Argentina and Brazil said that news about a possible bilateral free trade agreement between the United States and Chile announced by Chilean President Raúl Lagos during a visit to California, was no surprise.
During a routine meeting of Mercosur officials in Buenos Aires, Argentine Deputy Foreign Minister Horacio Chighizola said that "we perceived for some time, clear signals that Chile was heading in that direction".
Chile is an associate member of Mercosur and has repeatedly declared a convergence of political interests with the South American trade block, but since its tariff policy is far more open and liberal, Chile has been reluctant in becoming a full member.
In spite of the potential impact of Chile joining the NAFTA, Argentina and Brazil played down the news and said that it was "too soon to jump to conclusions, President Lagos only announced the beginning of the talks".
However Brazilians were more direct, "this is a change of policy", indicated Luiz Felipe de Seixas Correa, Brazilian Deputy Foreign Minister.
Chile already has bilateral trade agreements with Canada and Mexico, that together with the US conform the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Argentine beef promotionTaking advantage of the recurrent mad cow scare in the European Union Argentina has begun an aggressive campaign to promote organic and grass fed beef mainly in Germany and Spain.
According to the Buenos Aires press, Argentina is promoting beef in food exhibitions and some of the giant stores hoping to fill the vacuum left by the collapse of the European beef industry and consumers fear of catching the mad cow disease, after new cases were reported in France and Germany.
Apparently in Spain beef production has dropped almost 70%, and consumer sales between 22 and 25%.
"This makes it 50% dearer than the local production, which is terrible unfair. Argentine beef is far superior to the European production, e