Brazil registered a trade surplus of 19.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2012, the lowest in a decade, the Ministry of Development, Industry and Trade said Wednesday.
The figure represents a 34.75 percent fall from 2011, and the lowest since 2002, when the trade surplus was 13.2 billion dollars, confirming Latin America's largest economy is slowing down, mostly as a consequence of the global financial crisis.
For most of the past 10 years, Brazil's economy had consistently posted healthy growth rates averaging 4.5 percent yearly, but in 2012, the Central Bank of Brazil was forced to reduce its growth forecast from 3.5 percent at the beginning of the year to 1 percent in December.
In the past year, Brazil's exports totaled 242.58 billion dollars, down 5.3 percent from 2011, while imports fell 1.4 percent to 223.14 billion dollars.
Exports of semi-manufactured and basic goods registered the most significant drops -- 8.3 percent and 7.4 percent respectively.
Soybeans, iron ore and vehicles were among those products whose exports fell last year.
Imports of capital goods increased 1.5 percent, but imports of raw materials fell 2.2 percent.
China, the United States and Argentina were Brazil's biggest trade partners in 2012. Still, exports to China and Argentina fell 7 percent and 14.1 percent respectively, while exports to the U.S. rose 3.5 percent.
The Central Bank estimates that in 2013, Brazil will register an even lower trade surplus of 17 billion dollars, with 268 billion dollars in exports and 251 billion dollars in imports.
The National Industry Confederation made a more optimistic projection of an 18.1 billion-dollar surplus.