This paper aims to contribute to the understanding of EU Foreign Policy by examining the rationale of the relationship between the European Union and Latin America. The main argument is that the bi-regional relationship is driven by a variety of agendas in which the EU and Latin American countries seek to accommodate their economic and political interests producing three levels of cooperation: strong (reflected in Association Agreements and Strategic Partnerships), medium (Free Trade Agreements) and low (policies of selective engagement). From the theoretical standpoint, the varieties of traditional and new approaches ranging from realism to constructivism have offered powerful explanations on the enlargement process, the EU external relationship with countries in the immediate neighbourhood and the relations with Russia or the United States. Unlike these regions and actors, the nature of the EU-Latin American relationship is not only asymmetric, but also characterized by low interdependence, particularly in light of the role of the United States and more recently of China's interest in the region. In order to address this peculiarity, this paper adopts three theoretical tenets based on the neo-liberal traditions in International Relations: a) absolute gains are more important than relative gains; this approach explains how both parties pursue different objectives in free trade negotiations as in the cases of Mexico, Chile or Central America; b) Electoral democracy, respect for human rights and private property in Latin America are conducive for improving relations with the European Union; c) while states are still the central drivers of this relationship, non-state actors and intergovernmental actors (sub-national and supranational) also play an important role such as the European Parliament or NGOs; and d) as a result cooperation is possible within a decentralized system due to a variety of the interests pursued by both parties across the Atlantic.
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