A ceremony was held at the Federal Foreign Office on Wednesday (6 July) to celebrate the centenary of the Lateinamerika Verein e. V. - Business Association for Latin America. The Lateinamerika Verein helps companies throughout Germany with their business activities in Latin America and the Caribbean. In his address, Foreign Minister Steinmeier described the association as “a strong and broad bridge to a continent which for us Germans is very far away”.
Founded in difficult times
1916 – the year in which the Lateinamerika Verein was founded – was not an easy time for entrepreneurs with a global outlook. Following several decades during which telegraphy and modern modes of transport had made the world more interconnected, the First World War destroyed many of the still new links. The founders of the association, Hanseatic businessmen from Hamburg and Bremen, were determined to try and stem this disastrous development. One hundred years later, it is clear that the association did the right thing. It is partly thanks to the efforts of the Lateinamerika Verein that there is vibrant and high-volume economic exchange between Germany and Latin America today and that German companies have established key production sites, for example in Mexico, Brazil or Argentina.
Valuable partner for the German Government
Several hundred guests came to the Weltsaal at the Federal Foreign Office to celebrate this landmark anniversary. They included Alicia Bárcena Ibarra, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL/ECLAC) and, of course, Bodo Liesenfeld, the Chairman of the Board of the Lateinamerika Verein. As host, Foreign Minister Steinmeier opened the ceremony with a speech in which he stated that the Lateinamerika Verein is “a valuable partner for the German Government and is held in high esteem”. He also spoke of current German-Latin American relations in his speech:
Latin America and the Caribbean have undergone various forms of transformation in recent years and decades. They have grown in both economic and political clout, a fact reflected in the new assurance they demonstrate in the international arena. In some Latin American countries, new political movements and balances of power are leading political action in a new direction. Since Germany is keen to put the traditionally close ties and shared interests we have with Latin America onto a secure footing for the future, we have stepped up our engagement in Latin America and, I hope, are seen as a reliable long-term partner.
Progress in the EU-Mercosur negotiations
As concrete examples of the intensified cooperation, Steinmeier named the strategic partnership with Brazil, as well as support for the reform process in Cuba and for Colombia’s endeavours to end the bloody conflict with the FARC guerillas. He stated that progress had also finally been made in the negotiations on an EU-Mercosur free trade agreement: “We are delighted we are finally getting to exchange market access offers”, said Steinmeier.
Steinmeier concluded his speech by saying, “For us, the Lateinamerika Verein is and remains an indispensable pillar of our relations with Latin America”. He wished the association another successful century.