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This represents an increase of 33.3% in the deficit – the difference between imports and exports of finished steel products – according to figures disclosed this week by Latin American steel association Alacero.

Finished steel imports in the region totalled 19.83 million tonnes in 2012, while exports reached 8.27 million tonnes.

In December alone, however, deficit growth slowed as imports reached their lowest monthly level of the year, at 1.48 million tonnes.

Finished steel exports in December represented the second-largest volume for the whole 2012, at 731,200 tonnes.

Overall, Mexico was the country with the largest deficit last year, at 4.1 million tonnes, Alacero said.

The country imported 7.41 million tonnes and exported only 3.26 million tonnes of finished steel last year.

Colombia, Chile and Peru came next, with deficits of 1.8 million tonnes, 1.5 million tonnes, and 1.4 million tonnes, respectively.

“In 2012, all countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have showed a deficit in their finished steel trade, with the exception of Argentina and the Dominican Republic,” Alacero pointed out.