Preparation for the EU-Latin America Summit
Delivered in Plenary - 15th May 2002
One of my ancestors was a ships captain sailing between Scotland and Valparaiso, Chile and indeed drowned sadly on one of these hazardous journeys, so Trade with Latin America is long established between my country and this continent.
It therefore gave me great pleasure to attend the EU/Latin American Parliament Conference in that same city last April, and I am hopeful that Chile will shortly become the most recent signatory to a wide ranging Co-operation Agreement with the EU, like Mexico did following the first summit meeting in Rio in 1999, and whose President Fox visits this Parliament today.
Currently Latin America has been very much in the news ranging from President Carter's reconciliation visit this week to the sole remaining Communist dictatorship in Cuba, the farcical short-lived coup in Venezuela against the maverick President Chavez and the sad economic meltdown in once prosperous Argentina due to economic mismanagement and overindebtedness, as well as the ongoing tragedy of Colombia racked by guerilla war, political assassinations and illegal drug trafficking.
Nevertheless in spite of these problems I retain a degree of optimism that eventually Latin America will realise that to reach western style prosperity and security they will have to put aside their petty divisions, which are small compared to the language and cultural differences we see between EU member states and unite in developing strong and stable functioning market economies based on the rule of law, good governance, democracy and human rights.
Initially the EU will have to negotiate bilateral treaties but I am convinced that in the longer run a Latin American Free Trade area drawing on the lessons of the Mercosur and Andean Pact countries experience will emerge over the next decade. This will itself be subsumed into the Free Trade Area of the Americas as agreed by the USA and the Latin American Heads of State and Government in Quebec last year which also established embryonic clauses on human rights and democracy signed up to by everybody except shamefully Venezuela.
I therefore welcome the second summit of Heads of State and Government of Latin America, the Caribbean and the EU in Madrid on the 17th May and wish it well in its challenging project of bringing about much closer co-operation between these two great regions of the world.