The head of the German government, Olaf Scholz, begins a tour this Saturday that will take him to Argentina, Chile and Brazil, where he will be the first leader of the Western powers to meet with President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva since the latter took power. January 1st.
Accompanied by a delegation of businessmen, Scholz is expected in Buenos Aires on Saturday, where he will meet with Argentine President Alberto Fernández.
The next stop will be Chile, where he will visit with President Gabriel Boric the Museum of Memory and Human Rights, which commemorates the atrocities committed during the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990).
And on Monday he will travel to Brasilia, where he will hold a summit between the largest European economy and the largest in Latin America.
The tour comes at a time when German companies are looking for business opportunities following the turmoil in raw material supplies caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The three countries included in the tour are rich in natural resources and “very interesting partners” for Germany, said a government source in Berlin.
The visit to Brazil will be closely watched, as a test of a reactivation of relations not only bilateral, but also between Mercosur and the European Union (EU), weakened during the administration of the far-right president Jair Bolsonaro (2019-2022).
The last visit by a German head of government to Brazil took place in 2015, when then-chancellor Angela Merkel met Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia.
One of the main topics on the agenda will be the reactivation of the trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay).
That agreement was sealed in 2019 after 20 years of negotiations, but it has not yet been ratified and is the subject of strong criticism in European countries.
The agricultural sectors and the ecological movements of the EU question in particular the origin of products resulting from the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, which Lula has proposed to reverse since his return to power at the beginning of the month.
This week, Lula declared in Uruguay that he considers “urgent” the conclusion of that agreement between blocks.
This urgency of the leader of the Latin American left finds an echo in the industrial sectors of Germany, which see in the continent a promising market in the South American countries, threatened by the growing presence of China.
The powerful German federation of machine tool manufacturers called before Scholz’s departure that the agreement “finally applied after years without getting anywhere.
“Time is short”he insisted.
Environmental protection will be another key issue on the chancellor’s tour, especially in Brazil.
Following Lula’s electoral victory on October 30, Germany said it was willing to resume payments to the Amazon Forest Conservation Fund frozen during Bolsonaro’s presidency.
“The Bolsonaro government promoted a break in Brazilian environmental policy, closed the doors of environmental diplomacy”, Roberto Goulart Menezes, from the Institute of International Relations of the University of Brasilia, told AFP.
“Lula’s government, on the contrary, takes up this agenda and places it among its priorities”, he added.
Pressure for Ukraine
Germany will also take advantage of the occasion to try to get South American countries to lean in favor of Ukraine in the war it is waging against the Russian invasion, according to German government sources.
Argentina, Chile and Brazil have condemned the invasion but have been reluctant to impose sanctions against Moscow.
Lula caused a stir last year when he claimed that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was “as responsible as [el presidente ruso, Vladimir] putinin that conflict.
“We will stress that the contours of peace are relatively straightforward: Russia giving up a territory in which it has nothing to do”, stressed the German government source.
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