The EU promises an investment of 45,000 million euros to Latin America to counteract the push of China | International

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The European Union courts Latin America and the Caribbean. In the run-up to the first summit to be held in eight years with CELAC —Community of Latin American and Caribbean States— and in the course of a relevant business forum in Brussels, the European Commission has promised this Monday 45,000 million euros in investment plans financing for the region, through its Global Gateway tool, designed to counteract the New Silk Road promoted by China, already the region's second largest trading partner. The disbursement, announced by the head of the Community Executive, Ursula von der Leyen, will have 10,000 million euros from the EU and contributions from Member States. Among them, the 9,400 million from Spain stand out, as EL PAÍS announced, and the 11,000 that France will provide, according to community sources. “Latin America and the Caribbean and Europe need each other. Much more than ever ”, Von der Leyen highlighted at the opening of the business forum in Brussels in which she warned about the “growing assertiveness of China”. The head of the community Executive and the Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, have been optimistic about the possibility of closing the long-awaited agreement with Mercosur this year. If signed, this pact, which involves paving trade with Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, will become the most important in the EU by volume of exchanges.

In parallel, the European Commission has announced a new roadmap in the form of an investment agenda in which it has identified more than a hundred investment projects in Latin America and the Caribbean that may be of interest to European companies and organizations. Among the 130, there is one in the Dominican Republic for integrated water and waste management; others in Brazil and Colombia for energy efficiency and promotion of green hydrogen and also for the modernization of public drinking water services. The list also includes an electric transport mobility initiative in Uruguay or Costa Rica, as well as industrial parks in Mexico.

Chastened by the consequences of its dependence on Russia for energy and convinced of the need to act against China's push, the EU is looking for new reliable partners, especially in crucial policies such as green energy and essential raw materials. "We can all win with a closer relationship", remarked the President of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, at the inauguration of the forum. "Europe and Celac find ourselves in a situation that I would describe as hopeful, unbeatable, to unite needs and interests in various areas," added Sánchez, who referred to essential raw materials, digitization, green hydrogen, social cohesion or renewable energies. .

Spain, which holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU this semester, has put great efforts into the summit with Celac and has designed it to be the great starting signal for its presidency. In addition, Sánchez, one of the main promoters of the summit, has made several trips to Latin America to guarantee the maximum possible number of leaders in the high-level meeting and has made personal commitments with the most relevant countries to guarantee the results of the summit. .

It's not easy. The priority objective is to revitalize through this appointment relations that have been at a standstill for years, but there are disagreements on how to express the condemnation of Russia for the large-scale war waged in Ukraine. The exact terms are still being discussed for the final statement. In addition to this element, there are certain frictions on the EU trade agreement with Mercosur, paralyzed for years and in which an additional commitment is now being debated with which the community bloc wants to include environmental regulations that the American partners dislike. These countries consider that it is just another formula for protectionism and that it will harm them.

Despite these objections, the Brazilian president has left a door open to consensus this Monday in the business forum and has ensured that there are options for it to be closed before the end of 2023. "A balanced agreement between Mercosur and the European Union, which we intend to concluding this year will open new horizons”, remarked Lula. "We want an agreement that preserves the capabilities of the parties and that responds to present and future challenges," he added. Von der Leyen stressed that the agreement is "within reach". "Our ambition is to resolve the remaining differences as soon as possible," said the president of the European Commission.

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The EU has recognized that it has neglected the Latin American and Caribbean region during these years. Now is the time again to strengthen ties with a summit in which 25 of the 27 leaders of the EU and the vast majority of the 33 of Celac have participated. At the same time, the business forum has welcomed companies such as the Spanish Iberdrola, Balearia, Acciona, Telefónica, Hispasat, Banco Santander and BBVA, the German Siemens Energy AG, the Italian Enel, the French HDF Energy and Eramet, the Finnish Metso and Nokia, the Swedish Ericsson or the Brazilian ABEÉolica and Voltz Motors.

A “more inclusive and sustainable” growth

The president of CAF —development bank of Latin America and the Caribbean—, Sergio Díaz-Granados, welcomed the investment agenda announced by the president of the European Commission to achieve "more inclusive and sustainable" growth in the region, which, he said , should be seen as a partner and not just as a provider of resources. “We don't want Latin America and the Caribbean to be seen as a region for the extraction of raw materials, but rather as a partner in solving challenges,” she said.

Díaz-Granados stressed that the Spanish presidency of the Council of the European Union will allow closer ties between the two continents and increase economic integration. In this sense, he advocated the signing of the agreement between the European Union and Mercosur. If it materializes, he said, "the EU would have agreements with 94% of Latin America's GDP, compared to 44% for the United States and 14% for China."

"Latin America and the Caribbean can be an important part of the solution to global challenges," said Ilan Goldfajn, the president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), who highlighted in his speech how these new opportunities can be very attractive to the private sector.

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