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ELAF 2024, Sta­gna­ti­on instead of pro­gress?

4th European Latin American Forum: Focus on Economic Relations

The fourth edition of the European Latin American Forum focused on economic relations between Europe and Latin America. This established event, organized by the University of Applied Sciences of Eastern Switzerland, attracted a steadily growing and loyal audience and featured high-profile speakers discussing various topics in Latin American-European economic relations.

Panel on Free Trade Agreements

The first panel discussion addressed free trade between Latin America and Europe. Three experts closely involved in the EFTA-Mercosur negotiations explained Switzerland's trade policy, emphasizing the importance of trade for the Swiss economy. They discussed the challenges of the multilateral system and the benefits of bilateral free trade agreements. The recent EFTA-Mercosur negotiations, delayed due to political changes in Argentina and Brazil as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, were highlighted.

Perspectives from Uruguay and the EU

Another presentation provided historical context on Mercosur and examined the suspension of negotiations between the EU and Mercosur. Differences between the EFTA and EU agreements with Mercosur and the political dynamics in finalizing them were analyzed. The timeline and involvement of NGOs in the negotiations were also discussed.

Access to Critical Resources

One talk focused on the growing global demand for critical metals like lithium, needed for the energy transition. An overview of lithium supply and demand trends was provided, noting the current dominance of Chinese companies and the potential of Argentina to produce lithium more sustainably. A German start-up investing in projects to produce critical metals in countries like Argentina was introduced, aiming to diversify Europe's supply.

Demand for Raw Materials and Latin America's Position

Global demand for metals, battery metals, rare earths, and other raw materials has exponentially increased due to the transition to clean energy. Latin America leads 40% of global copper production, with Chile, Peru, and Mexico at the forefront. Additionally, 35% of global lithium production comes from Latin America, led by Chile and Argentina.

EU's Strategic Priorities and Latin America's Role

The EU aimed to achieve a secure and sustainable supply of critical raw materials for European industry by diversifying supply chains and building strategic partnerships with reliable partners like Latin America. Existing partnerships between the EU and Argentina and Chile aimed to integrate raw material value chains and identify new cooperation projects.

Challenges and Ideas for Improvement

Companies supported sustainability initiatives, but meeting all legal requirements posed a significant burden, especially for small and medium enterprises. Suggestions for improvement included rewarding companies for meeting standards rather than punishing them, educating consumers on real costs, and using EU funds to provide more training and support.

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