18 Sep 18

SNAPSHOT: Latin America’s largest economies

Although most economies throughout Latin America have recovered quite well following the global economic crisis in 2009, there have been a few setbacks in some countries over the last year. Global Fleet maps out the situation in the top five largest economies below.


Following its 2014-16 recession which brought on high unemployment as well as lower revenues, Brazil has been slowly recovering from the downturn since 2017, and especially so for the automotive industry.

Currently, the country’s president is Michel Temer who took office after former President Dilma Rousseff was impeached in 2016. His term ends this year so presidential elections are taking place in October.

Owing to the uncertainty of who the next president will be, there may be delay in further recovery at least until the first quarter of 2019.

Home to some 207 million residents, Brazil is the most populated country in Latin America by far. Its currency is the Brazilian real (BRL) and its 2017 GDP was US$1.93 trillion (US$9.324 per capita).

While its benchmark interest rate is 6.5% (3Q18), inflation and unemployment are 4% (3Q18) and 12.4% (3Q18) respectively. The country's main industries are petroleum, steel, iron and chemical production, auto assembly, mining and processing of petroleum products, cement manufacture, agriculture, and tech industries.

Its capital, Sao Paulo City, has 12 million residents. Brazil is the only country in Latin America with the official language of Portuguese as opposed to Spanish.

São Paulo city, largest city and economy in Latin America (Source: AFP)



Enrique Pena Nieto has been president since 2012 and, like Brazil’s president, he will be holding the position until December 2018. His successor, Andrés Manual López Obrador (AMLO), won elections earlier this year and will be taking over in 2019.

Although growth returned quickly in 2010 after the 2008 global financial crisis, ongoing economic and social concerns include low real wages and inequitable income distribution.

Mexico has 125 million people which generated a GDP of US$1.15 trillion (US$9,440 per capita) last year. The country’s interest, inflation, and unemployment rates are 7.25%, 4.81%, and 3.6%, respectively, and its currency is the Mexican peso (MXN).

Among the country’s main industries are food and beverages, tobacco, chemicals, iron and steel, petroleum, mining, textiles, clothing, motor vehicles, consumer durables, and tourism. Its capital, Mexico City, has 8.92 million residents.


With a population of about 44.3 million, Argentina is home to the third largest automobile fleet in Latin America, only behind Brazil and Mexico. Its capital city, Buenos Aires, is home to approximately 2.89 million people.

This year has proven to be difficult with the benchmark interest rate rising to 60% amidst the strengthening US dollar. The implementation of reforms has been key, but no major changes are expected in the coming years. Argentina’s president is Mauricio Macri and his term ends in December, 2019.

Last year, GDP increased 2.5% year-over-year to US$620bn (US$13,995 per capita). Meanwhile, the country’s prime rate jumped to 60% in September of this year, and inflation and unemployment are 31.2% (3Q18) and 8.1% (3Q18) respectively.

The country’s currency is the Argentine peso (ARG), and its main industries are
food processing, motor vehicles, consumer durables, textiles, chemicals and petrochemicals, printing, metallurgy, and steel.


Despite decades of internal conflict and drug related security challenges, Colombia and its 49.6 million residents maintain relatively strong democratic institutions characterized by peaceful, transparent elections and the protection of civil liberties.
Colombia has a GDP of US$286 billion (US$5,766 per capita) and its currency is the Colombian peso (COP). Leading the country is President Iván Duque Márquez who was just sworn in on August 7, 2018. 

Its interest, inflation, and unemployment rates are 4.25%, 3.16%, and 9.5%, respectively, and its capital Bogota has a population of 10.2 million.
The country’s main industries are textiles, food processing, oil, clothing and footwear, beverages, chemicals, cement; gold, coal, and emeralds.

Although the smallest country on this list with around 18 million residents, Chile claims to have more bilateral or regional trade agreements than any other country. It has 57 such agreements (not all of them full free trade agreements), including those with the European Union, Mercosur, China, India, South Korea, and Mexico.

The country’s currency is the Chilean peso (CLP) and its 2017 GDP was US$247 billion (US$13,722 per capita). Chile’s president is Sebastián Piñera.

While its benchmark interest rate is 2.75%, inflation and unemployment are 0.94% and 6.7% respectively. The country's main industries are copper, fruit, fish products, paper and pulp, chemicals, and wine. Its capital, Santiago, has 7 million residents. 

For more on Central America, visit here.


Authored by: Daniel Bland