Latin America has a history laced with decades of heavy economic protectionism, particularly between the 1930s and the 1980s. But today, in response to the newfound protectionist stance of the US, Latin America finds itself an unlikely advocate for global trade. As several countries in the region are just barely emerging from their own recessions, are Trump’s anti-trade policies enough to push Latin America to fully embrace global trade?

To track protectionist sentiment in Latin America, Dalia research is running a monthly survey among 4,857 internet-connected respondents, aged 14-65, in 8 countries. In the first survey, launched in June 2017, Dalia asked respondents if they agree or disagree with the following statement; “The government should do more to protect jobs and industries in my country from international competition.”

Overall respondents strongly favored the principle of economic protectionism.

The results showed that on average among the 8 countries surveyed, 85% agree, 11% neither agree nor disagree, and 4% disagree. At 73%, Colombians are most likely to say they strongly agree with the above statement. Mexico has the overall highest level of protectionism with 92% who say they either strongly agree or somewhat agree that the government should protect jobs from external influence.


Among the 8 countries in Dalia’s survey, Brazilians are most likely to disagree with, or be ambivalent about protectionism. 16% of Brazilians say they neither agree nor disagree with the statement and another 9% somewhat or strongly disagree. These results are interesting when considering, for its size, Brazil is a very closed economy. Brazilians’ disagreement with protectionism could therefore indicate a backlash to the current economic stagnation in Brazil, which some say are due to these very policies. Despite their desire for the government to do more to protect jobs and industries, respondents reported mostly positive or neutral feelings when asked about the role of foreign companies in their country. Overall, the country level average shows 59% of Latin Americans have a positive view of foreign companies. Ecuador has the highest opinion of the role foreign companies play in their country with 70% reporting a very positive or somewhat positive opinion. On the other side of the spectrum, only 41% of Argentines have a positive opinion of the role of foreign companies while 22% have a negative view. 37% have neither a positive nor negative view.  

Dalia will continue to monitor Latin America’s opinion on foreign companies and its stance towards protectionist policies via our Political Risk Tracker. Get in touch to learn more!