Latin America conference at the Federal Foreign Office

Latin America conference at the Federal Foreign Office, © AA

08.12.2017 - Article

Multilateralism or the nation state? Institutions that work versus charismatic or authoritarian leaders? Inequality or social cohesion? These and other major questions of our time were discussed at the Latin America conference at the Federal Foreign Office on 7 and 8 December 2017.

The new priorities in US foreign policy and the growing influence of China also have an impact on Latin America. In this context and in the run up to the super election year – in 2018, more than a dozen Latin American countries will hold a general election – the conference provided foreign policy makers with an opportunity to exchange views openly with academics and to make use of their expertise. Under the motto “Latin America in the context of international trends” experts from Latin America, the United States and Europe took part in discussions with German diplomats, with the aim of drawing up concrete conclusions for formulating Germany’s policy on Latin America. The event, which was opened by State Secretary Walter J. Lindner, focused on two countries that are important in German foreign policy for very different reasons: Brazil, the largest and most populous country in Latin America, and Germany’s only strategic partner in the region; and Venezuela, which is in the grip of a severe political, economic and humanitarian crisis whose effects can be felt all over Latin America. 

National crises, international challenges

While Brazil’s economy is slowly recovering, the country’s serious domestic policy crisis continues. Nevertheless, Brazil remains “half of everything” in the region, to quote one participant. For Germany, this means not least that Brazil is its most important business partner in Latin America and a major location for German companies. There are more German companies in the Brazilian metropolis of São Paulo than anywhere else in the world outside Germany. Moreover, Germany and Brazil have traditionally worked closely together on combating climate change and shaping the multilateral order.

In contrast, the situation in Venezuela is shocking. Instead of seeking a way out of the severe economic crisis and humanitarian emergency, the Government is focused on retaining power and is engaging in political confrontation. Moves towards political dialogue with the opposition are marked by profound mistrust. The Venezuelan crisis is also paralysing the work of Latin American countries in international organisations.

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