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International Last Updated: Jul 22, 2022 - 11:44:55 AM

Power Shifts in Latin America
By German Foreign Polcicy 20/7/22
Jul 21, 2022 - 10:56:05 AM

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Germany and the EU risk loss of influence in Latin America. US reputation already in eclipse. Experts speak of a post-American Latin America.

Germany and the EU are at risk of losing even more influence, according to economic data and a recent analysis published by the Berlin-based German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). “Despite its long presence in the region,” the EU is already “losing ground in terms of trade and investments,” the SWP writes. There has been a considerable shift of power in Latin America itself. Whereas the reputation of the United States has been in eclipse over the past few years and decades because of its indifference toward large parts of the region, China’s influence has skyrocketed, US experts explain. This enables various Latin American countries to pursue a more independent foreign policy. Argentina, for example, has just recently reiterated that it seeks to join the BRICS alliance, which, in turn, aims to facilitate the progress of emerging countries – even against the resistance of western powers. The shifts of power became evident in the dispute over the recent Summit of the Americas.

Instrument of US Foreign Policy

The 9th Summit of the Americas, held in Los Angeles from June 6 to 10, serves as the point of reference for the analysis by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). Every three or four years, the heads of states and governments of all members of the Organization of American States (OAS) meet at the Summit of the Americas. The summits – the first was held back in 1994 – originally aimed at intensifying continental cooperation. The initial focus was on a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), but the negotiations failed and it was shelved in 2005. Experts point out that, from the very beginning, the Summits of the Americas have been marked by the “profound economic and geographic inequalities. It has thus been a “challenge,” to “identify common interests and forge a consensus.”[1] SWP confirms that there has always been a “great asymmetry between Washington and the other participants.” The summits have, in essence, “developed as an instrument of US foreign policy.”[2]

Exclusion and Boycott

The 9th Summit of the Americas is considered to have been largely inconclusive. Agreements were reached primarily to fend off refugees, trying to reach the United States from or via Central America, fleeing rampant violence or abject misery in their home countries. The United States was also promoting the Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity, a sort of economic coordination, which, so far, has been nothing more than a discussion proposal, and was mainly intended to serve as bait. Its impact has therefore been minimal. US President Biden’s refusal to invite the heads of states of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua made waves and several other heads of states, including Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador cancelled their participation in protest. Mexico is one the largest and most influential countries in Latin America. In the end, the White House had to announce that out of the 35 countries in the Americas and the Caribbean, only 23 were represented in Los Angeles by their heads of states and governments. The Biden administration’s approach has also been strongly criticized by the participants of the Summit of the Americas.

The Post-American Latin America

Regarding the disputes and the inconclusiveness of the summit, experts point to two aspects. On the one hand, as the US journal Foreign Affairs recently wrote, “the United States’ reputation” across the hemisphere has been in eclipse for more than two decades, “largely because of the enormous gap between Washington’s claim to meaningful leadership and its simultaneous indifference toward the region.”[3] In addition China’s influence has significantly increased. By 2021, trade between the People’s Republic of China and Latin America totaled US $450 billion, and is predicted to exceed US $700 billion by 2035.[4] China is currently South America’s top trading partner and the second-largest for Latin America as a whole, after the United States. Washington will “have to learn,” according to the expert Fundação Getulio Vargas in Rio de Janeiro, “to work with a region that is less dependent on it now than at any point in recent decades.”[5] Foreign Affairs recently coined the label, a “Post-American Latin America.”

Active Non-Alignment

Parallel to Asia’s emergence, Latin America, as a whole, had to suffer a certain “loss of influence” as SWP recently wrote.[6] However, “in face of the growing geopolitical competition” between the USA, the EU, China and Russia, it now has the opportunity to pursue “a selective policy of diversified foreign relations. “The geopolitical restructuring of international politics” is thus “perceived by many Latin American countries as an opportunity to gain a new strategic importance that will help overcome the region’s structural weakness on the global stage.” The individual countries are more or less searching for their “own path between Atlantic integration and Silk Road connectivity.” There is talk of “active non-alignment.” In fact, Argentina’s aspiration to more autonomy, for example, explains its desire to join the BRICS alliance (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). “Three of the four main commercial partners of our country are members of BRICS,” Argentina’s Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero underlined just two weeks ago.[7]

Europe is Losing Ground

In the current situation, the EU must also strive to avoid losing more influence in Latin America, SWP warns. “Despite their long presence in the region,” the EU countries have already been “losing ground in terms of trade and investments.”[8] Brazil, Germany’s most important trading partner in South America, is one example. With a share of 9.4 percent, Germany had been the country’s third most important supplier in 2002. Its share has since fallen to 5.8 percent. China has skyrocketed from one of the lowest ranks to the top with a supply share of 22.1 percent. SWP warns that if Germany and the EU do not take steps to boost their Latin America business, they risk falling further behind. The fact that European countries have increased their efforts to obtain Latin American raw materials since the beginning of the Ukraine war, is not very helpful. “European expectations show no consistent pattern in Central and South America,” when they “increase their demand for coal imports from the region, while, at the same time, demanding progress in the region’s decarbonization,” SWP writes. This would require more sensitivity.

[1] Oliver Stuenkel: A Fragmented Western Hemisphere, Declining U.S. Influence. cfr.org 10.06.2022.

[2] Günther Maihold: Amerika-Gipfel mit hemisphärischen Divergenzen. Warum Lateinamerika auf Unabhängigkeit setzt und was das für Europa bedeutet. SWP-Aktuell 2022/A 42. Berlin, 07.07.2022.

[3] Michael Shifter, Bruno Binetti: A Policy for a Post-American Latin America. foreignaffairs.com 03.06.2022.

[4] Diana Roy: China’s Growing Influence in Latin America. cfr.org 12.04.2022.

[5] Oliver Stuenkel: A Fragmented Western Hemisphere, Declining U.S. Influence. cfr.org 10.06.2022.

[6] Günther Maihold: Amerika-Gipfel mit hemisphärischen Divergenzen. Warum Lateinamerika auf Unabhängigkeit setzt und was das für Europa bedeutet. SWP-Aktuell 2022/A 42. Berlin, 07.07.2022.

[7] China once again backs Argentina joining BRICS. en.mercopress.com 07.07.2022.

[8] Günther Maihold: Amerika-Gipfel mit hemisphärischen Divergenzen. Warum Lateinamerika auf Unabhängigkeit setzt und was das für Europa bedeutet. SWP-Aktuell 2022/A 42. Berlin, 07.07.2022.

Source:Ocnus.net 2022

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