In search of business, Europe changes tone in Latin America

SANTIAGO, (Reuters) – Five years ago during the closing speeches of a summit in Chile, Spain’s king told Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to “shut up” in an exchange that epitomized the fruitless meetings between Europe and Latin America at the time.

Dominated by leftist rhetoric and instability in the Andes, the summits were sideshows to the rapid economic growth in Europe that followed the introduction of the euro a decade ago, and the concerns of Madrid and Brussels lay elsewhere.

But a debt crisis in Europe has turned the relationship between former imperial powers and their colonies on its head. EU leaders meeting in Santiago for a summit with Latin American heads of state this weekend were frank about their eagerness to piggy-back onto the region’s impressive economic growth.

“This is now a strategic relationship between equal partners,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel, leading a huge delegation of European Union leaders and business executives.

With so many bilateral meetings during the two-day summit, Merkel had barely finished delivering her remarks before she rushed off to Santiago’s business district to try to arrange investments and seal trade deals.

“We invite you to invest in Germany,” she said, echoing Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy, who the day before made his plea from Chile’s presidential palace.

With 60 percent of young Spaniards unemployed, and the German economy, Europe’s biggest, struggling with the impact of a public debt crisis that nearly broke up the euro zone last year, Latin America clearly has the upper hand.

Latin America’s economic output is expected to grow almost 4 percent this year, while the 17-nation euro zone will probably contract. Europe wants Latin American companies to follow Mexican businessman Carlos Slim, who has invested in Dutch telecoms company KPN.

European governments also want to ensure their companies win big infrastructure contracts for ports, highways and airports in Latin America, including those for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

‘NEVER BEEN BETTER’
Diplomats at the Santiago summit spoke of a new, relaxed mood among the more than 60 countries represented, helped by a big dose of humility from the Europeans.

“Latin America likes the idea that the European Union has problems too,” said one EU diplomat who worked closely with Chilean colleagues during the summit.

Clearly anxious to get the message across, two of the European Union’s most senior officials, Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso, gave five speeches each in less than two days, vaunting Latin America’s successes and speaking of the “intertwined destinies” of the two regions.

That went down well with leaders such as Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, who praised Europe’s change of tone: “The Europeans have finally realized … we need a relationship where both sides win.”

Comments  

Money laundering probe exposes Australian banks’ compliance frailties

HONG KONG/SYDNEY,  (Reuters) – A money laundering probe at Commonwealth Bank of Australia is the latest in a slew of scandals denting the reputation of Australian banks as simple, reliable lenders at the forefront in the battle against financial crime.

Grace Mugabe returns to Zimbabwe after assault allegation in South Africa

HARARE,  (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe returned from South Africa early yesterday, state media reported, after a 20-year-old model accused her of assault in an upmarket Johannesburg hotel room.

Ten sailors missing after U.S. warship collides with tanker near Singapore

  SINGAPORE/WASHINGTON,  (Reuters) – Ten sailors are missing after a U.S. warship collided with an oil tanker east of Singapore yesterday, the U.S.

Jerry Lewis, king of low-brow comedy and charity fundraiser, dies at 91

LOS ANGELES, (Reuters) – Jerry Lewis, the high prince of low-brow comedy on stage and in film as well as a fund-raising powerhouse with his annual Labor Day telethon, died on Sunday at the age of 91, his family said.

Boston march against hate speech avoids Charlottesville chaos

BOSTON (Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Boston yesterday to protest a “free speech” rally featuring far-right speakers a week after a woman was killed at a Virginia white-supremacist demonstration.

Your browser is out-of-date!

Update your browser to view this website correctly.

We built stabroeknews.com using new technology. This makes our website faster, more feature rich and easier to use for 95% of our readers.
Unfortunately, your browser does not support some of these technologies. Click the button below and choose a modern browser to receive our intended user experience.

Update my browser now

×