As CELAC-EU Summit concludes, leaders look to turn words to actions

27.01.2013 By: Charlotte Karrlsson-Willis at www.santiagotimes.cl

International summit leaves member states with a to-do list ahead of 2015 sequel in Brussels. The CELAC-EU 2013 summit, held in Santiago Chile Jan. 26-27 was a chance for the leaders of Latin America and Europe to address everything from education, climate change, migration, drug trafficking, to international trade and much more. The result was the Santiago Declaration, a document reaffirming bi-regional commitments, and an action plan that established goals in these areas for the next summit in 2015. The summit hosted delegations from 60 EU and Latin American states, including 40 heads of state.

Now that the conference has concluded, the harder work begins. “We have the Santiago Declaration, we have the action plan, but now is the time to act. To transform good intentions into good results,” Chilean President Sebastían Piñera said.

Free Trade

The conference emphasized the need to prevent individualistic mentalities and policies that would limit the future of international trade and investment between countries and regions. Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, included this as a continuing goal for CELAC-EU.

Latin America is a key trading partner for the EU and visa-versa and the same is true for foreign direct investment,” Van Rompuy said. He added that there needs to be more free trade and both the EU and Latin America need to avoid protectionism. President Piñera added to this, noting the Santiago Declaration’s emphasis on free trade and greater legal certainty. "Protectionism and arbitrariness are precisely the obstacles we have to overcome in order to create this new strategic alliance between Europe and Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.

The plans of CELAC-UE build on a growing number of trade agreements within Latin America and bilateral agreements between Latin American states and Europe. Chile signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU in 2003, and Peru and Colombia followed suit, closing negotiations for an FTA with the EU in 2012. The EU has also extended an “Executive Plan” with Mexico and adopted the Caribbean-EU Joint Strategic Partnership to support investments in the Caribbean.

Chile signed a free trade agreement (FTA) with the EU in 2003, and Peru and Colombia followed suit, closing negotiations for an FTA with the EU in 2010. The EU has also extended an “Executive Plan” with Mexico and adopted the Caribbean-EU Joint Strategic Partnership to support investments in the Caribbean.

The bi-regional relationship is not completely rosy, however. The EU is currently tangled in a dispute with Argentina at the WTO over allegedly protectionist policies and has long complained of the trade barriers encountered in the Mercosur trade bloc, which encompasses Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela.

Action Plan

The action plan formalized during the summit calls for the implementation of new joint programs and cooperation agreements, such as the “EU-LAC Joint Initiative for Research and Innovation” designed to promote scientific and technological cooperation by combining tools and knowledge at a national, regional and bi-regional levels.

The action plan calls for the implementation of new joint programs and cooperation agreements, such as the “EU-LAC Joint Initiative for Research and Innovation” designed to promote scientific and technological cooperation by combining tools and knowledge at a national, regional and bi-regional levels. The plan also calls for the better understanding of certain issues in order to work towards future agreements. Under the migration topic, the action plan calls for member states “to build a stronger evidence base for EU-LAC migration, in order to better understand its realities.”

EU-Latin American ties

In addition to the formal agreements and strategic goals, the summit leaders explained that this conference is also an important way to further strengthen the relationships between the EU and Latin American nations, bringing the two continents closer together.

“We reaffirmed the values that we share. Our societies are based on peace, democracy, social justice, human rights and the rule of law and we are committed to upholding these,” Rompuy said. “What we did here in Santiago was an important step in bringing Latin American and EU countries much closer together."

As the CELAC-EU Summit concluded, its leaders reiterated that much of the work lies ahead. “In the coming years a lot of work will be done in translating our words into active results,” Van Rompuy said."We have a huge responsibility,” Piñera added. “But at the same time a wonderful opportunity.”