Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Politifact: Latin American's economy trails China's by $2 trillion

The statement

"Latin America's economy is almost as big as the economy of China."

Mitt Romney, in the third presidential debate

The ruling

During the third presidential debate, in Boca Raton, Republican nominee Mitt Romney touted Latin America as a region that's ripe for expanding trade with the United States.

"Trade grows about 12 percent a year," Romney said. "It doubles about five or so years. We can do better than that, particularly in Latin America. The opportunities for us in Latin America, we have just not taken advantage of fully. As a matter of fact, Latin America's economy is almost as big as the economy of China. We're all focused on China. Latin America is a huge opportunity for us."

We won't judge whether Latin America is a "huge opportunity" for the United States, but we were curious whether it's true that "Latin America's economy is almost as big as the economy of China."

We turned to data on gross domestic product collected by the International Monetary Fund. For Latin America, we combined the GDP for 20 nations: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. For China, we added up the GDP for China and, using World Bank data, its two "special administrative regions," Hong Kong and Macau.

In 2011, the 20 Latin American nations had a combined nominal GDP of $5.6 trillion, while China, Hong Kong and Macau had a combined GDP of $7.6 trillion. So, China's GDP was about one-third larger than Latin America's, meaning the two are hardly neck and neck.

Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas and an aide in the White House Office of the Special Envoy for the Americas under President Bill Clinton, said you can't close the gap between Latin America and China without broadening the definition to "the Americas" by adding Canada, something we don't think was suggested by Romney's claim. But even then, the combination of Latin America and Canada still wouldn't get you to the GDP level of China.

In addition, the growth in China's economy has been outpacing Latin America's, putting Latin America even further behind as time goes on. Between 2010 and 2011, Latin America's GDP expanded by 14 percent — an impressive growth rate — but China's grew by an even more impressive 23 percent.

Romney said that "Latin America's economy is almost as big as the economy of China." It's a stretch to characterize an economy that's about one-third bigger as "almost as big," especially since China's lead over Latin America is actually increasing. We rate the claim Half True.

This ruling has been edited for print. Read the full version at

Politifact: Latin American's economy trails China's by $2 trillion 10/26/12 [Last modified: Friday, October 26, 2012 8:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rick and Tom podcast: Will Bucs go 2-0? Are Gators on upset alert?


    It's football friday as Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down the Bucs' game in Minnesota, including the improved offensive line.

    Ali Marpet moved from guard to center on an improved Bucs offensive line.
  2. In this Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017, photo distributed on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers a statement in response to U.S. President Donald Trump's speech to the United Nations, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kim, in an extraordinary and direct rebuke, called Trump "deranged" and said he will "pay dearly" for his threats, a possible indication of more powerful weapons tests on the horizon. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. [Associated Press]
  3. Locals help clear debris from a road after the passing of Hurricane Maria, in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, Thursday, September 21, 2017. As of Thursday evening, Maria was moving off the northern coast of the Dominican Republic with winds of 120 mph (195 kph). The storm was expected to approach the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Bahamas late Thursday and early Friday. [Associated Press]
  4. Forecast: First day of fall brings more showers, humidity to Tampa Bay


    More moisture will filter into the Tampa Bay area on Friday, the official start of fall, allowing for higher rain chances through the day and beginning half of the weekend.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  5. Polk childcare workers who berated autistic child turn themselves in (w/video)


    WINTER HAVEN — Two childcare workers are facing child abuse charges after a Snapchat video surfaced of them berating, taunting and throwing a backpack at an 8-year-old autistic child.

    Police are searching for two childcare workers - Kaderrica Smith, 26, and Alexis Henderson, 20 - after a Snapchat video surfaced of them berating, taunting and throwing a backpack at an 8-year-old Autistic child in Winter Haven. [Winter Haven Police Department]