Argentine Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero Tuesday met in Buenos Aires with his Uruguayan colleague Francisco Bustillo in a move to patch things up with the other three Mercosur members. Cafiero will travel to Brasilia Friday.
Cafiero has been entrusted with restoring open wounds so that trade negotiations can take place under less hostile circumstances.
The meeting with Bustillo lasted over two hours and both Chancellors even shared lunch. Both diplomats later acknowledged it had been a fruitful dialogue which will allow propping up trade between the two countries. They also agreed to hold two working meetings, one in November and one in December, between the two parties.
“One will be that of the Argentine-Uruguayan Integration Commission (CIAU), which will address the bilateral relationship at the Secretary of State level. And the second, the Argentine-Uruguayan Bilateral Commission for Trade Affairs, to evaluate in detail the issues on the bilateral economic and trade agenda, headed by the Secretaries of International Economic Relations of each country,” a statement from the Palacio San Martín read.
The two foreign ministers also instructed their technical and diplomatic teams to advance with the feasibility study of a bridge across the Uruguay River between the city of Monte Caseros in the Argentine province of Corrientes and the Uruguayan city of Bella Unión in the Artigas department.
It would become the fourth bridge linking the two countries. The project itself dates back to almost three decades ago.
Verbal confrontations at the Mercosur Summit on March 26 increased when Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou said that the regional bloc was a “burden” for his country and Alberto Fernández replied that he should take “another ship” if that was his vision.
In July there were again diplomatic frictions when Uruguay announced its intention to reach trade agreements with third countries without the consensus of the other members of the bloc.
On Aug. 13 Fernández and Lacalle Pou met for barbecue at the Olivos Presidential residence in a move which has eased down some of the tension.
Uruguay and Brazil are in favor of cutting down Mercosur's common external tarriffs (CET). They also support the idea that individual Mertcosur members may seek trade deals with other countries or regional blocs, which Argentina opposes citing a protectionist rationale.
Back in September, Lacalle Pou announced Uruguay was on its way to reaching a one-on-one agreement with China, regardless of Mercosur's stance on the issue.
Cafiero is to meet Friday with his Brazilian coleague Carlos França and has already been briefed by Argentine Ambassador to Brasilia Daniel Scioli on what to expect. Scioli is a close friend of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, but Alberto Fernández is quite the opposite.
França and Cafiero have already spoken by phone after harsh statements from Brazil's Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, which only made matters worse within Mercosur.