With the economic and trade liberalisation policies of the late 20th century, the extraction of natural resources for export, known as extractivism, became the central axis of South American economies. This development model has a significant environmental impact and has generated imbalances in the South American productive structure that lead to chronically unfavourable terms of trade for the region. The different price dynamics of exports and imports trap South America in a vicious circle that leads to a progressive need to increase the volume of resources it extracts. Consequently, South America maintains a situation of ecologically unequal exchange that implies the absorption of an ever-increasing environmental impact from the rest of the world. All this calls into question the benefits of free trade, especially in ecological terms, as well as the compatibility between economic growth and the reduction of environmental impact.