Argentine president Mauricio Macri pledged full support for Mercosur which he defined as a 'long term strategic project', called for a quick trade agreement with the European Union and closer ties with 'our partners from the Pacific Alliance'.
In his address to fellow heads of state from Mercosur meeting in Paraguay, Macri called on the bloc, whose founding members are Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, to modernize and accelerate a long-delayed effort to sign a trade deal with the European Union (EU).
“We haven’t done enough. We don’t want a two-speed Mercosur. It’s time for us to step on the gas,” Macri said. “A trade deal between Mercosur and the European Union (should be) a priority.”
Both blocs are currently locked in negotiations over a deal that has been years in the making, and European authorities had hinted that if an accord was delayed, then an alternative “two-speed deal” could be pursued, in which Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay could sign an agreement with Europe first and the rest could join later.
The agreement with the EU is expected to be signed sometime in the first half of next year with Uruguay holding the Mercosur chair. However the two groups have first to agree on the exchange of tariff-reduction proposal lists. France claims that Mercosur drafts are 'not ambitious enough'.
Mercosur’s closing statement made no specific mention of the EU accord, though it did call for a meeting to discuss improving relations with the Pacific Alliance, a trade bloc comprised of Chile, Peru, Colombia and Mexico formed in 2011.
It was precisely this regional bloc that Macri stressed should be reached out to more clearly, a shift from the foreign and commercial policy of the previous administration of Cristina Fernandez. “I’m thinking about our partners from the Pacific Alliance so we can take advantage of the two oceans that border the region”, the Argentine president said. “We need to keep talking.”
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said she could serve as a bridge between the two trade blocs.
“Ever since we took office in March, my country has encouraged dialogue between the Pacific Alliance and Mercosur, and we’ll keep doing that in the future,” Bachelet said. “We’ve never believed the Pacific Alliance to be at odds with countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean.”
She added both trade blocs could seek common goals in terms of customs cooperation, electronic certification systems, transit of people and scholarships to students.”