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Look South Initiative

Workers assemble Motorola phones at a Flextronics plant in Fort Worth, Texas. (File)

The United States is encouraging American companies to "Look South" to do more business with Latin America.

The United States is encouraging American companies to "Look South" to do more business with Latin America. There remains so much room for U.S. companies, especially smaller and medium-sized businesses, to grow their exports. Currently, only one percent of U.S. businesses export their products, and of those, 58 percent export to only one country, usually Canada or Mexico.

Look South Initiative
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More than half of the countries with which the United States has Free Trade Agreements (FTA) are in Latin America – a total of eleven, including Mexico. These represent a tremendous opportunity for U.S. companies. The United States’ FTA partners offer low to zero tariff rates on merchandise.

Additionally, FTAs increase transparency in transactions, thereby improving the business environment for the export of goods and services. They also reduce market access barriers by increasing intellectual property protection, strengthening standards, and simplifying customs procedures.

Currently, more than 40 percent of U.S. exports go to the Americas, and those exports are growing faster than U.S. trade with any other part of the world. This trend is helping to grow the economies of the United States and its FTA partners in Latin America. Increased trade in both directions helps create jobs and grow the middle class.

In 2012, U.S. export of goods to Mexico reached a record $215.9 billion, and data shows the United States is on track for even higher exports in 2013. Looking further south, there has already been a double-digit percentage growth in exports to Colombia and Panama since their FTAs went into effect.

The U.S. government is working to encourage U.S. companies with a focus on small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to export to Latin America. The administration is making trade financing and investment tools available to SMEs, including through the Export-Import Bank, the Small Business Administration, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The United States and its Latin American partners share the goal of promoting shared prosperity that is broadly inclusive, guided by joint ideals and values. Latin America is home to some of the most dynamic markets in the world, and FTAs provide pathways to the kind of greater opportunity and innovation that is at the heart of our partnership with friends in this region.