Uruguay and Paraguay presidents, Luis Lacalle Pou and Mario Abdo Benítez will be holding an open agenda meeting on Wednesday in the Uruguayan international seaside resort of Punta del Este, where the Paraguayan leader arrived late Tuesday.
Paraguayan foreign minister Euclides Acevedo said the open agenda meeting will certainly address Mercosur issues, particularly following Lacalle Pou's interviews with Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro and Argentina's Alberto Fernandez, we are very interested in knowing the contents of those two meetings.
Trade block Mercosur is made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, and next month will be celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of the regional agreement. Argentina currently holds the rotating chair of the block.
Last November, Argentina's Fernandez flew to Colonia in Uruguay to meet with Lacalle Pou for a few hours, and earlier this month the Uruguayan president made a one day visit to Bolsonaro in Brasilia.
One of the issues which is controversial in Mercosur is members holding unilateral trade relations with third countries, which both Uruguay and Brazil support, but Argentina insists, as established in the block's rules, that any such initiative must involve the whole bloc. This in practical terms means any Mercosur member can veto such initiatives.
Paraguay apparently in principle adheres to Mercosur rules, but according to foreign minister Acevedo is open to a degree of flexibility in the matter. Landlocked Paraguay is always exposed to Argentine diplomatic influence since all its foreign trade must sail along the mighty Parana river.
Last December when the rotating Mercosur chair was transferred by Uruguay to Argentina, Uruguayan foreign minister Francisco Bustillo underlined the necessity to make commercial relations with third countries more flexible. However it is known that Argentina is contrary to that opening given that it believes and implements a strong government intervention economic policy.
Likewise the current Argentine government is not completely convinced of the Mercosur/EU trade deal and would like to review some of its points.
The issue is anticipated to be the centerpiece of Mercosur 30th anniversary meeting negotiations, on March 26 in the Argentine/Brazilian border next to the Iguazú falls. If all presidents finally attend it will be a great political event given the ideological differences, (and reciprocal insults), between presidents Alberto Fernandez and Jair Bolsonaro.
Anyhow bilateral relations are also in the agenda, and both presidents are interested in increasing trade volumes, particularly taking advantage of the Uruguayan port of Nueva Palmira, which is used by Paraguayan companies.