Cortés Lastra, who is the author of the report on the basis of which the European Parliament Resolution “On defining a new development cooperation policy with Latin America” was adopted in June 2012, shared his impression from his recent visit to Mexico, where he held talks with his counterparts.
The Sociliast and Democrat MEP said that his Mexican colleagues were worried that the EU-US trade deal could have as a result that the EU would become a more important to the US at the expense of Mexico.
“Logically Mexico, which has the US as great business partner and has a little diversified market, watches with some concern what kind of consequence these agreements might have,” he said.
The ideas expressed by Cortés Lastra reflect the state of mind reported in other developing countries, especially in Africa. Both the EU and the US give trade preferences to some African nations, but their benefit schemes differ. Therefore the expected policy harmonisation is raises the question on the negative consequences for some of the countries.
Cortés Lastra also said that the EU needed to put in place a new bilateral agreement, the current one, called Economic Partnership, Political Coordination and Cooperation Agreement, dating to 1997.
Criticism at the Commission
The Spanish MEP blasted the Commission for scaling down its development activities in Latin America.
He said that the European Parliament wanted to send a message that Latin America remains, and will remain important to Europe, but that the Commission was “issuing the opposite message”.
Even though some Latin American countries have progressed economically, “enormous pockets of poverty” remained, and the EU “should not allow itself” to stop its aid, he insisted.
Cortés Lastra named Colombia, Peru and Ecuador as being three countries that could not exit from the EU’s instruments of development. In Colombia, he said, the Commission is developing a project called Peace Laboratories that he said is fundamental to the pursuit of stability.
“We cannot end in abrupt manner cooperation with these countries, we should give them time to grow,” he said.
Looking at more developed Latin American countries, Cortés Lastra advocated a “slow phasing out”. “If we don’t do it, we’ll be making a mistake with a continent looking to Europe, but also to the US and to other parts of the world.”
Leftist rulers ‘not a problem’
Asked if leftist leaders, such as Bolivian President Evo Morales, who recently expelled the US Agency for International Development (USAID), were a problem for Western aid efforts, Cortés Lastra said the democratic choices of the people should be respected. He added that the leftist politicians in power in Latin American countries, far from creating problems, were making remarkable efforts to combat poverty and inequalities.