THE STRUCTURE OF TRADE IN CENTRAL AMERICA
Irma T. de Alonso David R. Hicks
This chapter contains a detailed analysis of trade in Central America by examining the growth and changing composition of regional imports and exports over the last 30 years. The analysis is conducted on both a regional and a country-by-country basis. The next section discusses the volume and relative importance of trade in the overall regional economy. The third and fourth sections identify trade patterns through changes in the distribution of exports and imports by source and destination, both within and outside the region. The fifth section discusses transitions in the composition of imports and exports for several important industrial and primary sectors. The chapter ends with a summary of the major trends observed over this period of analysis. All of the data used here was obtained from the Interamerican Development Bank and from various United Nations publications.
During the 1980s Central America was highly dependent on international markets, as both a source and a destination for goods and services. This is evident from the data in Table 3.1, which provides current GDP and trade statistics. 1 + ̲/ The average share of exports to regional GDP for the decade as a whole was estimated at 24 percent, while the decade average import share was even greater at just above 30 percent. Annual export and import shares did not vary greatly from these decade averages. For example, the lowest share of exports to GDP occurred in 1986, at an estimated 22.24 percent, while the largest share of exports occurred in 1980, at 25.68 percent. The spread between the highest and lowest export share was only 3.44 percent. On the other hand, annual import shares exhibited much wider variation. The smallest import share occurred in 1986 at 25.95 percent, while the largest share occurred in 1980 at 33.53 percent. Here the spread between the highest and lowest import shares