The EU and the South American confederation Mercosur have been negotiating a free trade agreement for more than 20 years. Nothing is happening at the moment. Chancellor Scholz wants to change that on his trip to Latin America.
Germany and Argentina are campaigning for a speedy conclusion to the negotiations on one of the largest free trade agreements in the world. The talks between the EU and the South American confederation Mercosur, which have been going on for more than 20 years, have lasted long enough, said Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) on Saturday evening after a meeting with Argentine President Alberto Ángel Fernández in Buenos Aires. “That’s why it’s important that everyone now contributes with a constructive spirit so that we can join hands and find a way to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion soon.”
Fernández stressed that he was in agreement with Brazil’s new President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva: “We want to push this agreement and get it going. That would benefit Latin America and especially Mercosur, it would benefit Europe, and it would also strengthen multilateralism.” Scholz has been visiting Latin America for the first time since taking over the chancellorship over the weekend. Further stations after Argentina are Chile and Brazil. He will be accompanied by a business delegation.
The EU has been negotiating an agreement with Mercosur – which includes Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay – since 1999. A breakthrough was achieved in 2019. But there are still problems, especially when it comes to protecting the rainforest in the Amazon region, most of which has already been cut down for cattle breeding and agricultural use. The agreement would create a market of more than 700 million people, covering almost 20 percent of the global economy and 31 percent of global goods exports.
On Monday, Scholz will also speak to Lula about the agreement in Brasilia. The left-wing president has only been back in office for four weeks. Predecessor Jair Bolsonaro, also known as the “Donald Trump of the tropics”, was instrumental in causing the negotiations to stall.
During the visit to Argentina, two agreements for the promotion of start-up companies and cooperation in the field of energy were also signed. The latter is primarily about green hydrogen, but Scholz also expressed an interest in Argentine liquefied gas. Fernández said Argentina wants to “become a safe gas producer in the world” and expand its production capacity. Argentina has one of the largest shale gas deposits in the world. But funding with the fracking technique is controversial. In addition, there is a lack of infrastructure for distribution.
Fernandez also announced Argentina’s entry into the Scholz-initiated climate club of states with particularly ambitious goals in the fight against global warming. His country is “absolutely ready” to accompany this initiative.
The Ukraine war did not let go of Scholz, even more than 12,000 kilometers away. Fernández made it clear that there was agreement that peace must be reached as soon as possible. At the same time, he made it clear: “Argentina and Latin America are not considering sending arms to Ukraine or any other country in a conflict.” According to media reports, the United States is asking several Latin American countries to hand over Soviet-designed weapons to Ukraine.
In March last year, Argentina was one of 141 countries condemning Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine at the UN General Assembly. Of the Latin American and Caribbean countries, only Bolivia, El Salvador and Cuba abstained.
Scholz wanted to continue to Chile on Sunday afternoon, on Monday he is going to Brazil. The Chancellor is visiting Latin America much earlier than the CDU’s predecessor, Angela Merkel, who showed up on the continent after two and a half years. The SPD politician has resolved to broaden Germany’s international relations as part of what he has described as a “turning point” in order to avoid new dependencies on individual countries such as Russia and its gas once had. That’s why he’s been to Asia three times and has already completed a long trip to Africa.