BRUSSELS, July 17 (Reuters) – More than 50 leaders from the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean are set to hold their first summit on Monday, adding momentum to an EU push for new political and economic allies spurred by the war in Ukraine. China’s suspicions.
At the two-day EU-CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) summit in Brussels, both sides are expected to be keen to build economic partnerships, but delicate discussions about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Europe’s role in the slave trade will complicate matters. Speeches.
Regardless of the outcome, officials said the meeting marked a step toward stronger ties.
Argentina’s undersecretary for Latin American and Caribbean affairs, Gustavo Martínez Bandiani, told a small group of reporters in Brussels that the meeting was the most important issue. “After eight years, we can reconnect.”
The EU has said it wants a joint declaration condemning Russia, but knows this will be difficult to achieve. Most of the CELAC countries were in February at the UN. While supporting the resolution, which called for the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops, Nicaragua voted against and Bolivia, Cuba and El Salvador abstained.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has declared himself a neutral and potential peace broker.
The EU has cut itself off from Russia, which was the bloc’s biggest gas supplier until the outbreak of war in Ukraine in February last year.
It wants to reduce its reliance on China, build alliances with “trusted partners,” open more markets to trade, secure minerals critical to electric vehicles 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 Latin American partners as China’s role in the region has risen, but regular EU-CELAC summits could provide a counter-balance 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.
While the EU is keen on investment, CELAC partners generally prefer the economic benefits of processing and manufacturing lithium batteries or electric vehicles, rather than the small returns of shipping minerals to be processed elsewhere.
The European Union is pushing for a trade deal with Chile, the world’s biggest copper producer and second-biggest lithium producer, and officials have said it could take effect next year.
It is seeking to open trade deals with Mexico in 2018 and with the Mercosur bloc of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay in 2019, although officials have played down expectations of any breakthroughs during the summit.
The EU and Argentina will sign a memorandum of understanding on energy cooperation before the start of the summit.
The EU may also offer plans to invest 10 billion euros ($11.2 billion) in CELAC infrastructure projects as part of its Global Gateway initiative ($1 = 0.8907 euros).
Report by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Barbara Lewis
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