EU working to stop Russian, Chinese expansion in Latin America
The European Union has noticed of Russia’s and China’s advancements in Latin America and is devising a series of measures to counter those effects and avoid losing its traditional partners, it was reported.
According to El País, Europe’s retreat from many countries in the region has left a space, which is being filled by Moscow and Beijing. Hence, Brussels diplomatic and commercial preparations for 2023.
The Spanish newspaper reported an internal document was sent to all EU Foreign admitting the bloc had neglected its ties with Latin America for almost a decade: since 2015 there has not been a summit between the two regions, as Europe looked the other way and dealt with problems closer to its own continent, such as Libya, Syria or now Ukraine.
China, on the other hand, has increased its investments in the region 26fold between 2000 and 2020. The document, drafted by the European External Action Service, also points out that China is the first or second most important trading partner of Latin American and Caribbean countries, above the EU and surpassing the United States in many countries.
The report underlines that 21 of the 33 countries in Latin America have joined Beijing’s New Silk Road, a plan to expand global Chinese trade.
Brussels will seek to stop the growing estrangement with Latin America with a qualitative leap, according to the document. A Summit between Europe and Latin America is to be held in the second half of 2023. However, preparations are already underway, and a meeting at the ministerial level is to be held in October in Buenos Aires.
The credibility of the EU and its power and leverage capacity on the international scene is at stake, warns the document quoted by El País.
EU Chief Diplomat Josep Borrell’s pledge to recover Europe’s presence in Latin America has been thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe realized it had lost considerable ground to China, while many Latin American also fail to adhere to Europe’s response to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The key will be to have an agenda of measures that will help Latin American countries overcome the macroeconomic consequences of the conflict in Ukraine, recommends MEP Javi Lopez, who heads the European delegation to the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly.
The EU report also warns that Latin America faces the risk of social protest and political destabilization, which already existed before covid, is real and has worsened with the displacement (of the population) and the migratory crisis.
The region has also stepped into a new political cycle with the coming to power of what Brussels calls anti-establishment candidates: Pedro Castillo Terrones in Peru, Gabriel Boric Font in Chile, Xiomara Castro in Honduras, Rodrigo Chaves in Costa Rica, and Gustavo Petro in Colombia. A full turn to the left might be completed in October if Brazil’s former President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva returns to the Planalto Palace, the document also underscored.
Latin America’s new governments are less Atlantist and more open to alternative alliances to the traditional ones, such as the US or the EU, which needs to systematically boost its multilateral engagement with Latin American and Caribbean countries in view of the increased competition from China and Russia and also to garner support on international forums, and others for votes in multilateral forums, according to a European External Action Service (EEAS) source.
Many Latin American countries also feel disappointed after the EU failed to ratify the Free Trade Agreement with Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay) while the updating of agreements with Mexico and Chile are still bogged down by the ratification process and objections from EU partners such as France.
According to the confidential report, the European Commission has a budget of € 3.4 billion to cooperate with the region during the period 2021-2027. Brussels is also working on an investment package of up to € 8 billion to be announced at the next summit.
The Community document also points out that Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile, have 60% of the world’s lithium reserves, while Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil have significant oil and gas reserves at a time the EU is about to lose Russia’s hydrocarbons supply.