K-12 Teaching Resources

Latin America and the Caribbean in the Classroom: The Economy and Trade

No 90
Spring 2004
Compiled by Mariana Luna

Calculating the Exchange Rates between the United States and Mexico

© Latin America Data Base, Latin American Institute (http://retanet.unm.edu/index.pl?section=1996LPs)
Lesson plan by Raanel Steel.
Raanel SteelPojoaque High School Grade Level: 7-8
Subject Area: Math, Science, Spanish.


“Economics can be taught in a variety of ways. Since computer skills have become such a necessity in our rapidly changing world, this lesson also introduces students to the Internet and the World Wide Web thus helping them to develop sophisticated search and retrieval strategies which are applicable to almost every curriculum area.”

Lesson Overview

“This activity is the first of many to be developed around the WWW site http://www02.tiglion.net/scripts/travdb/currency/exe/curr.asp?country=MX on Mexico. This lesson seeks to provide students the opportunity to become well aquainted with one particular web site before branching out to other web sites”.


“Students will demonstrate their ability look up the daily exchange rates on the internet as well as their ability to mathematically calculate the exchange rates between the two countries by going on mock vacations to both destinations.”

It also includes possible follow up activities.

Go to:
Kids DevNews of the World Bank
http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/KIDSNEWS/0,,contentMDK:20067400~ pagePK:107739~piPK:107732~theSitePK:106839,00.html

To find about the activities of the World Bank, news about Latin American and the Caribbean nations, links for kids and tips for teachers.

Common Markets

From http://www.factmonster.com/ce6/history/A0846059.html:
“Southern Cone Common Market, Latin American trade organization established in 1991 to increase economic cooperation among the countries of E South America; it is commonly known as Mercosur. or Mercosul,. from the Spanish and Portuguese names, respectively, for the organization. Full members include Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay; Bolivia and Chile are associate members. Mercosur is gradually eliminating tariffs between member states and at the same time aiming for a low common external duty, and trade between its members has greatly expanded since 1991.”


“In three separate ceremonies in the three capitals on Dec. 17, 1992, President Bush, Mexican President Salinas, and Canadian Prime Minister Mulroney signed the historic North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The framework agreement proposed to eliminate restrictions on the flow of goods, services, and investment in North America. The House of Representatives approved NAFTA, by a vote of 234 to 200 on November 17, 1993, and the Senate voted 60 to 38 for approval on November 20. It was signed into law by President Clinton on December 8, 1993, and took effect on January 1, 1994.

Under NAFTA, the United States, Canada, and Mexico become a single, giant, integrated market of almost 400 million people with $6.5 trillion worth of goods and services annually. Mexico is the world's second largest importer of U.S. manufactured goods and the thirdlargest importer of U.S. agricultural products.

Prior to NAFTA, Mexican tariffs averaged about 250% as compared to U.S. duties. After the pact, about half of the tariffs on trade between Mexico and the United States were eliminated, and the remaining tariffs and restrictions on service and investment (as far as it is possible) will be phased out over a 15-year period. The United States and Canada have had a free-trade agreement since 1989.

The treaty provides full protection of intellectual property rights (patents, copyrights, and trademarks) and also includes provisions covering trade rules and dispute settlement and establishes trilateral commissions to administer them. NAFTA also marks the first time in the history of U.S. trade policy that environmental concerns have been directly addressed.”


Globalization Primer A brief look at globalization

“Few economic issues have been as controversial recently as globalization. The headlines usually refer to the IMF or international corporations, but actually globalization is more involved.”

What Is Globalization?

“Globalization means a world market where goods, money, and people cross international borders as freely as possible. Modern transportation and communications, including the Internet, have facilitated globalization. People participate in the global economy when they buy an imported product; work for a company that exports goods; go to another country as a tourist, student, or worker; or buy stock in an international corporation.”


Currency in LA/C and exchange rates The Universal Currency Converter: http://www.xe.com/ucc/: How much is one dollar in Argentina today? The Universal Currency Converter®, the world's most popular currency tool, allows you to perform interactive foreign exchange rate calculations on the Internet, using live, up-to-the-minute currency rates.

http://gomexico.about.com/travel/gomexico/library/weekly/aa000222a.htm This website provides general information for people traveling to Mexico and Central America. It is a great tool to learn Spanish words of economics and trade terms that are so helpful when you travel to a Latin American country.

Go to
http://www02.tiglion.net/scripts/travdb /currency/exe/curr.asp?country=MX
To find the Peso: Currency of Mexico. You can also find the currency exchange rate for different Latin American and Caribbean nations.

You can find learning materials for your classroom and teaching guides. There are economic, social and environmental learning modules. You can also find Interactive Quizzes and Games, to learn while having fun.

Online middle school economics lessons.

Mexico for kids

Teacher's Guide for Using Songs in the Classroom. Teach Spanish through songs. You also have news from Latin American countries.

Global Trade and common markets NAFTA - FTAA pro and cons, protests in Seattle, Cancun, Miami

http://www.asje.org/ (Alliance for Sustainable Jobs and the Environment) (what's AFSCME?)
http://www.asje.org/march.html Raise the Stakes of Resistance Nov 17-21 2003 march to Miami
http://www.asje.org/gt.html Global Trade (anti-globalization)

from http://www.asje.org/ftaa.html:

What are the GATS and the FTAA/ALCA?

“The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is one of many separate agreements in the World Trade Organization package of agreements. The U.S. has already signed the GATSagreement, but negotiations are underway to allow corporations to come out the winner. The GATS contains rules governing trade and investment in services--from air travel to water delivery‹for all WTO members, currently over 140 countries around the world. The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) or Área de Libre Comercio de las Américas (ALCA) is currently under negotiation. This trade agreement expands the rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to cover the entire Western Hemisphere, except Cuba. But the expansion goes beyond geographic boundaries. Powerful new rules expand to the other 70% of the economy that falls under "services".”

Use this text as a starting point for introducing Spanish vocabulary of economics and trade terms. Economics is not just dollars and cents. Economics of foreign countries and continents are tied to the local (eg Chicago blue-green bus, AFSCME, etc).

This site has a concise discussion of the economic profile of Latin American and Caribbean nations.

“Mexico—like Argentina, Brazil, and Chile—is a semi-industrialized country. The country is rich in industrial resources, including petroleum and several metals. Mexico's manufacturing output includes many basic goods, such as steel, machinery, and petrochemicals, as well as a wide range of consumer goods. Agriculture still provides more jobs than industry, however. Many farm families earn barely enough to survive, and many city dwellers are unable to find jobs.”

The Latin American Mercado: Who Made This?

© Latin America Data Base, Latin American Institute (/retanet/plans/)
Lesson plan by Christine S. Wells
Grade Level: 6-8
Subject Area: Social Studies, Spanish


“Because we live in an ever-shrinking complex world of multi-national corporations, it is important that students begin to understand the complexities of the global marketplace. Students should be aware of their personal economic power and think about it the next time they visit the mall, invest in stocks or buy a handicraft.

In Latin America, small cooperatives, who once sold to the local market, are now expanding their sales to other countries. Many handicrafts, especially those from Mexico and Guatemala, are now available in the United States. Through a simulation of both a cottage industry and marketplace, students will gain an appreciation of their place in the global marketplace. Speaking Spanish for a real reason, buying and selling, in a real setting, the marketplace, is an intrinsic reward in itself.”

Go to:
To find lesson plans about Flags of Latin American countries. Analysing the flag of a country helps you to understand the economy and culture of a country.

Free Trade Area of the Americas:

“The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) is the expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to every country in Central America, South America and the Caribbean, except Cuba. Negotiations began right after the completion of NAFTA in 1994 and are to be completed by 2005.”

About Fair Trade


“In today's world economy, where profits rule and small-scale producers are left out of the bargaining process, farmers, craft producers, and other workers are often left without resources or hope for their future. Fair Trade helps exploited producers escape from this cycle and gives them a way to maintain their traditional lifestyles with dignity. Fair Trade encompasses a range of goods, from agricultural commodities like coffee, chocolate, and tea, to handcrafts like clothing, household items, and decorative arts.”

“Fair Trade commodities are certified by non-profit organizations in 17 different countries, all of which are affiliated with Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International. Fair Trade Certified commodities bear the seal of the certifying agency, providing a guarantee that fair trade practices were followed. In the US, TransFair USA certifies coffee, cocoa, and tea. The Fair Trade coffee system benefits over 350,000 farmers organized into over 300 cooperatives in 22 countries. The Fair Trade cocoa system benefits over 42,000 farmers organized into eight cooperatives in eight different countries.”

“Fair Trade provides a sustainable model of international trade based on economic justice. It means an equitable and fair partnership between consumers in the Global North and producers in the Global South—and is an alternative to sweatshop production.”


“Coffee is the second largest US import after oil, and the US consumes one-fifth of all the world's coffee, making it the largest consumer in the world. But few Americans realize that agriculture workers in the coffee industry often toil in what can be described as "sweatshops in the fields." Many small coffee farmers receive prices for their coffee that are less than the costs of production, forcing them into a cycle of poverty and debt.”

“Fair Trade is a viable solution to this crisis, assuring consumers that the coffee we drink was purchased under fair conditions.”

“Fair Trade for coffee farmers means community development, health, education, and environmental stewardship.”