Rajoy kicks off tour in Peru ahead of EU-Latin summit

Spain hopes to use Pacific Alliance bridge to reach Asian markets

An image given out by the Peruvian Defense Ministry of ot Mariano Rajoy's arrival in Lima.
An image given out by the Peruvian Defense Ministry of ot Mariano Rajoy's arrival in Lima.EFE

European and Latin American leaders will hold talks on Saturday aimed at broadening cooperation to promote sustainable development opportunities during their seventh joint summit to be held in Santiago, Chile.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy got a jump start by traveling to Peru on Wednesday to discuss new junctures for Spanish businesses in the Andean nation, as well as with the so-called Pacific Alliance trade group. Rajoy - on his third visit to Latin America since taking office -- was scheduled to meet with President Ollanta Humala before moving on to Chile to meet with President Sebastián Piñera ahead of the two-day summit of the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

According to Spanish government sources, Rajoy wanted to complete his private visits with the rest of the nations that make up the Pacific Alliance. He has already met with the leaders of Mexico and Colombia, nations that make up the bloc created in June 2012. The alliance was built on the premise to promote joint investment opportunities with Asia. Spain, which was given observer status in the group, considers that it can take advantage of this opportunity to find a bridge for Spanish investments, government sources said.

At the same time, Rajoy will also try to pave the way for more Spanish investments in Peru. Accounting for 20.25 percent of Peru's total foreign investment, Spain is the biggest investor in the Andean nation. Spanish exports to Peru increased by 35 percent in 2011, reaching 414 million euros compared to 306 million the year before. Peruvian imports also increased by 27 percent between 2010 and 2011. Between January and May last year, Spanish exports also jumped by 27 percent compared to the same period in 2011.

Catherine Ashton, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs and security, met with Humala on Tuesday to discuss a range of issues before heading to Chile for the summit. "We salute the important progress that Peru has made on social inclusion," she said in a statement. "We are keen to continue joint efforts to fight illegal drug production and to support alternative development."

There are no immediate plans for him to hold talks with Fernández de Kirchner and Morales

At the summit, Latin, Caribbean and European leaders are expected to discuss a range of topics, including trade and investment, legal security, sustainable development and corporate responsibility, according to a European Commission news release.

"Leaders will work together on a summit declaration that will cover the international arena, progress in the bi-regional partnership process and the promotion of investments of economic, social and environmental quality," the EC said.

Along with the continent's political leaders, representatives from about 40 European firms and industry associations will also be at the summit to meet with their regional counterparts.

While Rajoy will meet with other Latin American leaders privately, there are no immediate plans for him to hold talks with Argentinean President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Bolivian President Evo Morales -- two regional leaders who have been at odds with Spain over their nationalizations of oil and electrical power companies that had Spanish holdings. Nevertheless, a declaration is expected to be drafted at the summit calling for greater legal protection for foreign companies operating in the region, newswire Efe reported.

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