SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — A 60-nation summit wrapped up in Chile on Sunday with European leaders pleading for "legal certainty" and lower trade barriers between economies that together represent a billion people and about $280 billion in bilateral trade.
Europe is the top direct investor in Latin America and the Caribbean. But the flow of money across the Atlantic has slowed because of a European recession marked by record unemployment, austerity measures and mounting debts.
Adding to Europe's woes, companies from Spain, France and other once-dominant economies have been seized in recent years as Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela seek to regain control over their resources.
The Europeans' frustration was evident at the CELAC-EU summit.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said sustainable development in the two continents, which collectively represent a third of the world's nations and a fourth of the world's gross domestic product, cannot occur if shifting regulations make long-term investments too risky.
"It's true that Europe is the largest trading partner for Latin America. But it's also true that we're seeing an increase in Latin American investment in Europe, where they are most welcome," Barroso said. "Both sides need to provide legal certainty to companies investing in our economies."
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera took a more optimistic tone, saying he feels his fellow leaders have strengthened a strategic alliance and that a slowdown in Europe has been offset by trade flowing from a booming Latin America.
"I'm fully convinced that we've taken a huge step forward," Pinera said. "But it's not enough. Now it's time to act, to translate good intentions and agreements into results."
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy promised that the benefits of the EU's free-trade deals with Colombia, Peru and Central America will become evident this year.
He also expressed optimism about progress toward a long-delayed treaty dropping trade barriers with South America's Mercosur trade bloc, after securing promises from Brazil and Argentina to submit new proposals this year
But President Cristina Fernandez tweeted that she won't agree to deal that exposes Argentine companies to unfair competition from more powerful European interests. "We have to prevent and consider these asymmetries, to avoid hurting our industries and, above all, our people."