China's new supreme authorities, recently inaugurated, are starting their mandate in the context of a very different economic situation. Double-digit growth rates are gone, with the economy sliding gradually, for seven consecutive quarters, into single digits. Outgoing prime minister Wen Jiabao said the growth target for 2013 was 7.5 percent, down slightly from 7.8 percent in 2012.
The figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics for the first two months of this year reveal a slowdown in several sectors, such as manufacturing and retail sales. Also, imports in February 2013 fell 15.2 percent compared with last year, while exports grew vigorously, at 21.8 percent.
The consequences of the slowdown in China are already being felt, particularly in South America, among the major economies, exporters of commodities. These economies reaped strong growth rates during the years of China's double-digit growth.
For instance, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the Brazilian economy grew in 2010 at an impressive rate of 7.5 percent, but declined to 2.7 percent in 2011 and is estimated to grow only 1.2 percent in 2012. The same steep fall was seen in Argentina's rate of growth, from 9.2 percent in 2010 and 8.9 percent in 2011 to an estimated 2.2 percent in 2012.
Isaac Cohen is an international analyst and consultant, a commentator on economic and financial issues for CNN en Espaņol TV and radio, and a former director, UNECLAC Washington Office.
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