EU, Latin America seek to overcome trade conflicts

SANTIAGO Fri Jan 25, 2013 5:45pm GMT

1 of 2. Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (R) is seen as he arrives at the airport of Santiago to attend the summit of the Community of Latin American, Caribbean States and European Union (CELAC-UE), January 24, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Claudio Reyes

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SANTIAGO (Reuters) - EU and Latin American leaders at a summit this weekend will commit to avoiding protectionist policies and ensure a better environment for business, according to a draft of the summit's final statement, signalling potentially warmer trade ties.

EU leaders are taking their hunt for economic growth to Santiago, Chile as the bloc tries to emerge from three years of crisis, but the biggest prize of a free-trade deal with Brazil and Argentina remains distant.

Europe's ties with Latin America's No. 3 economy, Argentina, have worsened over the last year, making further progress on trade talks difficult.

But leaders appear ready to strike an upbeat tone in their final statement to be delivered on Sunday evening, according to a draft seen by Reuters.

"We firmly reject all coercive measures of unilateral character that are contrary to international law and the commonly accepted rules of free trade," the leaders meeting on January 26-27 will say, according to the draft.

"We agree this type of practice poses a serious threat to multilateralism," the draft said.

President Cristina Fernandez seized control of oil firm YPF (YPFD.BA) from its parent, Spain's Repsol (REP.MC), last year. Tensions have been exacerbated by disputes over Argentine import curbs that have ended up at the World Trade Organization.

The EU and the United States say the curbs are illegal, but Buenos Aires has hit back with its own WTO cases, accusing the EU of limiting its biodiesel exports.

Bolivian President Evo Morales nationalised two power firms owned by Spanish utility Iberdrola (IBE.MC) in December.

(Editing by W Simon)

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