Chinese container ship Sean Gallup | getty images

China y el futuro precio de las materias primas

MANILA – Indudablemente, la actual desaceleración del crecimiento chino tuvo efectos de vasto alcance sobre la economía mundial, pero su papel en la brusca caída de los precios de las materias primas desde 2014 —un resultado devastador para los países exportadores de esos productos, entre los que se cuentan economías emergentes alguna vez dinámicas— es más limitado de lo que sugiere la creencia popular. De hecho, la desaceleración china solo nos cuenta una parte de la historia de los precios de las materias primas.

Ciertamente, existe una clara correlación entre el crecimiento del PIB chino y los precios de las materias primas. A principios de la década de 2000, cuando se aceleró el crecimiento de China, los precios de las materias primas aumentaron bruscamente, pero desde 2011 —cuando comenzó la desaceleración económica en ese país— los precios de la energía han caído el 70 %; los de los metales, un 50 %; y los precios de las materias primas agrícolas, el 35 %.

De todas formas, la explicación del colapso de los precios de las materias primas a través de la desaceleración china resulta, en el mejor de los casos, incompleta. Como muestran las nuevas investigaciones del Banco Asiático de Desarrollo, aunque China desempeña un papel significativo en los mercados de materias primas —representa aproximadamente la mitad del consumo mundial de metales, carbón y carne porcina, por ejemplo— no es, ni con mucho, tan dominante como se cree en general. China representa menos de un quinto del consumo mundial de azúcar, trigo, aves de corral y carne vacuna; el 12 % consumo mundial de petróleo crudo; y el 5 % del gas natural. De hecho, algunas de las materias primas que han experimentado las mayores bajas en sus precios —más notablemente el petróleo (que cayó el 73 %) y el gas natural (con una baja del 55 %)— son aquellas en las que China participa relativamente poco.

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