The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our life completely upside down. That’s true both here in Europe and in Latin America. We are staying at home, travelling less and keeping our distance.
At the same time, however, we have to nurture our contacts – and make new ones. In politics, in diplomacy, and also in business.
So I am delighted that this year’s Latin America Day is taking place, despite the pandemic – for the first time in a virtual format.
Europe and Latin America stand side by side in the fight against the pandemic. The virus has hit Latin America and the Caribbean hard. Millions have been infected, over a hundred thousand people have died, and the region’s economy is seeing an unprecedented slump – which is further heightening social tensions.
Because of the pandemic, Germany has doubled its humanitarian assistance for the region. We have also seconded four expert groups to provide advice and to engage in exchange on the ground. And more assistance will follow.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are linked in the fight against the virus. But Latin America and Europe are linked even more by joint projects and shared interests.
Together with our partners in the region, we are committed to a rules-based international order. In the Alliance for Multilateralism, we are working together with countries such as Chile, Costa Rica and Mexico to set cooperation against the law of the strong.
And we are committed to climate change mitigation and environmental protection. In cooperation with the Dominican Republic, we established the issue of climate and security on the UN Security Council’s agenda.
Finally, we are working together to defend democracy, human rights and peace – for instance via the German-Colombian Peace Institute (CAPAZ).
We want to further expand this cooperation. That’s why we at the Federal Foreign Office launched the Latin America and Caribbean Initiative last year. Following an initial conference with 29 states from the region in Berlin last year, we are planning a meeting in Santiago next year.
And before we hand over the Council Presidency at the end of this year, we want to organise a conference of EU Foreign Ministers with the Foreign Ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean – in a pandemic-friendly format.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our political dialogue is, as you will have realised, intensive. But we also want to further strengthen business contacts between Germany, the EU and Latin America. We are focusing here on green technology and the digital transformation.
With regard to the EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement, we need constructive solutions. The deforestation and slash-and-burn farming methods in the Amazon have a grave impact in terms of climate change. That is why it is so important that adherence to the Paris Climate Agreement is explicitly regulated in the EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement. This Agreement must send a signal for rules-based free trade, fair competition and, above all, sustainability. That would benefit people on both sides of the Atlantic.
We also want to sign the modernised EU-Mexico Global Agreement quickly.
Finally, we are looking for ways to connect up with the European Commission’s Green Deal in Latin America – for instance in the field of renewable energy and electric vehicles.
In all of these areas, government can only provide the policy framework for our economic relations; it is committed businesspeople who fill them with life. They weave a dense network of trade, investment and exchange to link our two regions of the world.
The Lateinamerika Verein e. V. – Business Association for Latin America has been committed to building such a network for over a hundred years. For this and for your engagement you have my sincere gratitude.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you a successful – digital – conference. All the best to you!