With China’s growth slowing and commodity prices plunging, Latin American exporters are seeking trade in higher-value products and services. Law firms explain the challenges to George W Russell

When Brazil’s overall trade surplus fell to a 10-year low in 2012, the country’s foreign trade secretary, Tatiana Prazeres, put her faith in China. The surplus this year, she assured Brazilians, would be boosted by the mainland’s return to high economic growth and a rally on commodities.

Neither of those hopes came to pass, and Prazeres’s expectations underscore how deeply Brazil − and much of Latin America − has come to depend on Chinese demand for natural resources.

“Primary goods and manufactures based on natural resources represent up to half of Latin America’s exports,” says Kenneth Ferreira, a partner with Mattos Muriel Kestener Advogados in São Paulo.

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