(Reuters) - European Union leaders are meeting their Latin American counterparts this weekend in Santiago to win investments and speed up trade flows to lift Europe’s stalled economy. But long-standing disputes make a breakthrough on a Mercosur free-trade pact unlikely.
Here are five facts about trade between the EU and Latin America:
* Bilateral trade has more than doubled over the last decade to reach some 200 billion euros ($280 billion) last year, and Europe is the top foreign investor in Latin America and the Caribbean.
* Both regions have populations of about 500 million, but the EU’s total economic output is three times bigger at $17.6 trillion.
* Like the United States, the EU has free-trade agreements with much of Latin America. Along with those of Mexico and Chile, EU lawmakers approved free-trade accords with Colombia, Peru and six Central American nations in December.
* A free-trade deal with the South American trade bloc Mercosur, made up of Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay and Paraguay, would be a real coup for the Europeans. The EU is Mercosur’s biggest trading partner. Mercosur is the EU’s No. 8 trading partner. EU exports to the region rose to 45 billion euros in 2011 from 28 billion euros in 2007.
* Talks started 18 years ago and were relaunched in 2010. But rising tensions with Argentina and Brazil have put an agreement in doubt. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez seized control of oil company YPF (YPFD.BA) from its parent, Spain’s Repsol (REP.MC), last year and slapped curbs on imports. Global Trade Alert, an independent body monitoring trade, says Brazil is one of the world’s 10 most protectionist countries.
Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Xavier Briand