Latin America better prepared to weather a slowdown in global economy

In the past few years, analysts say you could draw a line at Panama and pretty much predict that those economies north of that imaginary boundary were struggling and those to the South were doing well.

With a few exceptions, the analysis that countries more linked to the faltering U.S. economy, such as Mexico and those in Central America and the Caribbean, have shown slower growth and commodity-rich countries whose trade is tied to Asia, especially China, have outpaced their northern neighbors still holds up.

But with jitters about the euro zone crisis spreading, fears that a Greek default may still be in the cards and the possibility of a slowdown in the Chinese economy, questions loom for Latin America and the Caribbean.

“The European crisis will end badly and there will be some impact but not as much’’ as the old days when a global slowdown would push the region into a downward spiral, said Victor Manuel Rocha, former U.S. ambassador to Bolivia and now a senior international business advisor in the Miami office of Foley & Lardner.

“What happens in China is more important to Brazil than what happens in Europe,’’ he said.

Latin America also is better prepared to handle an economic storm than it was in 2008-2009. Not only has the region learned lessons from that crisis, but many countries have built up their international reserves and continued economic reforms. That’s especially true for countries blessed with iron ore, copper, oil and vast expanses of land for production of the soybeans, wheat and cattle that China buys.

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