Common values shared by Latin America and Europe?
My intention is to pose questions on a common, almost ordinary thread in our conversations about relations between Latin America and Europe. I do this because shared values alone are not sufficient to secure strategic and geopolitical convergences in an increasingly adverse and complex world.
A shared understanding of freedom, the rule of law, human dignity or social protection may not be enough to build alliances on issues where the national interest outweighs similarities. In pursuit of the same international order, a single supranational organization to regulate globalization may not be enough if there is no prior negotiation and dialogue on the conflicts that cross the multinational chessboard.
This comes from the rhetoric that Europe —including Spain— often uses to talk about our relations with Latin America. This approach lacks the understanding that from the other side of the Atlantic, interests and geopolitical positions respond to its own incentives and objectives that we do not always share, understand or, worse, do not know.
It is important to recognize that the Global South does not align itself strictly with the Western bloc, but rather, in contrast to the other pole, it maintains economic and trade relations that often rely more on China than on the United States
For example, European voices are angry at some Latin American countries for abstaining on the UN resolution condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, without engaging in dialogue before casting their vote. Common positions at the global negotiating tables must be negotiated in advance with like-minded countries with whom we share “common values”. It is important to recognize that the Global South does not align itself strictly with the Western bloc, but rather, in contrast to the other pole, it maintains economic and trade relations that often rely more on China than on the United States. There is an “anti-colonial virus” circulating in certain political discourses in Latin America today, and this requires delicate cultural and political approaches. We must be aware that China and Russia use certain Latin American countries to skillfully expand their geopolitical influence in the region.
In late April, I spoke at the European Parliament to explain the importance of the EU-LA agreements to the International Trade Committee and, in particular, to remind them of the enormous importance of the future agreements with Mexico and Mercosur. I explained very clearly that Europe lost its economic and political presence in Latin America, that China is exponentially increasing its trade and investments in the region and that our geopolitical rivals, Russia and China, are increasing their influence. I told them that there is something worse than the fact that Latin America is not on the radar of European foreign policy, and that in turn Latin America turns its gaze towards the Pacific. I told them that if we do not sign an agreement with Mercosur, Brazil and Uruguay will unilaterally align with China. I told them to forget about leading the ecological transition if all the lithium in the triangle of Chile, Bolivia and Argentina blessed with large deposits of this new mineral ends up in the hands of China, the world’s leader in battery production. I told them that we cannot expand our ethical regulatory model of digitalization in the world if our companies fail to develop digital transformation in America.
Everything seems to indicate that there is a European awareness of all of these great global transformations and Latin America’s importance for Europe in a world so hostile to our interests. It is very difficult to find a geopolitical space more aligned with Europe than Latin America. In fact, the Commission is working seriously on the development of the Summits that will take place over the six months of the Spanish Presidency of the EU: the trade Summit, EU-CELAC Summit (July, Brussels) and the Summit of Finance Ministers (September, Santiago de Compostela).
Relations with Latin America must be managed not on the rhetorical basis of our convergence of values but based on concrete interests and committed European investment and trade commitments
In short, the table is set for three outstanding achievements in these momentous months concerning our relations with Latin America:
- The trade Summit and the EU-CELAC political Summit of the Heads of State and Government can be held with maximum participation and concrete resolutions of progress as a basis for political recovery of our strategic alliance.
- An investment plan in physical and technological infrastructure for Latin America can be developed to enable Europe to regain presence and economic influence in the region through the Global Gateway Plan. It is essential that we endow this plan with financial support so that our large companies can succeed in winning major public contracts in the digital and environmental fields.
- Approval of trade and investment agreements with Mexico and Mercosur as the basis for a solid recovery of our economic relations with the region. Both represent two-thirds of the economy of all Latin America.
This can only be achieved by mobilizing and managing relations with Latin America, not on the rhetorical basis of our convergence of values but based on concrete interests and committed European investment and trade commitments in Latin America.