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 Presidente Jair Bolsonaro cumprimenta o Presidente Maurício Macri. Isac Nóbrega/PR

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Renewal afoot as Mercosur summit starts in Argentina

Brazil is now assuming the bloc’s pro tempore presidency

Published in 17/07/2019 - 14:06

By José Romildo* Brasília

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and the presidents of other Mercosur countries and associated nations are holding their 54th summit of heads of state, aimed at setting new directions towards free-trade deals with nations across the world. The assembly is starting today (Jul 17) in the Santa Fe province of Argentina.

Today, Argentine President Maurício Macri is expected to give his post as Mercosur pro tempore president to Bolsonaro. The job lasts for a six-month mandate.

The gathering takes place at the Convention Center Station Belgrano. In addition to the presidents of Mercosur member countries—Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Mauricio Macri (Argentina), Tabaré Vázquez (Uruguay), and Mario Abdo Benítez (Paraguay)—the presidents of two associated nations are to participate: Sebastián Piñera (Chile), and Evo Morales (Bolivia).

Venezuela, currently suspended from the group, may rejoin Mercosur “when it fully recovers its democracy,” said Argentine Chancellor Jorge Faurie. This may take “a very long time indeed,” he went on to argue.

Preparatory session

Foreign ministers of Mercosur nations and invited countries gathered  also in Rosario city yesterday (16) for a preparatory sitting on the final touches of the new bloc dynamics. “We’re doing a lot of ambitious things,” said Brazilian Chancellor Ernesto Araújo referring to a recently inked deal with the European Union and agreements expected to be forged this year with Canada and the European Free Trade Association—EFTA, made up of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland—in addition to South Korea next year.

“Our proposal is to consolidate a new Mercosur. We’re renewing [the bloc] chiefly with Brazilian proposals,” Araújo reported. “We’re also going to make very specific strides that will make the difference in the lives of other people,” he added, mentioning the agreement approved yesterday abolishing roaming fees within Mercosur countries. “This is a significant slash in costs, making things easier for business and tourists,” Araújo argued. The move is pending congressional approval in each member country.

On future Mercosur pacts, Ernesto Araújo said the Brazilian government hopes to “strike good deals for Brazil ad other [Mercosur] countries on international trade.”

Horacio Reyser, Argentina’s secretary for International Economic Relations, said Mercosur also plans to step closer to the Pacific Alliance, founded in 2021 with Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. Costa Rica joined the group in 2013.

*With information from Argentine news agency Télam

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira Edition: Nira Foster

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