EU’s Latin America Offensive (II)

EU launches new Latin America offensive – against Russia and China – with a new Latin America strategy and the Commission President’s trip to the subcontinent.

BRUSSELS/BUENOS AIRES/BRASÍLIA (Own report) – With a new Latin America strategy and the Commission President’s long-announced visit to four countries of the subcontinent, the EU has launched a new Latin America offensive. The strategy is intended to make up for Europe’s loss of influence in Latin America vis-à-vis China and to realign the region’s countries firmly on the side of the West in its power struggle against Russia. To achieve this, it is planning regular summit meetings between the EU and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). On her visit to Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Mexico last week, Ursula von der Leyen was seeking to improve the EU’s access to Latin American natural resources – from lithium to green hydrogen. It is evident that resistance to European encroachment is getting stronger in Latin America – for example, against provisions of the EU free trade agreement with Mercosur that are unfavorable to its members. Resistance is also growing to the EU’s efforts to enforce measures to isolate Russia. In reference to Western wars, Brazil’s President Lula declared that international law applies “to everyone.”

Free Trade and Natural Resources

In its struggle for influence in Latin America, the EU Commission presented a new Latin America strategy on June 7.[1] It proposes to enhance political cooperation with CELAC (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños), an alliance of all 33 sovereign Latin American and Caribbean nations,[2] which, unlike the OAS (Organization of American States) does not include the USA and Canada. The Strategy paper provides for regular meetings with heads of states and governments of CELAC, ideally alternating with annual meetings of their foreign ministers and complemented with a firmly institutionalized “coordination mechanism” between the two sides. Additional summits should be held with Brazil and Mexico, the dominant powers in South and Central America. According to the EU’s new strategy, economic relations should be enhanced with a focus on improving the EU’s access to Latin America’s natural resources. One of core elements of the strategy is Global Gateway,[3] a multi-billion-dollar EU initiative to finance infrastructure projects worldwide to rival China’s New Silk Road – in Latin America, as well.

“Things Europe Needs”

To launch the implementation of the strategy and simultaneously prepare the first EU-CELAC summit in eight years – scheduled for July 17-18 in Brussels – EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Mexico last week. “Europe is back in Latin America,” announced von der Leyen in Brazil. “It is now time to lift our strategic partnership to the next level.”[4] The president of the commission presented the CELAC countries with the prospect of €10 billion in investments within the framework of Global Gateway. These would be investments in energy and raw materials that satisfy the interests of EU countries. For example, Brazil is being offered €2 billion to supply green hydrogen. The EU informed Argentina that, “in accordance with the Global Gateway strategy” the “supply of raw materials ... that would be needed for clean energy and the digital transformation would be secured.”[5] In Buenos Aires von der Leyen declared that “lithium, copper, green hydrogen – these are things Europe needs and that Argentina can supply.”[6] In Chile, she also made deals for lithium and green hydrogen.

In the Interests of German Industry

Differences remain in relation to the EU free trade agreement with Mercosur (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay) which has been in negotiation since nearly a quarter of a century, and has been completed since 2019. However, it still awaits ratification, because both sides have their reservations – the EU, due to the fact that the agreement primarily serves the German automotive and chemical industries’ export interests. In return Mercosur’s agricultural products can be delivered more cheaply to Europe, which is to a major disadvantage of European farmers. France, Austria and the Netherlands, above all, are blocking ratification of the agreement in the interests of their agricultural enterprises.[7] At the political level, differences revolve mainly around the demand that Mercosur countries – particularly Brazil – commit themselves to better protect the Amazon Forest. To avoid having to renegotiate the already completed agreement, the EU has submitted a supplementary declaration wherein Mercosur countries would commit themselves to achieving certain environmental targets set by the Paris Climate Accords and forge ahead in their implementation.

“Distrust and Sanctions”

This is now being met with unexpectedly open protest – above all, because the EU now seeks to attach penal measures to lack of achievement of these environmental goals. Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva explicitly expressed “Brazil’s concern about the agreement’s supplementary instrument, submitted by the European Union in March of this year,” that “expands Brazil’s obligations” and additionally stipulates the imposition of sanctions. “The premise that should exist between strategic partners, is one of mutual good faith, rather than distrust and sanctions.”[8] Not only in Brazil, also in Argentina, there are justified apprehensions that the planned liberalization will signify that smaller and medium-sized enterprises, in particular, will no longer be able to stand their ground against the overwhelming competition from the EU. It was reported last week that protective measures are required for Mercosur enterprises. “The agreement must take the asymmetry between the EU and Mercosur into account,” demanded Alberto Fernández, Argentina’s President in the presence of the EU’s Commission President.[9] The negotiations will be continued in late June in Buenos Aires – with a stronger resistance from Mercosur than before.

“International Law Applies to Everyone”

The Latin American countries are also persisting in their resistance to the EU’s insistence that they join the global isolation of Russia. Von der Leyen did not succeed in convincing any of her host countries to join concrete measures – sanctions, arms deliveries – against Moscow. Lula firmly rejected von der Leyen’s attempt to compel him to support Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s so-called peace formula – the withdrawal of Russian military forces from Ukrainian territory, as the main prerequisite for negotiations. Lula reconfirmed, as always, that Brazil rejects the Russian intervention in Ukraine, but calls for a negotiated solution rather than a Ukrainian arms build-up and furthermore calls for equal treatment of all states. “We need more diplomacy and less armed intervention in Ukraine, in Palestine and in Yemen,” Lula stated. “The horrors and suffering of war cannot selectively be treated. The fundamental principles of international law apply to everyone.”[10]

New Independence

The reason why Latin American states are now in a position to counter European encroachments with growing openness is, because, in the meantime, they dispose of alternatives to cooperation with the West – in the form of economic cooperation with China and, above all, the political cooperation with BRICS. will soon report.


[1] Europäische Kommission, Hoher Vertreter der Union für die Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik: Gemeinsame Mitteilung an das Europäische Parlament und den Rat: Eine neue Agenda für die Beziehungen zwischen der EU und Lateinamerika und der Karibik. Brüssel, 07.06.2023.

[2] In Latin America and the Caribbean many regions and islands are still under the rule of the former colonial powers – from French Guayana, the islands under the control of the Netherlands (Aruba, Curaçao, among others) to islands claimed by Great Britain (including Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Malvinas). The USA Control the United States Virgin Islands.

[3] See also 300 Billion to Counter the Silk Road, Die Anti-Seidenstraße (II) and Wertebasierte Infrastruktur.

[4] Von der Leyen in Brasilien: Partnerschaft Hand in Hand mit neuen Investitionen. 13.06.2023.

[5] Global Gateway: EU und Argentinien intensivieren Zusammenarbeit bei Rohstoffen. 13.06.2023.

[6] Jürgen Vogt: Werben um Freihandelsabkommen. 14.06.2023.

[7] Tjerk Brühwiller: Freier Handel, aber nur bei Garantien für den Regenwald. 15.06.2023.

[8] Brasiliens Präsident zu von der Leyen: Partnerschaften sollten keine Sanktionen vorsehen. 14.06.2023.

[9] Jürgen Vogt: Werben um Freihandelsabkommen. 14.06.2023.

[10] Brasiliens Präsident zu von der Leyen: Partnerschaften sollten keine Sanktionen vorsehen. 14.06.2023.