The presidents of all Mercosur member and associate countries gathered Tuesday in Montevideo for a summit to redefine the bloc's future, in light of recent statements from Brazil's future government that the region will not be among the priorities of Jair Bolsonaro when he becomes president on January 1.
Bolsonaro has even hinted Brazil might withdraw from Mercosur if it becomes inconvenient for the country's interests.
With this in mind, Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez gave his opening speech and called for the bloc to focus on intra-zone trade.
Vázquez spoke before Presidents Mauricio Macri (Argentina), Michel Temer (Brazil) and Mario Abdo Benítez (Paraguay). Also present was Evo Morales of Mercosur associate member Bolivia.
After a meeting of Mercosur foreign ministers Monday, Brazil's Aloysio Nunes said that the bloc is a priority for his country, although Bolsonaro is more than likely to review the agreements in force since 1991.
Back in November, Bolsonaro's future Minister of Agriculture, Tereza Cristina, told the O Globo newspaper that Brazil would try to strengthen Mercosur and have a say therein or else ... it would withdraw from the alliance.
”It's time to sit down and review the Mercosur (...) making an agreement, perhaps, more modern and better, Cristina told the O Globo newspaper.
The foreign ministers Monday agreed that the Brazilian position opens an opportunity to discuss improvement to a bloc that has lost pace in its trade decisions and has not been able to close for 20 years a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.
Before passing the group's rotating presidency over to Argentina, Vázquez and his colleagues took a minute to bid farewell to Michel Temer in his last Mercosur appearance.
The Uruguayan president said he could not overlook Temer's arrival at the helm of Brazil's executive branch following the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, but eventually called from his heart” for an applause.