Its latest report suggests that for the full year (2012) economic output will now rise by 3.2%, down 0.5 percentage points on its June forecast of 3.7% and well short of the 4.3% jump in GDP registered in 2011.
ECLAC analysts blamed weakness in the global economy for the softer projection, highlighting in particular the debt crisis in the euro zone and a slowdown in China, especially in manufacturing output.
In its report, The Economic Survey of Latin America and the Caribbean, ECLAC says two of the largest economies in the region will encounter the slowest rates of economic growth, with Brazil’s output rising just 1.6% and Argentina’s by 2% this year.
Concerns in Brazil have been mounting with Dilma Rousseff, the country’s president, recently announcing a number of initiatives aimed at pumping more money into the economy. If all measures suggested are enacted then a massive US$50 billion will be injected into the economy over the next five years.
As the largest trading nation in the region, any sustained slowdown in the Brazilian economy would be of serious concern to many shipping companies, including those with a presence in the container sector.
While ECLAC expected GDP output to rise in all other countries, apart from Paraguay, which it said would contract by 2% this year, the speed of growth varied significantly.
Its leaders comprised Panama (+9.5%) and Haiti (+6%), with the former benefiting from growing trade volumes with Asia and the massive Panama Canal expansion programme. In the case of Haiti, funds have poured into the country following the devastating earthquake of 2010, and this has boosted reconstruction work.
Elsewhere, ECLAC forecasts growth rates of about 5% in Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Venezuela and 4% in Mexico.
For the region as a whole, the association’s analysts concluded that nations in Latin America and the Caribbean would benefit from "general growth in their labour markets, increased levels of credit and in some cases remittances".