automotive components, and essential and perfumed oils; Brazil (0.3 points) especially in oil and derivatives, fertilizers, and general-purpose machinery; and Colombia (0.1 points) in oil and derivatives, and to a lesser extent, clothing, cars, and motorcycles.
Regarding industries, Latin America presents significant opportunities and upward trends in the following markets: pharmachemical, cosmetic and perfumery, industrial and automotive machinery, energy, food, and ICT sectors. We will analyze each of them below:
Global Health Intelligence, a pharmaceutical market researcher, predicted a growth of approximately 9.3% in the industry in Latin America between 2018 and 2023. Undoubtedly, the forecast is being fulfilled, with Brazil and Mexico being the main attractions, followed by Argentina, Colombia, and Ecuador.
Brazil is the second-largest emerging pharmaceutical market in the world, sixth in the global chemical industry ranking, and has around 976 chemical plants. The Spanish pharmaceutical product in Brazil is perceived as high quality and strongly associated with the European product. On the other hand, it faces tough competition from producers with more competitive prices such as China or India. However, companies such as Werfen, Grifols, and Indukern have successfully established themselves in Brazil. In the case of chemical products, Spain is Brazil's sixth supplier, compared to competitors such as the US, Germany, and India, but having experienced a growth in exports since 2016 of around 40%.
Mexico's case is also significant. In 2021, Spanish chemical products sales reached 662 million euros, being our second market with the best perspective. Some of the most successful products in the Aztec country are inorganic chemical products, nitrites and nitrates, paints, and soaps. In terms of drugs, our market share in Mexico is still low (3% of the total) compared to big players such as the United States or Germany. One of the great advantages of the Spanish product is that the Mexican consumer associates it with quality, biotechnology, and research, so digitization of the chemical industry and a greater focus on the circular economy could be the keys to success for Spanish exporting companies.
There are other variables that are affecting Latin America in general and that must be studied to develop an appropriate business and sales strategy: the increase in the middle class, population aging, greater access to higher quality (and therefore higher-priced) medicines, and the rise of medical demands and niches such as nutricosmetics and dietetics.
COSMETICS, PERFUMERY, AND PERSONAL HYGIENE SECTOR
Although it may be surprising, cosmetic product exports exceed some such as wine or olive oil. Our country is the second-largest perfume exporter worldwide, behind France. According to data from Stanpa (National Association of Perfumery and Cosmetics), in 2021, there were increases in export value in markets such as Mexico (+54%) and Chile (+58%). In addition, the Latin American cosmetic industry is forecast to have a 6.3% annual growth rate between 2021 and 2026.
Spain ended 2022 with a value of exports of 434 million euros registered to the region, which represents 11% of our country's total exports. Brazil once again positions itself as one of the most interesting markets: consumption habits and the positive perception of Spanish beauty and health products represent a good scenario for our HPPC products. Brazil is the second largest consumer in the world of deodorants, perfumes, sun protection, and men's products.
In Mexico, the Spanish HPPC products that are most successful are perfumes and toilet waters (3303), beauty preparations, makeup, and skincare (3304), and hair preparations (3305). In almost all categories of this industry, Spain is among the top 5 suppliers, competing with the US, France, or Germany. Strategies such as the sale of premium cosmetics, sustainability in production, and the expectation of growth in dermocosmetics are variables to take into account in this market.
Also, Peru stands out, in whose market Spanish makeup represented 10% of the country's total imports in 2021 and perfume a 14.5%. As for Chile and Colombia, Spain accounts for 7% and 9% of market share respectively, according to ICEX data, and its trend is on the rise.
INDUSTRIAL MACHINERY, AUTOPARTS, AND INFRASTRUCTURE SECTOR
Mexico currently represents one of the main partners in these 3 categories. In 2019, Spain has positioned itself as the leading foreign investor in the Aztec country (with 34% of the total). Thanks to the good relationship between the two countries and the ease of negotiation with the Mexican public administration, joint projects have been carried out, mainly in railway infrastructure. In machine tools, Spain accounts for 8% of the export market share, competing with Japan and the United States. Establishing companies in sectors such as automotive, aerospace, and appliances, taking advantage of the geographical position and cost leadership can mean great competitive advantages for the Spanish offer.
The semiconductor shortage in 2021, seen as an opportunity, led to a decrease in autoparts production in Mexico (fourth largest exporter in this category) and also to countries such as Ecuador. Our offer is perceived in Mexico as high quality with a medium and competitive price. For consolidation in such a lucrative market, its geographical location, low production costs, commercial openness, and advantages of the EU-Mexico Free Trade Agreement are some of the benefits of this country to be considered for Spanish companies.
RENEWABLE ENERGIES SECTOR
Once again, we have Mexico as one of the most interesting clients in Latin America. Although Spain does not have a strong presence in solar and photovoltaic energy in the Aztec country, trade in goods and equipment between the two countries focuses on the wind and electrical sectors. Spain supplies Mexico, among other things, with material for generation, construction and maintenance, equipment, engineering services, and distributed generation. As opportunities in this market, the Spanish offer could take advantage of the numerous open wind and photovoltaic projects, establish factories for photovoltaic cells, panels, and even develop green hydrogen on-site.
In Brazil, the growing liberalization of the market should also be taken advantage of. There are well-established photovoltaic and wind energy companies in this country. It is worth highlighting the potential of offshore wind energy (wind turbines located at sea) thanks to its constant winds and shallow waters. Colombia also presents a suitable scenario for companies that want to build onshore wind farms (wind turbines on land), for solar and green hydrogen energy projects, due to the growing environmental awareness and commitment of Colombians.
Other potentially interesting sectors for Spanish exporters
It seems that opportunities in Latin America do not end, as exports and consumption of olive oil continue to increase practically throughout the region. If you want to know more, check out our article on the subject: Evolution and opportunities of olive oil exports in Latin America.
In the ICT and e-commerce sector, Spain seems to be increasingly seeing options to contribute to the digitalization of our Latin American brothers. In addition, a study conducted by Ticketbis concluded that this region is the favorite for investments by Spanish startups, especially in the technology sector.
Written by Manuel Alcocer Álvarez