Export Surpluses and Import Needs of South America

July 10, 1941

Report Outline
Strategic Materials Available in South America
Production and Export of Surplus Commodities
Principal Imports of South American Countries
Value and Quantity of Goods in Foreign Trade
Special Focus

Strategic Materials Available in South America

The steady growth of commerce between the United States and South America since the outbreak of war in Europe has resulted from extraordinary increases in United States imports and exports of special types of goods, rather than from heavier trade in commodities all along the line. The United States has been turning to South America for items which were formerly purchased elsewhere, but has not substantially increased its purchases of major commodities for which South America was already the chief source of supply.

The present high level of trade between the Americas must therefore be attributed mainly to the special needs of United States defense industries, and to blockade or other barriers which have interfered with customary markets for both North and South America. The increase has been considerable. Total trade between the United States and South America grew from $556,484,000 in 1938 to $822,162,000 in 1940, and there was a further increase of 12 per cent in the first quarter of 1941 as compared with the first quarter of 1940. But these figures are somewhat misleading until the totals are broken down into separate items.

Recent Increases in United States Imports

United States imports of coffee, which had constituted about half of all imports from South America in 1938, were actually 7 per cent less in value in 1940 than they had been two years before. Figures for exports from South America to the United States are not compiled separately by commodities, but the following table of imports from all of Latin America (including Mexico, the Caribbean countries and Central America) indicates the growing importance of trade in strategic materials. Among the import items not listed separately in the table which showed substantial increases in 1940 were such strategically important materials as manganese, tungsten, vanadium, lead, tin, and zinc. There were also increases in the imports of industrial oils, fruits, and nuts.

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Exports and Imports