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French president Francois Hollande visiting the Teotihuacán ruins with Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto on April 11, 2014. (Photo: Mexican President's Office)
Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Asterix comes to America

From Mexico’s and Brazil’s perspective France becomes a balance to US influence in Latin America.


Last week’s State Visit by French President Francois Hollande to Mexico is a nice reminder to the world that like Asterix, France will not make life easy to any world power be it Rome; Russia; Prussia; England or the United States.

Prior to disembarking on the Aztec nation Hollande had paid a state visit to the United States. There he was very vocal about civil rights and the role played by Lyndon Johnson in building the US welfare system. He also reminded his host of Frances decisive contribution to the success of US independence.
Back home, Mr. Hollande concentrated in unfolding a strategy aiming at codifying France's status as a regional European power in this geopolitical move by the US. With Germany becoming the third most important world power after China and the US while Russia fights for the fourth place, France needed to move fast in order to bear a significant participation in the power group.

Latin American partnerships became essential to the achievement of this goal. The visit to Mexico, which was scheduled late last year, became the appropriate setting to re-launch France’s protagonist ambitions in Latin America.

Meetings with President Enrique Pena Nieto then revolved around three interactive issues: to multilateral free trade agreement negotiations with US by making them a NAFTA–EEC exercise; to support a negotiated solution to the ongoing political-cum-economic crisis in Venezuela and to join Brazil and Mexico in supporting Argentina’s request to the US Supreme Court that the high court review a court order requiring it to pay $1.33 billion to "holdout" creditors led by hedge funds Aurelius Capital Management and NML Capital Ltd, a unit of billionaire Paul Singer's Elliott Management Corp. France’s participation in the US-Argentina non-encounter would further down the road open the door to  become the arbiter over Argentinean disputes with creditors.

From the Mexican and Brazilian perspective these Gaul ambitions come at a very opportune moment. With little or no dialogue going between Latin nations and Mrs. Angela Merkel, whose geopolitical vision is concentrated in the US-Russia power play while she sees the economic dimension as the domain of the US; Germany and China. And with David Cameron concentrated in maneuvering his government out of an EEC exit, Latin American nations have no strong counterpart in Europe.

Hollande’s western twist is thus not only welcomed but opportune. From Mexico’s and Brazil’s perspective Hollande becomes the much sought and seldom found balance to US influence.  

The question that no one has cared to answer is whether Hollande will be able to deliver on the Latin American expectations given the complexity of the French economic conundrum and his diminishing popularity.  

Beatrice Rangel is CEO of AMLA Consulting Group, a business development advisory firm in Miami. She wrote this column for Latinvex.  

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