On the North-South trade in the Americas and its ecological asymmetries
There has been a long and intensive debate within the scientific community about the role of international trade in the development of countries. During the last decades, the focus of attention has moved from the pure economic level to the environmental aspects of international trade. Establishing a simplified system of North-South trade for one reference period (2003), this paper attempts to test empirically the extent of potential asymmetries with regard to extracted material flows, and contrasts the results with the economic benefits from trade (in terms of value-added). The South is thereby represented by a selection of Latin American countries (Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico), the North comprises one of their main commercial partners, the United States. At the methodological level, a multi-regional input-output analysis is used as the tool of investigation. Results generally support the hypothesis that the South was feeding the North's societal metabolism. South-North material exports were 1.6 times larger than North-South material exports, resulting in a net deficit for the South of 324 million tons. Moreover, material intensity of exported commodities from the South was twice as high as that from the North. It is worth highlighting, however, that part of the North-South hypothesis fails for the sample of countries since the larger part of the economic surplus has remained in the South, contrarily to what would have been expected.
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