General region overview

Latin America has become a global epicentre for the COVID-19 outbreak. As of early June, two-fifths of new confirmed Covid-19 cases and related deaths occurred in Latin America.

As of 18 August, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade has temporarily closed the physical premises of the New Zealand Embassies in Brazil and Colombia (also accredited to Ecuador). The Ministry will be reviewing the temporary closure of these Embassies at regular intervals. The diplomatic staff will continue to perform their roles remotely.

There is a high disparity in testing within Latin American countries. Chile and Peru have the highest rates of infection per capita, although this is partly because of their aggressive testing approach relative to other Latin American countries. The lowest levels of testing are in Brazil and Mexico, the largest and most populated countries. The Governments of Brazil and Mexico have also been relatively slow to acknowledge the gravity of the situation, and their severely stressed healthcare systems are at breaking point.

All countries in Latin America are applying border and travel, quarantine, health and mass gathering controls in an attempt to mitigate effects and control the spread of the virus – although this is happening at differing levels from country to country.

The consensus is that the worst is still to come for Latin America, and the outbreak is expected to spread further, according to a report by The Economist.

An increasing number of large tradeshows and major public events in Latin America (such as the famous End of Year celebration in Rio de Janeiro and Carnaval celebrations in São Paulo, Brazil) have been cancelled. In light of increased mass gathering controls, NZTE expects the number of cancellations to increase in the short term. This is also flowing to individual companies instigating controls on their staff from travelling (both domestic and international) or attending meetings in person.

For more information on doing business in Latin America, visit myNZTE - our free online portal for curated, in-depth information and guidance. 

Useful links to media coverage:

Economy and trade

Exports to Latin America and the Caribbean totalled NZ$1.51 billion in the year to March 2020.

Many Latin American countries have already begun easing their COVID-19 restrictions, despite the growing pandemic experienced in many regions. This is in part due to a lack in fiscal and institutional capacity to provide sustained support to consumers and businesses in lock down, many of whom operate in the informal sector. Each country is looking at what sectors and industries they begin to open up, balancing the need to open up the economy while also trying to avoid increasing COVID-19 infection rates.

However, there are some commercial sectors where Latin American markets are important for commercial sales or the supply of goods and raw materials to New Zealand businesses. There is potential for this trade to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Latin America and the Caribbean have significant economic links to China, particularly through trade, foreign direct investment and loans. The flow-on effects from the impact of COVID-19 in China to Latin America and the Caribbean are hard to estimate. China mainly imports primary products such as minerals and metals, agricultural products, and fuels from Latin America. Not all countries in the region are equally exposed, but Brazil (28.1%), Argentina (11.5%) and Chile (32.4%) send significant proportions of their exports to China.

The World Bank has forecast a contraction of 4.6% in the regional GDP of Latin America and the Caribbean (excluding Venezuela). A return to growth of 2.6% is expected in 2021. The World Bank caveated these forecasts as it is based on latest country level data available as of 10 April 2020. Economic circumstances are fluid in the region and are changing on a day to day basis.


Travel to Latin America is getting more difficult by the day as airlines cease or alter their services.

Air New Zealand ceased its Auckland to Buenos Aires service on 18 March. Air services to Mexico and Central America via the US are also being impacted by ceased or altered flight schedules.

Whilst some New Zealand companies travelled in early March to Latin American markets to maintain commercial links, this is no longer a viable option.

Given the varying travel restrictions in-market, and official New Zealand Government advisories about international travel, NZTE encourages companies to consider other communication options and channels to maintain commercial ties with partners in Latin America.

Please refer to Safetravel for the latest official advice on travel to Latin American countries or other world locations:

As of 20 March 2020, all travellers returning to New Zealand are subject to a mandatory 14-day self-isolation period, and must register with Healthline via 0800 358 5453.

Please note: all travellers returning to New Zealand are subject to a mandatory 14-day stay at a Government-managed hotel. Managed isolation charges for those returning to New Zealand have come into force from Tuesday 11th August. Find out more here.

In addition, Air New Zealand continues to operate a reduced network for international operations through to 24 October 2020. More information here.

Tradeshow and event information

Numerous international tradeshows and events are being postponed or cancelled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Make sure you proactively check with organisers for any tradeshow or event you're scheduled to attend – conditions and regulations are changing rapidly overseas, and events may be postponed or cancelled at short notice.

Below is the status of major tradeshows and events in Latin America that NZTE's teams are aware of.

If you have questions about an event not listed here, please contact the organisers in the first instance or get in touch with NZTE for further advice.

  • Colombia, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Conference - postponed to November 2020.

  • World Economic Forum, 28 April 2020 - postponed.

Video insights

Export support
Last updated: 26 Aug 2020
São Paulo – the new reality in Latin America's biggest city

NZTE's Trade Commissioner for Mercosur, Chris Metcalfe, on how São Paulo is handling the COVID-19 pandemic, and what NZ exporters should be aware of.

Watch now
Export support
Last updated: 7 Aug 2020
Video update: how supermarkets are operating in Mexico, August 2020

NZTE Business Development Manager for Mexico, Yulia Nunez, visits a grocery store and discusses measures businesses are taking in light of COVID-19.

Read more
Export support
Last updated: 7 Aug 2020
Neat Feat and the growing e-commerce market in Mexico, August 2020

NZTE Business Development Manager Yulia Nunez discusses one Kiwi brand's digital push into Mexico, Latin America's fastest-growing e-commerce market.

Read more
Export support
Last updated: 6 Aug 2020
Market Realities: Uruguay - a hub for new business in Latin America.

Gabriela Castro-Fontoura, Director of Sunny Sky Solutions, explains Uruguay's COVID-19 response and its role as a regional gateway for Kiwi exporters.

Read more
Export support
Last updated: 15 Jul 2020
Market Realities: Latin America landscape, July 2020

NZTE Latin America Regional Director, Steve Jones, offers insights into the current Latin America landscape and what exporters should be considering.

Read more
Export support
Last updated: 15 Jul 2020
Mexico: an on-the-ground perspective and business update, July 2020

NZTE’s Trade Commissioner for Mexico, Panama and the Caribbean, Rhianon Berry, shares an on-the-ground perspective on life and business in Mexico.

Read more

Market overviews


Updates on COVID-19 impacts in Argentina.


Updates on COVID-19 impacts in Brazil.


Updates on COVID-19 impacts in Chile.


Updates on COVID-19 impacts in Colombia.


Updates on COVID-19 impacts in Ecuador.


Updates on COVID-19 impacts in Mexico.

Additional resources

Below you can find information and contact details for other New Zealand government and international agencies regarding their response to COVID-19.

New Zealand Government agencies
COVID-19 helpline for businesses
New Zealand Customs
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
New Zealand Export Credit (NZEC)
MFAT Export Helpline
MFAT Safetravel
Callaghan Innovation
Ministry of Health
WorkSafe New Zealand

Global agencies

World Health Organization (WHO)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Contact NZTE

We're available to talk to you about any issues your export business is facing due to COVID-19.

For existing NZTE customers, please contact your New Zealand-based Customer Manager.

If you're unsure who to contact or haven't worked with us before, you can call NZTE on 0800 555 888 or email below and one of our Customer Advisors will help you.