BRUSSELS, July 17 (Reuters) – More than 50 leaders from the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean will hold their first summit in eight years on Monday, adding impetus to the European Union’s efforts for new political and economic allies spurred on by the Ukraine war and Ukraine. China suspect.
At the two-day EU-CELAC summit in Brussels, both sides are expected to be keen for economic partnerships, but delicate discussions about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Europe’s role in the slave trade may complicate the talks.
Whatever the outcome, officials said the meeting itself marked a step toward stronger ties.
“The most important issue in the meeting is the meeting itself,” Argentina’s undersecretary of foreign affairs for Latin America and the Caribbean, Gustavo Martinez Pandiani, told a small group of reporters in Brussels. “After eight years, we are finally able to reconnect.”
The EU has said it wants a joint declaration condemning Russia, but knows it will be difficult to achieve. While most countries in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States supported a United Nations resolution in February calling for the immediate withdrawal of Russian forces, Nicaragua voted against it and Bolivia, Cuba and El Salvador abstained.
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva presented himself as a potential neutral peace broker.
And the European Union cut itself off from Russia, which until the outbreak of the Ukraine war in February last year was the largest supplier of gas to the European Union.
It also wants to reduce its dependence on China and build alliances with “reliable partners” to open more markets to trade, secure minerals essential for electric cars and a broader transition to a low-carbon economy, a supply chain dominated by China.
The EU has acknowledged that it has sometimes neglected its partners in Latin America as China grows in the region, but regular summits between the EU and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States can provide a counterbalance to Beijing.
All 60 leaders have been invited to the Brussels talks, but the presidents of El Salvador, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela are among those not expected to travel.
Although they are keen to invest in the EU, CELAC’s partners generally want the economic benefits of processing and producing lithium batteries or electric vehicles, rather than lower returns from charge metals to be processed elsewhere.
The European Union is pushing ahead with a trade agreement with Chile, the world’s largest copper producer and second-largest producer of lithium, and officials have said the agreement could go into effect next year.
It is also seeking to open the trade deals it struck with Mexico in 2018 and with the Mercosur bloc made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay in 2019, although officials played down expectations of breakthroughs during the summit.
The European Union and Argentina will sign a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the field of energy before the start of the summit.
The EU may also provide details about plans to invest 10 billion euros ($11.2 billion) in infrastructure projects for the Latin American and Caribbean Community, as part of the Global Gateway initiative ($1 = 0.8907 euros).
(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop) Editing by Barbara Lewis
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