During the past two decades, EU-Latin America relations have been shaped at biregional, sub-regional and country levels, with regular summits of the Heads of State or Government of the two regions as the main driver. Since 1999, the high-level political dialogue on topics of common interest pursued in the framework of the biregional strategic partnership has brought about a broad range of thematic dialogues and sectoral cooperation programmes. It has also spurred negotiations on association agreements involving political dialogue, trade and cooperation between the EU on one side and Latin American sub-regional organisations and individual countries on the other. More recently, a parliamentary dimension and a civil society component have been added to this format.
Despite these positive developments, EU-Latin America relations are facing major challenges. As a result of the global economic and financial crisis, China’s emergence as a new actor in Latin America, and the attractiveness of the dynamic Asia-Pacific region, both partners have shown more interest in forging trade and investment relations with this region than with each other. Although EU trade with Latin America has increased over time in terms of value, the EU has lost ground in terms of market share. The EU has however remained the region’s major investor.
There are deep political and ideological divisions and major economic asymmetries within the EU’s traditional Latin American sub-regional counterparts as well as disagreement with the EU’s position on key market-access issues. These have so far prevented the envisaged “network of association agreements”, which has been instrumental in the EU regional integration strategy for Latin America, from materialising in full.