China’s EV drive accelerates in Latin America – by Margaret Myers (East Asia Forum – June 2024)

Margaret Myers is director of the Asia and Latin America Program at the Inter-American Dialogue.

As the United States slaps tariffs on Chinese electronic vehicles (EV) and the EU increases its own protective measures, the Latin American market remains relatively open to imports of Chinese cars and investment in local EV production and critical minerals. Efforts in Washington and Brussels to level the EV playing field will likely result in trade diversion to Latin America and other regions, encouraging a process already well underway.

China has been active in expanding its capacity in overseas EV sales and manufacturing, with a growing focus on developing markets. Even amid protectionist measures in the Global North, China’s total exports of low-cost EVs jumped 102 per cent year-on-year from 2021 to 2022, with Chinese companies exporting nearly 630,000 fully electric vehicles in 2022.

Latin America features prominently in these numbers, though it still trails behind developed markets and those closer to China, such as Southeast Asia, which represent 10 per cent of China’s total EV exports. Latin America made up 6.7 per cent of China’s total EV exports in 2022 and the value of China’s sales to the region more than doubled in 2023, reaching US$2.7 billion.

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