Argentine Foreign Ministry Santiago Cafiero is to travel to Brasilia by the end of the week in a move to patch things up between President Alberto Fernández and his Brazilian colleague Jair Bolsonaro, ahead of the upcoming Mercosur summit.
Cafiero is to meet with his local colleague Carlos Alberto Franco França to devise a foreign trade roadmap between the two countries, which should help refill Argentina's leaking coffers with hard currency.
But since Fernández and Bolsonaro distrust each other and sit on opposing ends of the political table, the newly appointed Chancellor has an uphill task ahead of him.
Fernández hates former US President Donald Trump and considers Brazilian opposition leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as a victim of “lawfare” (political persecution through the courts). Fernández even visited Lula during the latter's incarceration.
Bolsonaro, meanwhile, regards Trump as an extraordinary world leader and believes Lula is the paradigm of political corruption.
In preparation for his trip, Cafiero Monday held a meeting and former Argentine Vice President and current Ambassador to Brazil Daniel Scioli, who is said to have a very good political and personal relationship with Bolsonaro, which should be instrumental to the new negotiations.
Analysts have maintained that if Fernández and Bolsonaro fail to get along in diplomatic terms, Mercosur will not be able to overcome the structural crisis it is going through as the result of initiatives put forward by Uruguay and endorsed by Brazil whereby member states need to be cleared to broker one-on-one trade deals with other countries or blocs, which is expressly forbidden by Mercosur's founding Asunción Treaty.
Bolsonaro and Uruguay's President Luis Lacalle Pou also seek a reduction in Mercosur's Common External Tariffs (CET), something which Argentina is not openly against but would rather move gradually and on an item-by-item basis, to protect local manufacturers.
The Argentine Government also believes this is not the right time for such a move, in light of the COVID-19 crisis.
Cafiero is aware of the differences between his boss and both Bolsonaro and Lacalle Pou, and has the presidential instruction to find a turning point that allows the parties to get closer and prevent Mercosur from becoming “a geopolitical fossil.”
The Argentine Foreign Minister also plans to have lunch Tuesday with his Uruguayan counterpart Francisco Bustillo, who is a personal friend of Alberto Fernández and is said to stay overnight at the Olivos presidential residence when he visits Buenos Aires.
Easy to say and hard to achieve, Cafiero's mission is simple: to improve diplomatic relations and clear the way for national exports to international markets.
In this regard, Cafiero faces an immediate challenge during the G20 Summit in Rome later this month. The outcome of all these negotiations is key to the Government's chances of reversing the results from the Mandatory, Open and Simultaneous Primary (PASO) elections from Sept. 12. The timing is almost perfect for the Nov. 14 mid-term polls.