New EU promises to Latin America mask old business agenda

Published: 13th July 2023

Leaders from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean will meet next week in Brussels for the first time in almost a decade.

Ahead of the EU-CELAC summit, Hernán Saenz, Oxfam’s EU-LAC expert, said: 

“The EU’s supposedly new agenda for Latin America masks old intentions. Europe continues to chase trade and investment and sidelines people living in the world’s most unequal region. It is simply the same old business agenda with a brand-new name: the 'Global Gateway'.

“Six out of ten people are struggling to make ends meet while six percent of regional GDP is lost every year due to tax evasion and fraud. At the same time, 91 billionaires have amassed a combined wealth greater than Colombia’s GDP.

“If the EU wants to make it about people, it must bridge the gap between the rich and the poor and hold business accountable for damage done to people and the planet. It must stop putting private investment above people and instead support initiatives like the first regional tax summit to make fair tax policy. And the EU must listen to the people of Latin America and the Caribbean instead of making one-sided trade deals and extracting raw materials.

"As it stands, this plan will do little for most people in the region and risks increasing the power of the already powerful few.”

Notes to editors

Hernán Saenz is available for comment and interview.  

Oxfam calls for an EU agenda for CELAC that:

  • Prioritises human rights and fights inequality while protecting the environment and promoting the region's digital transition.
  • Includes inequality reduction targets in Global Gateway projects and plans due diligence obligations for companies getting funds from the Global Gateway.
  • Supports CELAC’s efforts to build the first regional fiscal pact in the world to fight tax avoidance and tax wealth. Colombia is leading this process and will hold the first summit next week.
  • Includes a democratic mechanism that allows civil society organisations and others to monitor EU-CELAC relations.
  • Promotes a bi-regional Pact for Care Societies to recognise care work and strengthen women’s rights.

The European Commission’s joint communication on a New Agenda for Relations between the EU and Latin America and the Caribbean mentions the words “inequality” or “inequalities” four times while the words “investment” and “investments” are mentioned 35 times. “Trade” is mentioned 37 times, “human rights” appears 10 times, “poverty” four and “social cohesion” once

Nearly 6 in 10 people in the region (58.2 percent) live in difficult financial circumstances according to the UN:

  • 13.1 percent of people in the region live in extreme poverty conditions;
  • 19 percent in non-extreme poverty; and
  • 26.6 percent with a low-income.

Oxfam’s “Survival of the Richest” report reveals how 91 ultra-rich individuals in LAC accumulated almost 400 billion US dollars in 2022. This is more than Colombia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2022 which amounted to 314.46 billion US dollars. The same report shows that a two percent wealth tax on millionaires with wealth above five million US dollars, three percent on millionaires with wealth above 50 million US dollars, and five percent on billionaires, would raise enough money to increase the public health investment in the region by 36 percent.

OECD’s report “Transparencia Fiscal en América Latina 2021” estimates that the LAC region loses 6.1 percent of its GDP to tax evasion and fraud.

Read Oxfam’s policy briefing, Who Finances Fair Transitions in Latin America and the Caribbean?

Contact information

Jade Tenwick I Brussels, Belgium | | mobile +32 473 562260   

Julia Manresa | Brussels, Belgium | | mobile +32 473 87 44 26   

Emma Borin | Brussels, Belgium | 

 For updates, please follow @OxfamEU. You can also find us on LinkedIn.