The eighth Latin American summit was held in Oporto, Portugal, in October with some interesting results. At this summit it became clear that the Europeans, led by the Spanish, are to increase their presence in Latin America, most of which was formerly Spanish colonial territory.
The door is opening for Europe in the region because the United States has suspended further development of an Inter-American free trade zone due to congressional opposition.
Spain initiated this forum, making it the "bridge country" between Europe and Latin America. European trade is growing in the region, spurred by an interest in one of the world's most attractive emerging markets. Trade among the eight largest Latin American economies and their top five European trading partners reached a total of 61 billion U.S. dollars last year, according to IMF data. Germany is Latin America's undisputed top trading partner, followed by Italy, France, Spain and the United Kingdom, in that order.
"If the United States cannot advance the hemispheric integration process, Europe would be able to arrive to occupy new spaces," said Miguel Rodgriguez, the president of Costa Rica. Interestingly, Latin America's leaders will meet with the leaders of the European Union in their first summit in June of 1999. The meeting will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. An alliance is expected to be proposed between both parties with political and economic ties. (La Nacion (Buenos Aires); The Miami Herald; Latin Trade magazine)