The Paraguayan government called for “reflection and dialogue” from the Argentine government in order to find a solution to the commercial restrictions in place on imported products, “we don’t need any more walls”.
The plea was made during the summit for foreign ministers pertaining to the Union of South American Nations (Unasur), which took place this weekend in Asunción. Jorge Lara Castro, Paraguay’s foreign minister, made the statements at the meeting, insisting that the measures were “affecting” his country and also talked of “intellectual restrictions”.
“We also need to preserve our industries, businesses and our people;” underlined the minister, indicating that the import restrictions in place by the Argentine government were causing serious inconveniences to Paraguay’s economy.
“Argentina is reorganizing its economic bases and during that process, difficulties are arising,” sustained the foreign minister.
In a more global context, Lara Castro furthered that, “if we don’t act as a region we won’t have the conditions for an autonomous model to be viable, sovereign and independent”.
“These protectionist measures that are being erected are against the integration we are jointly constructing, against an economic, political and social project we are all sponsoring”, said Lara Castro.
“So far we have managed to exit global economic turbulences successfully. Not by protecting ourselves from this crisis, which we did not generate, must we build walls among ourselves and covert our countries into fortresses”.
Following his speech and on the sidelines of the ministerial meeting speaking with the Paraguayan press, Lara Castro said that the “hurdles are not only commercial, they are also intellectual”, in direct reference to what was described as a lack of “political ability” from the Cristina Fernandez administration.
However the Argentine ambassador in Paraguay, Rafael Romá fully supported his government’s attitude and said Argentina has the ‘empowerment’, as a tool, to combat the crisis, to retain trade hurdles as long as the government of President Cristina Fernandez thinks it is necessary.
“Argentina is not banning the access of any good, it has trade control methodologies and this is a national empowerment which is linked to Argentina’s domestic problems, its own needs and also with the way the country responds to the global crisis”, said Ambassador Romá, who was a member of the Argentine delegation at the ministerial meeting.
Romá said it was the neighbouring countries that see the adopted measures as different to what they really are, “an Argentine domestic policy we believe, not targeted against anybody in particular, but yes to ensure a certain level of trade regulation so we can overcome the global economic crisis”.
He added he was not in a position to anticipate changes in the trade front that impacts on Paraguay (and other Mercosur members), but pointed out that orders came out directly from President Cristina Fernandez and is up to her to define any changes in economic policy.
“Negotiations thus are centred in making them more flexible, regarding the timetable as well as an improved functioning of the imports’ control system, before the measures are lifted”, cautioned Romá.
Argentine Foreign Affairs minister Hector Timerman refused to talk with the press about the Argentine restrictions to regional trade.
According to official Paraguayan stats during February manufactured goods exports to Argentina dropped 38%, compared to a year ago and with some sectors falling 100% such as footwear and skin goods plus food, beverage and tobacco. Textiles were down 65% and furniture and wood produce, 72%.
Paraguay currently holds the Unasur pro-tempore chair until 30 November.