Press Releases Opening speech by President von der Leyen at the EU-LAC 2023 Business Round Table

Opening speech by President von der Leyen at the EU-LAC 2023 Business Round Table

President Lula,

Prime Minister Sánchez,

President Goldfajn,

President Díaz-Granados,

It is such a great pleasure to welcome all of you here in Brussels. Today’s Summit marks a new beginning for an old friendship. But it is also a new beginning that builds on decades of a good friendship. Our two continents are brought together by a shared culture, a shared belief in the UN Charter, but also by the vital role that business plays. Think of digital start-ups from Latin America that are expanding here in Europe, in fields spanning from AI to farming. European investments are creating good jobs in Latin America. Latin American companies produce radioisotopes which are used for cancer treatments in European hospitals. We have investments of the European Union in Latin America in sectors ranging from finance to automotive, from chemicals to clean energy. Businesses are the lifeblood of our partnership. And they build the bridges that link our two continents.

These connections have driven up for years trade and investment flows between our continents but also technology transfer and technical cooperation, and a new people-to-people agenda. But there is so much untapped potential, we can do so much more. And this is why I am so pleased that the two days of our Summit begin with this Business Round Table.

Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe need each other more than ever before. The world we live in is more competitive, more conflictual than ever before. Still reeling from the heavy toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is taking a hard impact from the Russian aggression against Ukraine. And this happens against the backdrop of China’s growing assertiveness abroad. So what does it mean for our two continents, and especially for our businesses? It means that we need to make our economies more resilient to external shocks and that we have to fight inequalities and poverty in our societies. It means that we need partners we can trust. We want to engage with investors and trade with countries who share common principles and common values, and who prove reliable in the short term but also in the long term.

Europe aspires to be the partner of choice to Latin America and the Caribbean, just like we choose to be a partner to the region. We believe that Europe’s offer to the region is different and significant. We have the mutual interest in seeing Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe unleash the full potential. We share the common interest in seeing both our industries grow, local value chains develop, and more and more people rise into the middle class. We do not just want to trade together, but we want to thrive together.

For all these reasons, we have decided to step up our cooperation. Today I am glad to launch our investment agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean. We call it Global Gateway. Under the banner of Global Gateway, we propose to bring over EUR 45 billion of high-quality European investment to Latin America and the Caribbean. Over 135 projects are already in the pipeline, from clean hydrogen to critical raw materials, from expanding the high-performance data cable network to even producing the most advanced mRNA vaccines. But only together can we agree on sectors and value chains to prioritise, and on how we can best boost these investments with skills, with standards and with technical support. So, let us use this Summit to shape the investment agenda to the benefit of both sides of the Atlantic, on our continents.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Global Gateway has not only the size to make a difference, but it lays out a new approach of how we want to invest in big infrastructure projects. European investments will come with a strong focus on creating local value chains. We think it is so important that the added value stays locally. Together, we can build supply chains that are resilient. And important is that this added value stays in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is also in our interest. Let me give you two examples that show why we have a common interest and shared ideas. The first example is clean hydrogen. Latin America and the Caribbean have the potential to become a global powerhouse for renewable energy. You have all the resources in abundance. Your wind and solar sectors are growing exponentially, also thanks to European investment. The natural next step now is to turn clean energy into clean hydrogen. On the one hand, clean hydrogen can be easily exported to other continents. On the other hand, and crucially, clean hydrogen can also fuel new industries on your continent. Just imagine clean steel and concrete, clean fertilisers, clean trains and buses – all of them made in Latin America and the Caribbean. Your region has the potential to be a global leader in the clean industry of tomorrow.

A second example is critical raw materials. If we want to be successful in the green and digital technologies, our industries need access to critical raw materials. And here too, Europe wants to be your partner of choice. Unlike other foreign investors, we are not only interested in investing in the pure extraction of raw materials. We want to partner with you to build local capacity for processing, for making batteries and for the final products like electric vehicles. Besides investment, we can contribute world-class technology, and high-quality training for local workers. This is precisely the kind of investment for which we created Global Gateway.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Europe wants to launch a new partnership with the region. And this is why today’s Summit is so important. For the first time in eight years, the leaders of our two continents are coming together. We are coming together to discuss, among other things, a shared investment agenda for Latin America and the Caribbean. We now need to hear from you during this Business Round Table about the sectors you want to focus on and the bottlenecks we need to address together. Not everything is easy, there will be hiccups and a bumpy road. But the investment is there, the political will is there. And people expect us to deliver. So we want to invest right where you need it the most. And as I said at the beginning, it is a new beginning for old friends for which we need to join forces.

I wish you all a very good Business Round Table.

Thank you for coming to Brussels, it is good to have you here.

Many thanks.

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