Speaking at the EU-CELAC summit on Monday, President Alberto Fernández called for fair trade between Latin America, the Caribbean, and the European Union (EU), while once again criticizing Europe’s objections to signing the free trade agreement with Mercosur that has been on stand-by since 2019.
“An association demands that both parties benefit from it. When only one side is benefited, it stops being an agreement and starts looking more like a joke,” said Fernández during his speech at the summit, which brought together representatives from the European Union and the CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States).
The free market deal called Tratado de Libre Comercio (TLC) has been in negotiations between Mercosur and the European Union for the last 20 years. A preliminary agreement was reached in 2019, but has since been left on stand-by.
The main reason for the delay has been that the EU’s claim that Mercosur does not comply with Europe’s environmental requirements, like the 2015 Paris Agreement.
In response to this, Fernández said that the Latin American and Caribbean region must commit to fighting climate change and promote a transition towards a sustainable economy. However, he emphasized that the region is an “ecological creditor.”
“Europe knows we are oxygen providers because of our rainforests, our forests, our bush. Europe and the developed north know that we are ecological creditors, even though we have never been treated that way,” the Argentine president said.
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“Europe and the developed world need to follow through on their commitment to provide the required financial resources to develop clean and sustainable energy,” he added.
Fernández called on Latin America, the Caribbean and the EU to build a relationship based on “trust, dialogue and mutual cooperation” to face the current environmental and economic crisis.
“We can build an economic and commercial axis that doesn’t submit us to the new bipolarity that is upon the world.”
Fernández added the region has suffered a “one crisis after another,” in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic that in Argentina was worsened by the effects of its debt with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). “In these times we are living in, no debt restructuring [process] can leave out the poor, or put the country’s dreams and future on hold.”
During the first day of the summit, the European Union pledged more investment for Latin America and the Caribbean, part of its efforts at revamping its international relationships prompted by Russia’s war in Ukraine and the bloc’s growing wariness of China.
The EU is planning to invest 45 billion euros in Latin America and the Caribbean as part of its Global Gateway scheme, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. This initiative is widely seen as a rival to China’s Belt and Road programme of infrastructure investments.
On Monday, before the start of the EU-CELAC summit, Fernández and von der Leyen signed a memorandum of understanding on energy co-operation that seeks to boost energy trade between Argentina and the European Union.
The memorandum states that both parties will support investment to increase energy trade between Argentina and the EU. They will also develop the hydrogen, renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors, while also working together to ensure that progress in these areas is in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The agreement also envisions developing a plan to use transportation infrastructure to speed up the shipping of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe, a source from the Presidents’ office told news agency Télam.