Business puts high hopes on Merkel trip to Latin America

Business puts high hopes on Merkel trip to Latin America
Photo: DPA
German companies have high expectations for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s first state visit to Latin America, an increasingly vital trading partner, a regional expert told German press agency DPA on Tuesday.

Companies hope Merkel will discuss loosening trade restrictions between the European Union and Latin America, Bodo Liesenfeld, chairman of the Business Association for Latin America, told DPA.

Steady economic growth in Latin America since 2003 has helped focus German business interest in the region, Liesenfeld said.

Growing leftist tendencies among the continent’s governments do not necessarily need to depress European business dealings with South America, Liesenfeld said.

“We need to differentiate between trade and investment: trade activities mostly are not influenced by political relationships,” Liesenfeld said. “Imports of consumer goods to Venezuela have increased a great deal in the last two years, for example.”

Merkel departs on Tuesday on her first visit as chancellor to Latin America. She will arrive in Brazil on Wednesday and will attend an EU-Latin America summit in Peru.

On May 20, the German leader is to visit Columbia and Mexico.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, known for his incendiary commentary on state leaders, called Merkel a political descendent of Adolf Hitler and fascism on Sunday.

Chavez said he might confront Merkel at the Latin America summit.

“Maybe I’ll say something to her and she’ll get mad and say ‘why don’t you shut up?'” he said, in a reference to a row with Spanish King Juan Carlos last November in Santiago de Chile.