610 words - January 29, 2013 | © DiploNews, all rights reserved.
The 1st EU (European Union)-CELAC Summit (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) took place in the capital of Chile, Santiago de Chile on January 26-27 under the theme Alliance for Sustainable Development: Promoting Investments of Social and Environmental Quality. "Since 1999, we have deepened our "strategic partnership" through the process of summits between the European Union and Latin America and the Caribbean," President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy said in remarks at the opening of the Summit. Now, "the European Union is already the main investor in the region (and) on many global issues, our cooperation is already deeply enshrined," Mr Van Rompuy added.
Since the LAC side has indicated that from now on CELAC will be the EU's counterpart for the bi-regional partnership process, including at summit level, thus this first Summit was notable for bringing CELAC for the first time to the table within the framework of the 7th EU-Latin American Countries (LAC) Summit. Indeed, the CELAC was formally established at a regional summit in December 2011 and became the new framework for political coordination among the 33 LAC countries. In all it represents "roughly one third of the UN membership of the General Assembly, more than a billion citizens and around one-third of the global economic output," explained Mr Van Rompuy.
The CELAC countries have collectively enjoyed strong economic growth. Over the past 3 years, their average GDP growth reached 4.5% at regional level. With total stocks Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) amounting to EUR 385 billion in 2010, the EU represents 43% of the region's total FDI - higher than EU FDI in Russia, China and India combined. Trade in goods between the EU and Latin America more than doubled over the last decade - up to EUR 214 billion and 6.5% of total EU trade. Over the past decade, the EU has also helped to reduce poverty and social inequality by providing over EUR 3 billion in development assistance to the region under both the Development Cooperation Instrument for Latin America (EUR 2.7 billion from 2007-13) and the European Development Fund (EUR 900 million from 2007-13).
Taking trade as a driver for growth, the EU accordingly led a very active policy of strengthened trade and investment relationships with the CELAC region in the last years. It recently concluded a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Colombia and Peru, signed an Association Agreement (AA) with Central America, as well as the Economic Partnership Agreement with the Caribbean countries. Currently, it is negotiating with the Mercado Común del Sur (MERCOSUR) an AA that includes a FTA. Indicative of the importance the EU confers on the CELAC region, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the Commission Catherine Ashton, European Commission Vice-President responsible for Industry and Entrepreneurship Antonio Tajani and Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht also participated in the Summit.
Bringing together the economic, social and environmental dimensions of the bi-regional partnership, the Summit gave new impetus to cooperation and the building of common positions on global issues and shared challenges, an EU communiqué read. The Summit was an opportunity to show that the EU is not only the leading foreign investor in Latin America and the Caribbean, but also a committed partner in promoting sustainable development, President Barroso said. Lastly, the participants agreed a Joint Declaration - the Santiago Declaration - and issued Action Plan 2013-2015 that "identifies instruments and activities which, if properly implemented should lead to concrete results guaranteeing ownership and capacity building in (eight) key areas."
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