Germany’s contributions to the strategic partnership with Mercosur

Posted in Latin America | 13-Aug-07 | Author: Christian Rieck

Christian Rieck is WSN Editor Latin America.

At the first EU-Latin America Summit in Rio de Janeiro on June 28, 1999, a “strategic partnership” was established under shared German-Brazilian auspices. Apart from the political dialogue, it included a series of economic, social and cultural programs. This partnership was renewed under the Austrian presidency at the fourth summit in Vienna on May 11-13, 2006. Such a partnership would be “strategic” only if, beyond the short attention spans of politics and the media, it was dedicated to the long-term task of enabling a emerging, stable and peaceful region to become a (new) partner with which the West could confront future challenges on the world stage – there, scarce resources would not evaporate in the heat of conflict in that region, but rather be free, together with those of the West, to be utilized to export stability to other parts of the world. Investments in this kind of partnership would therefore yield a higher “return”, in that sense they would be “efficient”.

From a German perspective, any “strategic partnership” has to serve Germany’s interests. On first sight, in Latin America these are purely economic: A trading nation such as Germany should always be interested in a diversification of its market presence and internationalization of its supply chains into emerging regions. But trade can only grow in a context of security and stability, where problems in their periphery impact on the attractive emerging economies themselves. This is especially true for the potential instabilities in the Andes region. The Mercosur economies have a strong interest in a stable periphery and are watching the disintegration in the Andes with great concern.

For Germany and the EU, an expanded Mercosur that, through its associations, presents itself today as a continental union is indeed an ever more attractive partner. There, because it is not the only but the main pivotal player in the region, Brazil plays an eminent role. It works towards a deepened continental free trade area, not just as an arena for its own leadership ambitions in the region, but mainly as a tool to strengthen prosperity and democracy in the neighbourhood – and thus protecting its own hard-won prosperity. In Latin America neighbours have more political capital and enjoy more trust than external powers – including the United States, explaining why they act so multilaterally in the region.

By intelligently associating the Southern Cone in the fields of economic and security policy, Germany, through and together with the EU, can bind it to herself as well as to the West – and also build on a great “European bonus” ascribed to her in the region. Germany can and should take concrete measures within the framework of the “strategic partnership”:

  • Germany and the EU have to acknowledge Brazil’s new role in the region and reward it by making use of their instruments of development cooperation, rule of law support, university cooperation, economic policy and technology transfer as well as military cooperation.
  • Economically, Mercosur can be associated with the EU through the planned free trade agreement that should finally be concluded. Furthermore, a “security partnership” with these countries could bring them into a closer orbit of NATO and also hasten the security integration among themselves.
  • A strengthened cooperation in the security field is not altruism, though. It is supposed to bind together the regional middle powers and enable them to stabilize their own periphery economically and militarily. This is how today’s NATO partners can avoid potential future stabilization costs in the region, while at the same time freeing Latin American potentials for exporting stability to other world regions.

Economic development and security are therefore interdependent – and even though all conflicts in the region are of a national or subregional nature and only have a narrow regional agenda and no global ambitions, Germany does indeed have an enlightened self-interest in further proliferation of democracy and the rule of law in the whole region. She should rediscover her opinion leadership and potential for action with regard to Latin America – both nationally as well as supranationally, embedded in and amplified by the European Union. After all, the region’s economic weight and security importance are continuing to rise.